Details about the new U.S. Stealth Bomber. Just being in Mojave, CA really makes this resonate.
Tag Archives: Planes
During spring break a group of 16 aerospace engineers took a grand tour of Southern California (SoCal), visiting 8 of the top aerospace research and production facilities. Known as the “Aerospace Dream Tour,” this event was organized by Michigan’s AIAA chapter, which leveraged its network to arrange tours at JPL, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, SpaceX, Lockheed-Martin “Skunk Works,” Scaled Composites, Pratt & Whitney Rockedyne, and Edwards Air Force Base. Details of this trip were documented on a blog the AIAA president Steve Harris kept throughout the trip. A day-by-day breakdown summarizing our trip is given below:
Monday: On Monday we toured NASA’s Jet Population Laboratory (JPL) and Boeing’s C-17 production facility. JPL is responsible for almost all of the deep space probes NASA sends to the other planets. Among other things, we saw where the new Mars rover known as Curiosity (the Mars Science Laboratory, currently on its way to Mars) was made. We noticed an engineer in a clean suit was using the iHandy app on his iPhone to find the inclination of the MSL engineering model. Later that day we saw C-17 Globemasters in various stages of their construction. It was humbling standing next such a large aircraft in its infancy. Some of the construction techniques were very unique, and we learned some surprising facts on the type of damage this military aircraft can take and still stay in the air.
Tuesday: On Tuesday we toured Northrop Grumman and SpaceX. At Northrope we toured the composites facility and walked down the F-18 Super Hornet production line. Looking at fighter jets never gets old for an aerospace engineer, and seeing their half build structure and
internal guts gave us all goose bumps. We then toured SpaceX, which pretty much blew the socks off the space geeks in the group (myself included). Everywhere you looked there was space hardware, including a new rocket engine the tour guide told us we should probably not be looking at. We stuck our head into that Dragon capsule mock up, watched their mission control room in action during a test run for the upcoming launch, and ate some of the free frozen yogurt the employees enjoy every day at the expense of a bet lost to Elon Musk. Did I mention the Iron Man movie was filmed here?
Wednesday: The mind-blowing tours continued on Wednesday when we took a very exclusive tour of Lockheed’s Advanced Development Programs facility, commonly known as the Skunk
Works. This is where a lot of the top secret aircraft are developed and built. Most of us never thought we would have a chance to step foot in this facility without working for them. There we had a chance to get down and dirty with the P-791, an experimental aerostatic/aerodynamic hybrid airship. The day kept getting better with a trip to the Mohave Spaceport and a tour of Scaled Composites. One of the most interesting aircraft they developed and built is the Space Ship One spaceplane, a suborbital vehicle which won them the X Prize. There TBP members (Dan Becker and myself) piloted the suborbital flight simulator, launching the spaceplane to the edge of space.
Thursday: On Thursday AIAA members took a tour of two of Rocketdyne’s production facilities. Rocketdyne is responsible for building the F-1 rocket engine; the enormous monster that combined with four other engines put a man on the moon. They also built the Space Shuttle Main Engines, among others. If you want to see their handy work head over to the FXB.
Friday: Our grant tour concluded on Friday with a bang, literally. We were sitting in a conference room on the secure military base eating lunch and a loud noise, which sounded like someone dropping something on the roof, shook the room. It was a sonic boom! We had a
chance to shake the wing of a Global Hawk (a surveillance UAV) to view the vibrational modes, and saw plenty of jets in the air, including tow F-22 raptors. We saw the F-35 (the new Joint Strike Fighter) with our own eyes, and got up close to an F-16 and it various tools of destruction.
There is no question that this trip is basically the best possible way an aerospace engineer can spend a week short of flying in a fighter jet or traveling into space. However, not everything was official business. There were a lot of conventional fun activities we did as well. For instance, on
Thursday, after our tour of Rocketdyne, we piled into our inconspicuous 12 passenger white van headed to Santa Monica for some beach time. There we took a short walk to Venice Beach to do some people watching, check out the set of American Ninja Warrior, and get some tattoos. Needless to say, it’s a pretty crazy place! Once the Sun set we drove to Hollywood Blvd for dinner and some live
music at the Hard Rock Café. We also spent some time hanging out with employees from SpaceX and Scaled Composites and made use of the hotel hot tub. All in all, a perfect spring break trip. We are all extremely grateful to everyone that made this trip possible.
If you are interested in joining Michigan’s AIAA chapter (and you should because AIAA regularly does awesome field trips and flies planes around AA at almost no cost to their members) please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and ask how you can be a member. All majors welcome!
Written by: Nathan Mckay
One of the most anticipated tours of our Southern California tour series was to Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programs (ADP), otherwise known as Skunk Works. Being a Michigan student, we are engulfed into the legend of Kelly Johnson. Going into our 5 x 7 wind tunnel building is always a stark reminder of why I chose to go to Michigan for my aerospace engineering studies. So as you can imagine, this was a dream come true.
Our destination was a close one. We departed from your hotel in Lancaster and made the 15 minute drive through the desert to Palmdale. With blues skies, sand, and mountains all around us, it was easy to spot the beautifully plain white and blue building that housed the Skunk Works. The entire group was excited for a trip that seemed very impossible.
