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November 8, 2000
QuestChat with Andy Hahn

Conceptual Aircraft Designer
NASA Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA



red arrowSusan/NASAChatHost - 2 - 09:35:44 ]
We would be very thankful if you can take the time to complete the chat feedback form at the completion of the chat. http://quest.nasa.gov/activities/chats/feedback.html

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 3 - 10:59:07 ]
Hello! Andrew is here and ready to take your questions.

[ Andy - 4 - 10:59:43 ]
Hi everyone

[ Andy - 8 - 11:02:55 ]
RE: [Huey] Hi Mr. Hahn. Are there any publicly available tools for doing some of the design? I am interested in turning one of my "napkin" ideas into a real design. How long will it take to design a proof of concept design? I'm not interested in getting it optimized at this point.
Hi Huey, because of the specific nature of the Marsplane, there aren't any publicly available tools. Our tool is completely undocumented, so it would require quite a bit of knowledge and effort to learn how to use, even if we could give it away, which we can't.

[ Andy - 10 - 11:05:49 ]
RE: [MrThomassstudentBailey] What kind of education did you have to become a conceptual airplane designer in college? and where?
Hi MrThomassstudentBailey, I went to high school at Orchard Park Central in New York. I then got my Bachelor of Science (BS) in Aeronautical Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical Univ. at Daytona Beach, FL and my Masters of Science in Aerospace Engineering at Stanford here in the Silicon Valley.

[ Andy - 16 - 11:09:57 ]
RE: [MrThomassstudentBailey] What career did you want to pursue when you were younger? Did you always want to work with airplanes?
That's reall interesting, I haven't really thought about it much. I guess I always had an interest in vehicles that move. They could be submarines or speed boats or cars or airplanes. Early on, I started modeling airplanes, both plastic scale and control line flying models so I guess that's when I decided I wanted to work on airplanes. I still model airplanes, but I have also built free sailing model sailboats and have built working model submarines.

[ Andy - 21 - 11:13:49 ]
RE: [Michelle] Hello Mr. Hahn. What do you consider the benefits of working for NASA as opposed to a private company and vice versa?
The best part of working for NASA is the freedom to pursue your interests. While I still have to make sure that I work within my charter and sometimes work on some things I'm not tooo interested in, for the most part I get a lot of leeway in choosing what I work on and how to do it. Private companies on the other hand are much more focussed to deliver a product that someone has given them a legal contract to fulfill. For some people, that fits their personality just fine, but it is not really for me.

[ Michelle - 29 - 11:21:13 ]
Thank you for your input. I'd never thought of that aspect of it...

[ Andy - 24 - 11:17:39 ]
RE: [Kenneth] I'm a 5th grader from Rural Hall School. Our class has some questions. How big is the biggest plane you have designed?
I tend to design smaller planes. I used to design vertical takeoff supersonic jet fighters, very high flying remotely piloted vehicles and several Naval fighters/attack designs. I guess the biggest is one that I am working on now which is a 150 passenger transport with the engines attached to the top of the wing.

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 15 - 11:09:38 ]
Welcome Kenneth! and Rural School 5th Graders!

[ Andy - 27 - 11:19:44 ]
RE: [MrThomassstudentBailey] If not for your friend do you would be at NASA?
Actually, my coming to NASA was almost accidental. One of my room mates at Embry-Riddle got a summer job here at Ames and he asked if there was a position for me too. They did have one and I have been here for almost 19 years.

[ Andy - 31 - 11:21:31 ]
RE: [Michael] What are the most important parts of the plane?
There really aren't any most important parts to an airplane. Airplanes are so integrated that if you were to take almost any part off, it would not fly too well.

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 18 - 11:11:55 ]
Good morning Michael, is it still morning where you are?

[ Michael - 25 - 11:18:37 ]
No, it is 2:10 pm here. We are in North Carolina.

[ Andy - 35 - 11:24:33 ]
RE: [Josh] How fast is the fastest plane you designed?
Well, one plane I did the aerodynamics for was actually a re-entry vehicle. So it had to get up to 25 times the speed of sound to reach orbit. My part in that design was to look at drag rise near the speed of sound. It turns out that getting through the sound barrier is as hard as flying 25 times faster and if you can't get through Mach 1, you will not get to Mach 25.

