Meet Kurt Long
Shipboard Helicopter Flight Test Engineer
Who I am
Although each shipboard flight test program is very expensive, in many ways, it's also very similar to the lab experiments that I did in high school even though each test involves multi-million dollar helicopters and ships, we still have to plan the test, acquire the test equipment, write up a test plan, conduct the test, and then write the test report. I was somewhat surprised and relieved to find that even these official US Navy Technical Reports are structured VERY much like the ones we did in school they all have sections that include abstract, background, procedures, results and discussion, and conclusions!
My job as flight test engineer is especially exciting, because it involves travel, and working with Navy and Marine test pilots and ship's crew during challenging flight tests aboard real warships. It also involves lots of hand-on experience, a chance to use your technical knowledge applied to real world situations, and satisfaction in knowing that you are doing something to help defend our country. Although bad features of the job include the occasional need for VERY long work days, and undesirable amounts of time spent typing up reports, these are annoyances only. I also get to work with flight simulators, high tech military hardware, and really professional people. I truly believe that I have one of the best jobs around!
Since 1999, I have been stationed at NASA Ames as a US Navy employee and have worked on a variety of wind tunnel projects, including V-22 descent aerodynamics, new ship aerodynamic design, and shipboard rotorcraft interactional aerodynamics. This part of my job is also very exciting, because it allows me to acquire information needed to ensure the safety of shipboard rotorcraft operations that would otherwise be unattainable.
As a Child
Throughout my pre-college school years, my parents encouraged my interests by taking me to the library, where I was able to learn more about each field. In 11th grade, we took career aptitude tests; my test results indicated that I was best suited to be either a sewing machine repair person, or a national park ranger! Most of my hobbies at this point however focused on aircraft-related things (radio control sailplanes, model rocketry, traveling to airshows).
So, with my interest in science and math, it was an easy choice to ignore the aptitude test results, and to start thinking about aviation careers. At this time I also started becoming interested in the field of engineering, and as a result, aerospace engineering seemed to be the most logical career field for me. I must admit that throughout high school, I didn't know exactly what an aerospace engineer did - I had visions of a person sitting in front of a computer all day long, designing new and exotic aircraft. I found out later that those ideas were pretty restrictive, compared to the variety of areas that aerospace engineering is actually involved with.
When I went to college, I didn't take a single Aerospace Engineering course until I was a Junior; by that point, I was more than a little worried about what I would do if I found that I didn't like engineering! Luckily, I loved all the engineering courses I took (except for Thermodynamics!), and so I knew that this was the field for me. I worked really hard in college, and spent a lot of time studying; there is no question in my mind that the time I invested studying while in college has helped me immensely in the years since college.
My Career Path
I am a big supporter of education in general, and I have been lucky enough to have had helpful mentors to guide me in every technical job I have held so far. As a result, I also enjoy serving as mentor for summer students here at NASA Ames.VTODTWD Webcast - April 23, 2002