The Legend of Kelly Johnson
I don’t think anyone in the group could of ever imaged being able to see such an icon of american aviation. The SR-71 Blackbird, F-117 Nighthawk, and the Lockheed U-2 spy plane were just a few of the many secret aircraft to be designed here. This moment had an especially large effect on me because of my profound interest in Kelly Johnson. I’m still awe struck that we were able to go inside…
Enough reminiscing… At 7am we passed a few security check points to make sure there were no terrorists on board. After everything checked out and we parked the vehicles we made our way to our first event of the morning. A group picture in front of Skunk Works! The 16 students and our host posed for a couple shots as we braved the apparently uncommon chilliness that Southern California was experiencing.
Our second activity for the day was to gather in one of the Skunk Work’s meeting rooms. As we walked through the hallways down to our destination we were surrounded by amazing pictures on the wall of past and current projects. In one of the larger entrance rooms we were presented with one of the coolest displays of the day, the six Collier Trophies, which is awarded annually ”for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year.” My particular favorite was their most recent trophy, which was won due to Pual Belivaqua’s design on the F-35 JSF engine design.
During our time in the meeting room we had some great talks with leading engineers at the company, including one of my favorite aircraft designers, Leland Nicolai. We got a taste for what the Skunk Works looks for in new graduates as well as some rich history of Lockheed Martin.
Our first big tour of the day was especially amazing! The group was guided though the hallways to one of the large hangars, were we were getting an up close look at some new work that was being done to the F-22 Raptor. I’ve been on the production line at Mariette, GA for the F-22 (which was amazing, by the way), but this was a completely different experience. Instead of a bunch of F-22′s everywhere, there were only three, but intricate work was being done to them on the inside. Like no brain surgeon could ever image, panels from this beautiful bird were taken off and the Raptor’s intricately detailed interior was exposed. The room we were in was insanely clean, and unlike production lines, this room was relatively quiet.
P-791 Hybrid Airship
After spending some time with the Raptors, we moved on to an area, which was much more accessible and less “secret” than the F-22s. It was time for the P-791 Hybrid Airship! Most people may think that blimps are dead, but I can assure you that their resurgence into the aviation field is in full swing. Using the principles from buoyant lift and aerodynamic lift, this aircraft is ultra-efficient… as long as you’re going under 100 mph. I’ll talk more about the P-791′s applications in a later post, for now check out the great video below.
X-55 All Composites Cargo Aircraft
After spending a healthy hour all with the P-791, we were off to the X-55 ACCA. I was excited to see yet another experimental airplane on the same day! The Advanced Composite Cargo Aircraft (ACCA) is an experimental twin jet engined transport aircraft. Its primary role is to demonstrate the new cargo-carrier using advanced composites. On this part of the tour we didn’t get to just stand behind some hefty red tape, no we were going inside! I think the coolest part of being inside the ACCA was seeing and touch all of the composites on board as well as being able to see the pulley system, which controls all the flight flight
controls. We learned that during flight tests the inside of cargo area gets extremely loud. We definitely noticed this, while we were exploring this beauty.
Being able to be at the Skunk Works was great! A trip that I never thought possible. We learned one important thing from the Skunk Works that day, and that was a quote:
I have learned to use the word ‘impossible’ with the greatest caution. -Wernher von Braun
I thought it would be fitting to make a post with all of the group photos we took at each of the companies that the University of Michigan AIAA Student Chapter took while in Southern California.
I’m still waiting on some official photos from Edwards and Rocketdyne. Once they’ve cleared security, I’ll post the update here.
After a fun evening out with some SpaceX alumni last night, we were extremely excited to start the day. Todays tours involved Northrop Grumman & SpaceX.
The tour of Northrop was very informative. We got a great tour of their composites facility. Composites are the future of aerospace, so we were extremely happy to learn about their fabrication process.
Below you can see the business end of the Super Hornet. Being partial to propulsion, I was in pure heaven seeing the production line for the aft section of the F/A-18E. Loved seeing the inlets and nozzle for this aircraft!
This tour was simply AMAZING!! We got a great tour of the factory floor. Lots of capsules and rocket engines!
Tomorrow’s tours are the best yet!! We will be starting early at Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works. We will follow this up in the afternoon with a lengthy tour of Scaled Composites. Stay tuned and please comment if you have any questions regarding the tours we’ve done so far!
Over the next seven days I will be keeping a detailed log of the University of Michigan AIAA tour of Southern California’s premier aerospace companies.
Day 1: Travel to LAX
- The adventures of flying United and American Airlines!
Day 2: JPL and Boeing (Long Beach)
Day 3: Northrop Grumman and SpaceX
Day 5: Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne
- The J-2X rockets and lots of beaches!!
- Learn more about Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne
Day 6: Edwards Air Force Base
- JSF and much much more!!
- Learn more about Edwards AFB
Day 7: Travel back to Ann Arbor
- The exhausting trip home plus the shear sadness of leaving aerospace paradise.
The AIAA at the University of Michigan took 17 students to Dayton, OH for the second time. This is now my sixth time at the NAFM, but this time was special, since I was equipped with my brand new Canon Rebel 600D.
Visit the Flickr tab on the right to view some of the photos that I took on the trip.
Some of my Favorite Photos from my Trip