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Meet: Rick Bell

Senior Specialist Engineer, Boeing

Who I Am
I am a wind tunnel test engineer. I also have a lot experience in aerodynamics design and propulsion integration. I am here helping with the High-Speed Research Program test of the High Speed Civil Transport. I am doing data analysis and data reduction for the research side. I am also here for consultation on test engineering techniques and processes, and the assembling of the model. I have set up all of the Boeing computers - this includes the necessary networking in order to make my computers communicate with both the NASA systems and Boeing Seattle systems. I will be doing analysis on the data making sure it is reasonable and correct. I will also be comparing the current data to previous test data.

My Career Path
Originally I had planned on going to the United States Naval Academy to become an F-14 fighter pilot. Eventually, I planned on going to astronaut training. I took all the Advanced Placement classes in high school. I was in the Naval Sea Cadets Corps since age 14 with the Naval career path in mind. I hoped to become a Naval Officer. I was stationed at several Naval Bases including San Jose Twining Division Naval Station , Moffett Naval Field, and the Alameda Naval Air Station. I got to go on many navy cruises all over the Pacific Ocean aboard Aircraft Carriers, Fast Frigates, and Nuclear Destroyers, to name just a few. I was accepted at the Naval Academy but that didn't work out. So, I came back home to get a degree in engineering at San Jose State University. I received my Bachelors of Science in Aeronautics. During my college years, I became a pilot and also received my Airframe & Powerplant license (A&P) so that I could fix airplanes as well as fly them. I became very interested in changing my career direction by becoming a commercial pilot but then that quickly diminished once I realized that at that time, pilots were a dime a dozen. So, I stuck to the engineering side of the aircraft house.

During the last two years of college, I worked at Lockheed Missiles and Space Company as a summer hire on various programs including the A3TK Polaris Missile Program. My responsibilities there included a lot of logistical engineering. Once I graduated from SJSU, I took a position at the Lockheed Southern California Skunk Works as a propulsion engineer. I was very excited to work at the company that built the world’s fastest airplane, the SR-71. It was real cool to work with famous engineers like Kelly Johnson and Ben Rich. Most of my work there in flight sciences involved propulsion integration (parametric analysis) and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). Much of my work was highly secure requiring a Top Secret clearance in many cases. My family life suffered from the times I had to be away from home. I was in several cool projects. One program involved flying back seat of a T-38. In that project, I was the only engineer working with a bunch of scientists where I was responsible for putting their scientific theory into practical application. Happily, I was successful in proving this theory. Another experiment involved me flying in the tail cone of a KC-135. Sometimes the job was exciting, but other times, it was real boring (especially sitting at a computer terminal all day long).

I was a customer for some propulsion wind tunnel tests at the Rye Canyon Kelley Johnson Research and Development Center. We were testing internal ducts, nozzles, inlets and subsonic diffusers. I enjoyed the wind tunnel test work. I was offered a job there and I really enjoyed working there. I was involved on the F-22 research program and I eventually worked with a lot of Boeing people (since Lockheed and Boeing were partners in the F-22 program). I was offered at position with the Boeing Aerodynamics Laboratory in Seattle and I have worked there now for over nine years.

As a Child
I built a lot of airplane models. I joined the science club and the chess club and I participated in many sports such as soccer, karate, track and cross-country.

I would advise kids to be aware of choosing a career in the very cyclical aerospace industry. If you take a job in aeronautical engineering it must be because you love the work and not for the money.

Early Influences
I was motivated by some of the sea cadet leaders who inspired me so much to continue. My calculus teacher in Irvington High School in Fremont forced me to think before responding too quickly to a question. My Judo sensei, at San Jose State University was a role model. Although he was small in size he could beat much larger people. He taught me that to achieve my potential I could rely on my inner strengths and not be limited by outside expectations.

Future Goals
I would like to get to the point where I can achieve a more comfortable lifestyle although this might require exploring other opportunities.

In my spare time I enjoy playing inline hockey, soccer, and golf. I also enjoy playing pool bowling, football, and ping-pong. I have four children; the oldest has graduated and is ready to start college. I used to be involved in scouting and woodworking. I helped with my sons pinewood derby cars. I also have done many remodeling projects in my house.


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