One enduring aircraft that I worked on is the Lockheed P-3B Orion, a four-engine turboprop surveillance aircraft developed for the US Navy in the 1960s. Operated by NASA at Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia this ex-US Navy aircraft is used for low altitude heavy lift airborne science missions. It was modified to support passive microwave instruments, such as NOAA’s Polarimetric Scanning Radiometer, NASA’s 2-DSTAR, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s polarimetric scatterometer instruments.
Modifications to the P-3B were performed for NAVAIR, the US Navy’s Air Systems Command. At that time its purpose was “weather collection.” Today, the P-3C Orion is a land-based, long-range, anti-submarine warfare patrol aircraft. Its mission includes surveillance of the battlespace, at sea and over land. The P-3 Orion excels at this task due in part to its long range and long loiter time. The project was in collaboration with Avionics Engineering Services and Associated Air Center in Dallas, Texas.
In the now obsolete aircraft that I once worked on category is the DC-8 for UPS (United Parcel Service).
In 1980 UPS opened its first major hub in Louisville, Kentucky and began acquiring recently retired commercial jet aircraft. These Douglas DC-8s, Boeing 727-100s and Boeing 747-100s were converted from passenger aircraft to freighters. Of 556 DC-8 aircraft manufactured from 1958 to 1972, around 200 were still in commercial service in 2002, mostly used as freighters and nearly half (97) operated by UPS.
I worked with a team of electrical, systems and structural engineers on a multi-faceted project including an instrument panel re-design, and cabin and service bay modifications.
By 2009, UPS had retired their fleet due to aging, increasing operating costs and strict noise and emissions regulations. The UPS DC-8 final flight landed at Louisville International Airport on May 11, 2009. The first flight of a UPS DC-8 had occurred 21 years prior, on February 1, 1988.
The year was 1984. There were no cell phones. Email and the Internet were in their infancy. MTV was a music video channel that was widely watched. The simplest form of showing emotion and speaking one’s mind was the simple weepul (wee people), a precursor to the emoji when everything on the computer began with a cursor. This creative critter was the product of three Texas A&M University students and could be found in campus bookstores and other point-of-purchase locations in Aggieland.