Chapter 49/1000 Annual EAA Awards Dinner

Russ Erb

Originally published February 1998

The subject banquet was held on schedule at the designated Antelope Valley Inn on 31 January 1998. Many lies were swapped, much good food consumed, and good times were had by all.

MC Jack Huffman started the evening off with a humorous Scottish prayer, followed by the assembled masses queuing up in the buffet line. Following dinner, Jack mentioned the presentation of the unofficial "Hate" awards to Dick Monaghan and Bob Waldmiller, who were guilty of showing such incredibly high workmanship standards on their projects that the rest of us just "hate" to look at them.

The formal awards presentations began with the Young Eagles awards. Once again, Herb Carlson was honored with the most Young Eagles flown, with 65 Young Eagles logged. Of course, Herb uses a four-place airplane, and thus has an advantage over the two-place airplane drivers. Hence, a new category was created, and John Bush was honored for the most Young Eagles flown in a two-place aircraft, with 15 Young Eagles logged. Russ Erb was honored as the outstanding ground volunteer for 1997, not really a surprise since the folks in Oshkosh had decided that earlier in the year.

The Jim Osenga First Flight Award, sponsored by EAA Chapter 49, was presented to three builders who had completed the first flight of their project in 1997: Steve Irving (T-18), Rick Lapinsky (RagWing Special), and Paul Matthias (Lancair 360).

The Chapter 49 Spark Plug award was presented to Frank Roncelli, Technical Counselor and all-around good guy. This award recognizes the chapter member who always seems to be around and makes things happen. The presentation was made by Paul Rosales, last year's recipient.

Ozzie Levi was finally presented with his award for First Place in the Spot Landing Contest at the Sixth Annual Scotty Horowitz Going Away Fly-In last May. It may take a while, but we finally get there…

Gary Aldrich re-presented Russ Erb with the McKillop Award for the Leading Edge, which Norm Howell had previously picked up at Oshkosh in 1997 while Russ was at TPS covering for Norm. (I've given up on any ideas of outdoing 1997 in 1998--we'll just keep doing what we like to do and enjoying it…)

Webmeisters Russ Erb and Paul Rosales recounted the history of the first year of the chapter web sites, and announced the gratitude of the chapters to QNet for providing the web space on their servers. Representatives of QNet had been invited but were unable to attend.

Certificates of Service were presented to the Boards of Directors of each chapter.

The Main Event

Our speaker for the evening was Carl Meade, former astronaut and USAF test pilot (USAF TPS 80B). Carl is a veteran of three space flights and has logged over 712 hours in space. Carl served as a Mission Specialist on STS-38 in 1990, STS-50 in 1992, and STS-64 in 1994. The STS-64 mission highlight occurred when Carl performed the first untethered spacewalk in 10 years. This mission was the centerpiece of his presentation.

His slide presentation covered a typical Shuttle mission, which starts with the end of the previous mission. He covered how the Shuttle was refurbished and prepped for the next mission.

The Shuttle uses many of the facilities originally built for the Apollo/Saturn V program. These include the Vertical Assembly Building (the only building with an interior weather forecast), the crawler-transporter, and the launch pad. Since pilots like to drive stuff, and he had driven almost everything around the Kennedy Space Center, he hopped on the crawler-transporter one day while it was moving a Shuttle to the launch pad. His request to drive was flattly refused. Seems he was considered "unqualified."

One of the interesting problems that arose when modifying the Saturn V launch pad to the Shuttle was that the Solid Rocket Boosters (SRB) didn't fit over the flame hole. Since the Shuttle's center of gravity is located somewhere other than on the thrust line, if the SRBs' nozzles were allowed to gimbal at launch to give a straight vertical ascent, the resulting angle would throw the exhaust on the pad instead of down the hole. Ever notice how the Shuttle launches up and moving horizontally away from the Orbiter? That's because for the first 1.5 seconds, the vehicle is unguided! The guidance computer is ramped up from fully off at the moment of liftoff to fully controlling 1.5 seconds later. Betcha never heard that on the Discovery Channel!

The Shuttle clears the tower doing 100 knots vertically and continues to accelerate at 3 g's. You probably know the rest about how it gets to orbit. Upon reaching orbit, the crew has 1.5 hours to get the payload bay doors open and the radiators going or else they get an immediate return to earth.

