Meet: Gary Moir
Structural Analysis, Wright Flyer Project, Los Angeles Chapter of
the American Institute of Aeronautics
My Role in the Wright Flyer Project
My function on the Wright Flyer Project is to verify that the structure
is adequate for the wind tunnel test. The Wrights were very meticulous
about every detail on the flyer, but their greatest wisdom was in their
selection of robust design concepts based on simple fundamental principles.
They selected a biplane because it allowed them sufficient wing area to
fly slow and safe. The canard provided a bumper for the many times they
would crash while learning to fly their gliders and early airplanes. The
twin counter-rotating propellers were large and efficient and avoided
applying roll moments to the aircraft. Virtually every part of the design
is based on similar sound fundamentals.
My Early Life
I was born in Fargo, North Dakota, in the middle of World War II. My parents
lived on a farm in Wolverton, Minnesota, about 25 miles south of Fargo.
My father had an old injury that kept him out of the army, so he drove
a truck for the railroad that winter. One day, the roads were so bad that
he told my mother, "For two cents, I would move out west and work in a
defense factory." She gave him the two cents! Somehow, by spring, they
got enough gas and tire ration coupons to take their old pickup out to
Vancouver, Washington, where they both got jobs at the Kaiser Victory-ship
shipyards. I grew up in that small city, which is across the Columbia
River from Portland, Oregon.
My First Job
I started earning my way to college in eighth grade by delivering the
Portland Oregonian newspaper. This was a morning daily and Sunday newspaper
with 30 to 50 pages during the week and 150-220 pages on Sunday mornings.
I got up at about 4:00 am, rode my Indian Scout 3-speed bicycle a mile
to pick up the papers, then delivered 45 to 90 papers around looping routes
to finish deliveries by 6:30 am weekdays or 8:00 on Sundays. It often
rained and occasionally snowed in Vancouver, Washington. Fortunately for
me, my father (and/or my brother) would occasionally get up and drive
me around the route when the weather was at its worst. (Thanks again,
Over the two years that I delivered the Oregonian, I was also a prolific
salesman for the paper. I expanded each of the routes that I had and solicited
sales around Clark County, Washington, on sales drives. I still remember
convincing longshoremen that the listing of ships in port would be useful
to them. I also convinced various other customers on the need for many
other specialized features of the paper. I sold enough papers to earn
trips to Victoria, BC, and to San Francisco, CA. This greatly expanded
my world view in my teenage years.
On October 7, 1957, Sputnik was launched! The most horrifying proof of
the Soviet Russian military might flew overhead beeping a simple signal
that anyone in the world with a standard AM radio could receive. (The
Russians used a prototype Intercontinental Ballistic Missile, an ICBM,
to launch a 200-pound satellite. Meanwhile the first two of our Vanguard
scientific satellites, which started at 2-pound grapefruit size and built
up to a 20-pound basketball size, blew up on the launch pad.) When I arrived
to deliver my Oregonian newspapers that morning, I sat right down and
read the full front-page article. Then, when I realized I was getting
a late start on my deliveries, I pedaled extra hard so everyone else on
my route would also get the news before my 6:30 a.m. delivery commitment.
I realized that day that I wanted to participate in the USA's efforts
to "catch up" with the Russians.
Sputnik sparked the greatest public concentration on education in US history.
Each year, from 1958 through 1966, the math and science education programs
improved in the schools I attended. I had one more high school math class
- solid geometry - than the kids one year ahead of me, and the next year
they added a semester introduction to calculus. However, in 1964-72, free
speech and anti-Vietnam War movements led to the first Reagan revolution.
Now, after 30 years of cutbacks, education is again seen as a national
While I was studying aeronautical engineering at the University of Washington,
I was fortunate enough to get a job with the Boeing Design Support Unit
near the University campus in July of 1964. Boeing hired engineering students
there to update drawings.
Work During College
After we students became familiar with the Boeing drafting practices and
company procedures, we could go out on loan for part time and summer work.
I did this every chance I could. In almost two years there, I worked in
many areas, including: Wind tunnel model design; Standardized forms graphics
department; Several design areas; and Several proposals, such as Boeing's
My most interesting project was an aeroelastic model of Boeing's SuperSonic
Transport wing. This was a thin, variable-sweep wing with unusual stiffness-to-weight
properties that could not be modeled with the traditional spar-type model.
We therefore designed, built, and tested Boeing's first fiberglass composite
wind tunnel aeroelastic wing model. Over the years, I have found many
other student engineers that have also been involved in ground-breaking
tasks such as this. I strongly recommend this type of work-study program
to all students.
When I graduated from the University of Washington in June 1966, I accepted
a job offer with the Apollo project at North American Aviation, Space
Division in Downey, CA. When I arrived, the design effort was wrapping
up. I was assigned to checking and updating stress analysis that had been
done by other engineers.
After a few months, I analyzed a Scientific Air Lock that was to replace
the window on the side crew hatch on Apollo VIII. I found out that the
side crew hatch was attached to the pressure shell with 48 bolts. That
hatch design took several minutes to install or remove, and this was part
of the reason that the three astronauts of Apollo VI were killed on the
launch pad by a fire in the Command Module in January, 1967. That tragedy
caused everyone on the Apollo program to redouble our efforts to achieve
the world's most dramatic and succinct program mission statement that
President Kennedy defined: "To land a man on the moon, before this decade
is out, and return him safely to the earth."
