Meet: Tim Siebersma
Aerodynamics Engineer, Boeing
Who I Am
I am the Boeing, Seattle research focal for the High Speed Civil Transport
wind tunnel test. I have been doing a lot of planning and preparation
for the test, working with my Boeing and NASA colleagues. For almost a
year now we have been planning what to test, designing new parts for the
model, and working on a detailed test plan. I have also been working with
other engineers on planning how to analyze the data and making sure we
record all of the parameters that we need. I will be supporting the actual
test both in person at the wind tunnel at NASA Ames Research Center and
back in Seattle via computer.
I have been on the High Speed Research (HSR) program
for about one year. In addition to my involvement the wind tunnel test,
I have been working on the low speed aerodynamic preliminary design of
several new supersonic airplane configurations. I have also been doing
some computational fluid dynamics (CFD) studies, using NASA supercomputers
to analyze these configurations.
My Career Path
My older brothers were a big influence on me; they were interested in
airplanes and the space program. By the time I got to high school I decided
that I wanted to be an engineer and work on airplanes and rockets. I went
to Iowa State University and earned both a Bachelors degree and a Masters
degree in aerospace engineering. While I was still in school I was an
intern at Boeing in Seattle for three summers. I worked in various aerodynamics
groups within the commercial airplane company. After completing my Masters
program I went to work for Boeing full time in 1990.
I started in the Advanced Technology and Development
group, designing new tools and new methods for low speed aerodynamic design.
This work included both computer tools and wind tunnel testing. I did
several wind tunnel tests at NASA Langley's Low-Turbulence Pressure Tunnel
and at the Defense Research Agency 5-meter tunnel in Farnborough, England.
That job gave me the experience and skills that I needed for my next big
My next job was on the 737X Program, which became
the new generation 737-600, 737-700, and 737-800 airplane models. I worked
on the aerodynamic design of the new trailing edge flap system. This program
was a great and unique opportunity to follow a new airplane from preliminary
design, through detailed design, manufacture, flight test and certification.
We worked together in Integrated Product Teams. These teams included people
from many disciplines, including structures, materials, systems and manufacturing.
When the first model (the 737-700) was ready for test flight my job became
very exciting. I was the aerodynamics configuration focal for the stall
speed of the airplane. I went up on at least a dozen flights, where we
did hundreds of stalls - basically slowing down until the airplane could
no longer fly and started falling from the sky. We always started out
high enough that we had plenty of time to recover. Fortunately, this was
a very nice handling airplane with good stall characteristics, so I never
got too sick. The flight testing and certification of the three new 737s
was completed at the being of last year, at which time I came to this
program in High Speed Research.
Why I Like my Job
The people I work with are extremely smart and talented. They are also
very nice people and fun to work with. I like the variety of things that
I get to do and work on. I get to work the wind tunnel test, the computer
design and analysis, and I get to do preliminary design work. The biggest
disadvantage in this type of work is that sometimes your programs get
cancelled or delayed.
As a child
I read a lot of science fiction books. Since my brothers are 15 to 20
years older than me, I really looked up to them and they were a big influence
on me. I also participated in scouting. My mother was a librarian, and
she was very encouraging of my reading as a way to learn about things
that I was interested in.
My advice to young people is to study hard in school. It is especially
important to do well in your first year of college. If you want to go
into aerospace engineering you have to love airplanes or the space program.
Do what you love. You also have to work well with others in a team environment.
Airplanes and space vehicles are so complicated that it takes a great
deal of team effort and cooperation do get the job done.
I hope to continue to do technical work on new and interesting projects.
I will probably continue to explore and learn other aspects of aerodynamics
engineering. Someday, I hope to be able to work on a supersonic airliner
again, and maybe even see it become a real airplane.
My hobbies include rooting for the Seattle Mariners baseball team. I especially
like Ken Griffey Jr. I am also a huge basketball fan. My team is the Seattle
Sonics, of course, and Gary Payton is my favorite player. I also like
to play basketball as much as I can. I am married and wife is an attorney.
Her specialty is estate planning. We plan to have children in the future,
but for now we are kept busy with our dog, Kensi. Kensi is an English
Setter. He sort of looks like a Dalmatian with long hair. Everywhere we
go people notice him and comment on what a cool looking dog he is. We
have taken several dog obedience classes with him, and he finally passed
his novice obedience test the second time around.