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Meet: Charles Ingalls

Aerospace Engineer,
Ames Research Center

Who am I
I'm an Aerospace Engineer performing simulation, military aircraft operations, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Research and Development (R&D) projects. I assist other engineers, pilots, and scientists in putting together simulations and experiments that investigate the design and operation of future aircraft, both manned and unmanned. The specific role I play depends on which project I'm on but I generally advise people on the missions that real military and civil aircraft are used for, as well as how they perform those missions. People also ask me for information about the technologies involved in current and future aircraft and UAVs.

My Career Journey
I've always been extremely interested in airplanes and flying. As a child I always thought of the people and machines that flew around the atmosphere, and even into space, as powerful and mysterious. I read everything I could about anything dealing with aircraft and spacecraft. I built models. I watched all the movies I could find about flying. I went to museums. I was focused.

It's funny. As an adult, I'm pretty much the same way. I still love airplanes and flying. I still read, and go to museums, and watch movies. I've also added some new things to do: I do engineering projects with airplanes and simulators (my job); I fly as a pilot (my hobby); I fly as a Rescue Navigator (my part time job).

My career choices came from my heart. The things that I chose to do for work, in my spare time, and to study, were motivated by what I'm REALLY interested in. I could have done other things, but aviation was the most interesting for me.

Why I Like my Job
I'm always dealing with airplanes, pilots, and engineers. I get to travel, see new things, and meet new people. I've found that I like teaching people about aviation, sharing my experiences, and frequently have opportunities to teach. I know about the stuff that appears in Aviation Week and Space Technology months before someone thinks to write about it.

There are always so many interesting things to do I have a difficult time sorting out what I want to do most. Sometimes it's hard to find a gym to work out when I'm away from home. My phone bill is rather large sometimes because I like to call my wife when I'm on trips to tell her what I'm doing, and see how her day went.

Early Influences
My Grandmother Opal influenced me greatly. She was a sixth grade teacher for thirty years. She brought me books to read. She took me on hikes through the woods. She cut me NO slack on my speaking and writing habits.

Realize that learning is a life-long process, and one of the most rewarding activities you can spend your time doing. Look around every day and notice the things and people around you. Investigate things you don't know. Meet new people and learn about the interesting experiences they've had. Keep a list of things that you find interesting. Talk to people that do jobs in those areas and ask them lots of questions. Picture yourself working in those areas and ask yourself "Is this something I'll be happy doing for a long time?".

A big piece of advice from my experience: Learn to communicate effectively both in your speaking and writing. Being able to convey an idea clearly to someone else is a powerful skill, and will open lots of doors for you both professionally and personally.

Future Plans
I envision myself in the near-term doing more of what I'm doing now. I'll be writing papers, giving presentations, and sharing information with people involved in military and civil aviation.

Later, as I gain more experience, I envision myself leading aviation programs of increasing complexity. I would expect to work on more cooperative projects with multiple government and industry organizations, and international partners.

My "part-time" job relates to my aviation interest, too. I'm a Navigator in the 129th Rescue Wing of the California Air National Guard (CA ANG). I'm a crew member on HC-130 Hercules aircraft that perform Search and Rescue (SAR) missions. I've got some good stories to tell, but maybe we should talk about that later ...


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