Carl's test mission on the subject flight was to test a personal maneuvering unit designed to address a serious problem envisioned with the International Space Station. Astronauts will work outside the space station in space suits assembling the various pieces-parts. They will be attached to the station by a cumbersome system of tethers. Sounds simple enough, huh? Well, it would be, except that the tethers have to constantly be changed from one place to another. So? Imaging this--you're in your workshop working on your project. Only now you have a rope attached to the wall that you have to keep attached to your belt by a funny kind of carrabeener. No problem? Put a piece of spring steel on the back of your arm that constantly tries to straighten your arm. Get one of those head braces so that you can't look down to see what you're doing. Did I mention that you're wearing hockey gloves and the temperature is well below zero? That's basically the conditions in the space suit. Given all of this, I suspect you might have trouble with the tether occasionally or (warning to Scotty Horowitz--don't read the rest of this sentence!) the tether might break. When that happens, you'll be spinning about 30 degrees per second and moving away from the space station at about 2 ft/sec. How do you get back? Swim? I don't think so, Tim!

With the Shuttle, if this happens, somebody yells "Man Overboard" and the Shuttle pilot simply flies the Orbiter toward you, rejoins on you, and grabs you with the arm. Easy enough, you say. Space walks are actually ended when the Shuttle no longer has enough fuel to do that. However, I don't think you'll be chased down by a huge space station. So what to do?

The old Manned Maneuvering Unit (MMU) was designed for untethered space walks. It was dual-redundant everything, but big and mostly in the way for trying to do any work. Since NASA refused to pay what Martin-Marietta wanted for the Failure Modes Effects Analysis after the Challenger disaster, the MMUs have been permanently grounded.

So how do you give an astronaut a modicum of hope shouldst he go careening off into space? Carl was testing a new maneuvering unit for emergency use only. It fits under the life support backpack, and is powered by the incredibly complex propulsion system of nitrogen pressurized to 6000 psi. It has an attitude control system that will automatically stop any angular rates you may have, leaving you then to look around to find the space station before you get too far away to drive yourself back toward it. The system is not redundant at all, only having single systems for each function. But then again, it is only intended for emergency use. Carl and another astronaut tested the system, and it seems to work well.

Carl also talked about the pressure suit. It has an atmosphere of pure oxygen at a pressure of 3.5 psi and 0% humidity. While that seems low, consider that the partial pressure of oxygen at sea level is about 5 psi, and the space suit atmosphere is roughly equivalent to breathing at 10,000 feet, only without all that pesky nitrogen. More pressure and the space suit is a big balloon and you can't bend your arms. Less pressure and insufficient oxygen moves from the lungs into the blood stream. The intent is to keep the blood 98% oxygenated. At 96% you're in hurting status. Even so, after some strenuous work, astronauts can start to feel hypoxic and need to stop for a short rest.

To avoid decompression sickness (the bends), the astronauts are slowly denitrogenated by reducing the pressure in the Orbiter cabin after getting on-orbit for a day before any space walks. Astronauts then breathe pure oxygen for an hour prior to going in the airlock and further depressurizing.

Since space walks can last over 8 hours, provisions are made for food and water in the space suit. The food consists of essentially a Fruit Roll-Up that NASA pays $200 for because some dietician sprays Clorox on it. Water is fed through a straw. Carl said he had finished his fruit thing by the time he got out of the airlock. It was a long 8 hours after that.

The return to earth is started by firing the two OMS engines to take about 200 ft/sec off the Orbiters velocity somewhere over Australia. This is about 1 percent of the total energy. After a 20 minute plasma show, the Orbiter is flying aerodynamically again. The flight control surfaces are blended with the reaction controls, with the reaction controls still operating until the Orbiter is subsonic. The flight control surfaces are powered by a system run on hydrazine (no wonder people on the ground don't just run up and open the door). Carl said they like to be able to see the runway by 8000 feet AGL (actually a lot before that), and high winds are bad because they could blow you far enough off course you couldn't make it to the runway in your airliner-sized glider capable of flying formation with a brick. The approach is flown at 300 KCAS, which keeps changing Mach number as the temperature warms up. After landing, 1/2 percent of the orbital energy goes into the drag chute, which is released at 60 knots so that it doesn't fall down and damage the nozzles. Another 1/2 percent of the orbital energy goes into the brakes. The other 98 percent? Aerodynamic drag and that plasma show.

Carl's presentation was very well received by all, and covered a lot of stuff you don't find in the books or on the TV shows. President Aldrich made sure we wouldn't miss the opportunity, and presented Carl with a Chapter 1000 patch prior to dinner.

Next year's banquet will probably be at the end of January 1999. You won't want to miss that one!

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Contents of The Leading Edge and these web pages are the viewpoints of the authors. No claim is made and no liability is assumed, expressed or implied as to the technical accuracy or safety of the material presented. The viewpoints expressed are not necessarily those of Chapter 1000 or the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Revised -- 20 September 1998