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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 assignment.

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.

Advice
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.

Future Plans
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.

Personal
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.

 
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