Monday, October 17, 2011

The Time I Met a Nimrod Pilot...and Other Adventures

I have been putting off writing this post for a while. Not because I think the experience was anything less than amazing, but because I am nervous I won't do it justice with just a few bloggy words and accompanying pictures.

But I will try, because I have been unofficially tasked with reminding some of our aging wise pilots that their jobs are still cool.

To set the tone, I will deliver this post via my inner badass fighter pilot. Roll with it. [Or pitch with it, or yaw with it. Oh boy.]

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There I was. Far away from home, in a concrete jungle, full of enemies (i.e. loads of little kids). I had neither a traditional weapon, nor any meal provisions, my ruck sack carried only my useless laptop and a very serious schedule (+/- 30 seconds for sure). The smog of enemy weapons hung heavy in the air (or maybe that was just the smog of LA). It was bad out there...it was downright dangerous.

I hiked over treacherous terrain to day 1, a little uneasy. As a fighter pilot, of course, I would never admit that I was nervous or intimidated. I had to be confident, even in the face of my peers (wait, I'm a fighter pilot, I have no peers!). I'm sure as I walked in the room, those newbies were whispering that I was the famous fighter pilot Top Gun was based on.

I grabbed a quick cup of Joe and sat down waiting to hear about flight test lessons learned. Lucky for me, as a badass fighter pilot I had already learned all these lessons (psshhtttt...ok, seriously, as a naive-junior-pee-on-freshman-popasquatonthefloorofahelicopter flight test engineer I had no idea I could learn so much). But, I listened intently to those less fortunate than I. Yes, I heard about the X-2, the Nimrod, the 787, the Gripen, Space Ship 2, and many other flying machines. I'm sure if they had me as their chief test pilot they would have nothing to report on here, at the Society of Experimental Test Pilots symposium. No need to learn lessons when you're perfect.


I mingled with men and women wearing spiffy uniforms, chief test pilots, astronauts, and those super-annoying flight test engineers that tag along to these symposia even when they're not invited. Didn't they see the sign? Society of Experimental TEST PILOTS!!! Those nerds better check their six if I ever find them in a dark alley (or Space Mountain).

I had to whip out my glasses in an effort to enhance my intelligent-aura. I don't need them to see of course, they just make me look smarter in these scenarios. Outside, I quickly replaced them with my standard-issue RayBan's...duh!



I snagged this snazzy, squishy jet between sessions. It will come in handy when I do hand-reenactments of all my greatest fighter pilot moments.


Oh, don't let me forget about how I had to suffer through a luncheon event. Don't these people know I work hard to keep this amazing body in shape? Us fighter pilots workout with P9000X, it's only available to members of the Badass Aerodynamic Redout Fighterpilots club (BARF for short), which I am the President. That's right, BARF President right here.


And during the luncheon, we were forced to listen to the inspiring words of George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic CEO, and his plan to send us all to space. All I could think about was sending those blasted Flight Test Engineers to space...haha, suckers.

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The truth is, my inner fighter pilot didn't make an appearance at all while I attended the Society of Flight Test Engineers symposium. Sure, I was privy to some great presentations, incredible people, and inspiring messages. We all were. I dined with men who paved the way for my career, individuals who pushed envelopes, and people who represented the best in aviation and aerospace. We were there collectively, to learn from others mistakes in order to improve safety and testing efficiency. We listened, we talked, we gleaned, we immersed.

But maybe deep down, we were brought together to soak up the underlying vibe...the stories, the lessons, the experiences... to remind ourselves that we have a pretty sweet job...yes, even us Flight Test Engineers ;-)