Hi! My name is Marilyn, and I'm a member of the Wright Flyer team.
When I was growing up, I was always interested in creative endeavors - painting, drawing, poetry and writing. I liked to be challenged by new things, as I quickly bored of the routine. In fact, that was my weakness in school, as I was not one of these kids who made straight A's. I had to work very hard to get acceptable grades. In my senior year of high school, I had already worked part time for six years, and in high school, was on the "4/4 Plan". I went to school four hours and then worked four hours. It was hard, as I was pretty much supporting my family, which consisted of my Grandmother and myself. She had health problems when I entered high school, and was no longer able to work. I had no idea what I was going to do with my life!
In January of my senior year, one of my friends told me at lunch break that she was going to go down to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and apply for a job in their new "Back to School Program". It would allow her to go to school part time, and work part time at the FAA. She was very excited! I had a unique job all through high school working in - of all places - a Chinese Laundry! I learned how to do everything: Sweep the floors, sort and wash laundry, use the specialized presses to press men's dress shirts (I could iron about 60+ shirts per hour), as well as eventually manage the store and wait on customers. I was in a "survival mode" at that time, and although it wasn't a great job, I learned to do it well and was able to help support my family.
My friend Elaine came to school the next day, and I asked her how her interview went. She said, "Everything went great. Then - because it was a government job - they wanted me to raise my right hand and swear me in, saying that I was an American citizen. I told them that I couldn't do that! I was from Canada, so I didn't qualify." "Okay", Elaine told them, "I have a good friend and her name is Marilyn - let me send her down for an interview!" She told me that they would expect me at 1:00 pm the next day! This was totally unexpected and caught me by surprise. I had never worked in an office, and wondered if I could do the job.
It is now 32 years later, and I am a career employee with the FAA!
Right after I was hired, the IBM Corporation came out with the first computer for the office, and my boss bought one. I was given the job of learning how to use it and went to a training class. I loved it! Then they bought more, and I ended up learning every new computer that I could get my hands on, and then I would train others. I also got into "Customer Support". If someone ran into a problem, they would call, and I would resolve the problem.
Then, they started placing computers out in our field offices. I began traveling for about eight years and provided training and support for the offices in states we were responsible for here in the Western-Pacific Region; California, Arizona, Nevada and Hawaii, as well as some related trips to Virginia, Oklahoma, Georgia and Washington DC. This was good experience for me, as I had not traveled at all! I learned the ropes of "living out of a suitcase", and became quite independent. It was great fun to meet new faces on a regular basis and see new cities! However, after a while, I was happier when I didn't have to travel. It sounds fun, but when you are working, you don't get to do much "sightseeing". All you see is the inside of a hotel room and work.
For the past ten years, my job has evolved into a combination of duties. But more and more, I found myself going in the direction of computer graphics design! Remember what I said I liked to do when I was growing up (paint and draw)!? Now, I can do it on a computer - and I'm getting paid!
I started with "desktop publishing", doing things like office newsletters, in which I would place ready made "clip art" pictures into a document. Everything was still in black and white. Now, I can utilize color clip art, stock photos, photos I take myself and scan into the computer, as well as my own designs.
You've probably heard the phrase "He's in his second childhood". I guess that's where I am right now, and I love where my career has taken me. Those first few years in the Chinese Laundry were very hard, but that job taught me discipline, and I learned good work ethics and responsibility. It doesn't matter how menial the job you have. You won't be able to go on to anything better, unless you prove to your boss you can do the existing job right! Learn everything you can about it and do it to the best of your ability, because this will follow you throughout the rest of your life! I ran into a saying yesterday on the internet - "The difference between excellence and mediocre is the attention to the small details."
Joining the Wright Flyer Team
Around 1990, someone told me about a beautiful airplane they had seen and asked me if I would like to go see it on the weekend. It was located at the old Northrop Aircraft facility on Western Avenue in Torrance, CA. I was told by team members that the airplane was a 1903 Wright Flyer - the first airplane to fly. I joined the team for lunch that day, and they said "Join us!" Well, I wasn't a pilot or an engineer, and had no idea how I could be a contributing team member.
It turns out that all my skills learned to date, have come into play. I assist team members in tasks like sewing the fabric and fabricating wires on the airplane, and in preparation for our "Static Test" (NASA required this to determine the airplane was strong enough to survive in their wind tunnel), I helped fill precisely measured baggies with sand. These were labeled as to location they would be placed on the airplane. We processed over 3000 lbs. of sand! In fact, that was my first job at the project - I "played in the sand" so to speak - for weeks. But the task was very critical, and its success made it possible for the airplane to be allowed in the NASA wind tunnel! I have also acted as photographer as needed, to document team events for our history files and scrapbook, and have also put my computer skills to good use, so it has been a very exciting project to work on.
Journey to NASA
Little did I know on first day I came in to see the Wright Flyer, that eight years later I would be accompanying this historical airplane to a well-known space agency - NASA! - to participate in an exciting project which has never been done before - that of wind tunnel testing a full sized replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer! A newspaper article said that this airplane would turn the NASA wind tunnel into a time tunnel!
When we left the Southern California area to accompany the plane to NASA, the team stopped at lots of schools along the way, and made presentations to all the kids on those fantastic Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, and the kids were able to see this airplane up close! It was a wonderful trip. The kids were great! Their interest and enthusiasm made it all worthwhile!
This airplane is now very special to me personally, because when it completes the wind tunnel testing at NASA, our DeVries and American Red Ball team members will again come and load it into their trucks and bring it safely back to the Southern California area.
Where is it going? What would be a more fitting home for this trail-blazing first airplane, than the Federal Aviation Administration! The FAA will soon open the "FAA Flight Deck Museum". The museum will provide a local resource for schools, kids and families to learn more about the fascinating history of aviation. . . . and be able to see, first hand, the magnificent airplane that started it all!Archived QuestChats with Marilyn Ramsey