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 20 - 11:13:26 ]
Hi Josh! Do you like fast planes?

[ Josh - 32 - 11:21:41 ]
Yes, I like fast planes!

[ Andy - 39 - 11:27:29 ]
RE: [Huey] Do you work more on jet aircraft or on rotorcraft?
Up untill now, I have worked exclusively with fixed wing aircraft (propeller and jet). This year, I was asked to look at modifying the V-22 Tiltrotor with a Variable Diameter Rotor and estimate the performance improvement we might expect. So, now I do rotorcraft as well (a little)

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 36 - 11:25:27 ]
Huey, you really seem interested in aircraft design, have you studied engineering!

[ Huey - 41 - 11:28:47 ]
Susan: Well, it's a childhood dream. I've taken EE instead am now working as a software engineer. :) But, I'm thinking of going back to school for an aero degree.

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 42 - 11:28:47 ]
Good luck with your dream Huey!

[ Huey - 49 - 11:34:14 ]
Susan: Thanks. I'm going to use my free time learning about aerodynamics now. It's frustrating to have an idea and not have the knowledge to bring it to fruition. I'm channeling that energy in a possitive way so I have little doubt I'll suceed.

[ Andy - 43 - 11:28:54 ]
RE: [MrThomassstudentBailey] If you weren't in your job now where would you be?
If I weren't in this job, it is hard to say where I'd be. This really has been my dream job and I haven't been looking around to see what else might fit me well.

[ Andy - 45 - 11:31:01 ]
RE: [Erica] What is your favorite design?
My favorite design is the Messeschmitt 163 rocket powered airplane. It is a really interesting airplane that was really advanced for its time, but also a total failure.

[ Andy - 48 - 11:33:52 ]
RE: [Huey] What are the steps that conceptual designers go through from that sketch on the napkin to an optimized/production ready result?
It's funny that you mentioned the napkin. There are still successful designers that do hand drawn sketches on what ever is nearby, but I don't use paper much anymore. My branch commissioned a program called Rapid Aircraft Modeler (RAM) and it is so fast and easy to use that I skip drawings altogether and build 3 dimensional models first.

[ MrThomassstudentBailey - 50 - 11:37:12 ]
I would like to be a rocket but I am way too short so something to do with dance

[ Andy - 51 - 11:39:01 ]
RE: [Laura] How long does it take to design a plane? As long as three years?
designing a real airplane, like a Boeing 777, can take 10 years and many thousands of designers, engineers, crafts people, and managers. There really isn't any one man shop left. Airplanes have just gotten too complex for that. What I do is called Conceptual Design which means that I do enough calculation to give a customer a good idea of what it will look like, how it will perform, and how much it should cost. There is a lot of work that comes later in the Pre-design phase and the detail design phase and the manufacturing design phase. Usually, I will spend about 6 months on a conceptual design, but that can go as low as 6 weeks, depending on how accurate the customer wants the answer to be.

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 38 - 11:27:07 ]
Hi Laura, do you think you would like to design planes?

[ Laura - 52 - 11:39:53 ]
Yes, it sounds like fun! How would I learn how to do this?

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 53 - 11:39:53 ]
Laura, play with paper airplanes, gliders, study math and science, watch birds! Then go to college and study engineering!

[ Andy - 56 - 11:41:09 ]
RE: [MrThomassstudentBailey] What does the future hold in your job?
Unfortunately, airplane design is becoming less in demand as other technologies, like computers and communications, become more in demand. I think that there will always be some jobs available but they will become less common.

[ Andy - 57 - 11:42:47 ]
RE: [Brennan] Have you ever designed a plane that wouldn't fly?
I hope not. While the tools and methods I use are far from perfect, I would hope that the airplane would at least fly. How well it flew would be up for debate though.

[ Andy - 59 - 11:46:49 ]
RE: [Huey] Susan: Well, it's a childhood dream. I've taken EE instead am now working as a software engineer. :) But, I'm thinking of going back to school for an aero degree.
Huey, I saw your response to Susan, and I have to tell you that we mostly go the other way. As the need for AeroEngineers diminishes, some move into the software field because it is part of our job now and the rewards are higher (pay wise). There is always the possibility of joining the Experimental Aircraft Association to get your airplane design fix and not have to change your job.