Immediately after the pad fire, we redesigned both the side and forward
hatches to operate with a single handle, similar to airliner doors. Although
the new hatches were heavier and required moving other masses and ballast
to balance the spacecraft, they were a vital crew-safety improvement.
I also worked on redesign and qualification of the crew couch, parachute
mortars, parachute retention fittings, and the balloons that would inflate
to upright the Command Module if it turned upside down in the ocean after
landing. This group of engineers was the most dedicated group I have ever
worked with. To this date, I continue to meet other members of this structural
analysis team every Christmas for a reunion dinner.
My Next Job
In July 1968, the Apollo redesign was again wrapping up, and I quit NASA
to start working for Lockheed California Co. in Burbank, CA. I worked
in the Structural Analysis Methods Group for the first two years there.
We developed computer programs to structurally analyze and optimize over
30 modes of failure in stiffened wing panels. In the next two years, I
did project stress analysis on the L-1011 aircraft in the aft body of
During this time, the Rolls Royce jet engine company went bankrupt,
and Lockheed stopped almost all work on the L-1011. I stayed on, working
on modifications to allow use of either the GE or Pratt & Whitney similar
sized engines. Changing to either engine would have required major changes
due to the S-duct in the aft fuselage. Finally, in 1972, Rolls Royce resumed
engine deliveries, the L-1011 aircraft was certified by the FAA, and I
accepted a layoff.
Working for TRW
In June, 1972, I started working for TRW Advanced Technology Division.
This was a lean time in aerospace. I became the third member of our stress
group, replacing two people who left for other jobs. Our group worked
on many small propulsion systems to orient satellites and adjust their
orbits, including the Gamma Ray Observatory (GRO) that can be found on
a NASA web page. We also developed many space instruments, including:
The Viking Lander Biology Instrument (VLBI) and meteorological instrument
(VMI) that landed on Mars to look for life and record the weather there
Two gas chromatographs that descended through the clouds of Venus to measure
the atmosphere there;
An Ultra-Violet Spectrometer on the Voyager space probes which visited
the outer planets and left the solar system.
We also developed several high powered lasers for the Strategic Defense
Initiative, SDI. I extended my analytical specialties to include finite
element analysis, fracture mechanics analysis, high temperature creep
and fatigue, and dynamic analysis and testing. Unfortunately, TRW went
through a severe downsizing at the end of the Cold War, and I was laid
off in 1991.
Working for Allied Signal Aerospace Corporation
I immediately started working at Allied Signal Aerospace Corporation's
Research Division on aircraft and Space Station air conditioning systems.
After two more years, I was laid off again in another downsizing.
Starting my own Business
This time, I took a Small Business Administration class to learn about
setting up my own consulting company. I started Gary A. Moir & Associates,
Inc., with trade names of GAMA Ingenuity, Auto PC, and Your Car Computer.
I continue to perform consulting and design engineering jobs and develop
a line of equipment to support personal computers in vehicles. I also
sell computers and their support equipment specializing in Global Positioning
Satellite (GPS) mapping applications for vehicles.
In summary, objects I have worked on have gone to the moon and all of
the planets (except Mercury and Pluto) and out of the solar system. My
career has satisfied my wildest dreams from my youth.
Qualifications and Education
California Registered Mechanical Engineer, License No. M21478. B.S. Aeronautics
& Astronautics, U. of Washington, 1966. Currently enrolled, California
State University Long Beach for MS-Engineering in Aerospace Structural
Computer Aided Design/Manufacturing, and Technical Management.
More on the Wright Flier
The primary structure of the Wright Flyer is dominated by the Pratt truss
framework in the biplane wings. Forward and aft control surfaces are also
supported by simple symmetrical truss structures. This was a light robust
design concept that is practically statically determinate and therefore
can be analyzed by simple hand calculations available to the Wrights before
1900. Indeed, the glider aircraft that the Wrights used to incrementally
develop the flying machine are essentially pure Pratt Trusses with only
minor local redundancy in the region of the landing skids.
Addition of the engine, propeller supports, and more substantial landing
gear skids to the 1903 Flyer created additional structural redundancies
in the primary structure. These also apply distributed inertia loads and
provide secondary load paths (redundancies) that complicate the hand analysis
of the truss. In addition, the wind tunnel balance block attachment structure
around the single point support is a moderately redundant structure. The
Wrights addressed the complications in their structure by simply assuring
the primary structure was adequate without the reinforcement of the secondary
load paths. In modern aircraft structural analysis, such complications
are commonly addressed by finite element analysis. With the availability
of powerful computing capability and graphics software, the analysis model
can closely represent the actual structure and loading to create analytic
results that can be visually verified.
In general, these additional load paths create reserve capacity and
they would be ignored in conventional hand analysis, except to verify
that they are adequate for the loads they may attract in a worse case
check of the local redundancy.
Our Wright Flyer Project performed a proof load test of the aircraft
with a load factor of 3.0 over the maximum expected wind tunnel loads
to assure safety during wind tunnel operations. In addition, analysis
was performed using both classical hand analysis methods and NASTRAN finite
element models. This analysis confirmed the fact that the Wrights designed
the flyer to be adequate for a flight load factor of 5. It also showed
that the modifications we made to the structure are safe for the concentrated
load reactions in the wind tunnel support. We prepared a safety report
to document this analysis.