[ Andy - 66 - 11:53:14 ]
RE: [Michelle] Mr. Hahn, you indicated that you have received your masters. How important is it to complete graduate work in the field, and would you recommend doing so before or after attaining a full-time position?
While a Bachelors gives you the foundation for most of the design problem, the Masters really takes you up a level of sophistication. It allows you to attack the really tough problems that sometimes crop up. It is not necessary, but it is helpful periodically. I got my masters after being out of school for about 14 years, was married with children, and had a bad commute. I was also working nearly full time and graduating nearly killed me. If I had any advice, I would say to go straight through and stay near campus.

[ Andy - 69 - 11:56:59 ]
RE: [Trent] What is the coolest airplane you have designed?
You know Trent, to me they are all pretty cool. Each one has something special about it because the mission it needs to fulfill is unique. Some are fast, some go into space, some fly very high but slow, some have rockets, some hover....choosing one would be tough.

[ Andy - 72 - 12:00:50 ]
RE: [MrThomassstudentBailey] What could you do to encourage women to get involved in NASA?
Personally, I have mentored 2 young women as interns. One found out that this was not for her (which is a good thing to know), but the other did like this sort of work, went to MIT and got her BS. I would encourage anyone to try out the career of their interest before committing to the long and expensive process of getting degrees or credentials. First and foremost, you should love what you do and the best way to find out is to try it out.

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 61 - 11:47:09 ]
We have a project called the Women of NASA it has chats with women who work at NASA. http://quest.nasa.gov/womenfont color=#ocoeff>Susan/NASAChatHost
- 74 - 12:02:02 ]
RE: [Huey] The Experimental Aircraft Association? Where can I find out more about that? Sounds like the perfect hobby for me.
http://niit1.harvard.edu/EAA/eaa_homepg.html

[ Huey - 76 - 12:10:07 ]
Susan: Thanks.

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 77 - 12:10:07 ]
Thanks to you and join us again!

[ Andy - 75 - 12:06:24 ]
RE: [Shaniqua] If I wanted to work for NASA, what skills would I need?
Hi Shaniqua, the skills you would need depend on what it is you wanted to do. If you want to be a researcher, obviously math and science are high up on the list. Also, although you may not believe this based on my spelling here, communications skills are very important. No one is so brilliant that they can lock the door and do wonderful things. Most jobs require collaboration with colleagues. Last, I would say that people skills are important, especially when dealing with people who may have focussed on math and science to the exclusion of people skills. Like I have said in my Journal, managing researchers can be a lot like herding cats and being able to convince people that it is in their best interest to play nice is really important.

[ Andy - 78 - 12:10:22 ]
RE: [MrThomassstudentBailey] What programs would you suggest to kids getting involved in that are interested in design of airplanes?
My daughter isn't quite 5 yet, but I take her to model airplane meets. There are clubs all over the country for building and flying all sorts of model airplanes from big expensive radio control jobs to rubber band powered free flighters. They are very friendly and at the last meet, a gentleman gave a rubber band power kit to my daughter and helped us build it right there.

[ Andy - 79 - 12:12:33 ]
RE: [MrThomassstudentBailey] are you going to encourage your daughter to pursue the same career as you?
I will let her chose that for herself. She will be exposed to aviation, of course, but it is not for everyone and I do know that my wife wants to steer her into any other profession than airplane design. She thinks that one airplane nut in the house is plenty.

[ Andy - 81 - 12:17:56 ]
RE: [MrThomassstudentBailey] Wait- I'm sorry, but I have one more question! What do you do in your spare time
Spare time, hmmm....sometimes it seems that I don't have a lot of spare time. I guess I spend more time with my kids than I used to. That has meant less time for skiing, SCUBA, motorcycle, computer games, radio control sailplanes, modeling, etc. that I used to do. Now that I think about it, I do spend a fair amount of time reading texts about aero, structures, propulsion, etc. I guess I read these much as most people might read paperbacks.

[ Andy - 82 - 12:22:08 ]
RE: [Jodi] What is your favorite part of this job?
My favorite part of the job is the relative freedom I have in choosing my assignments. That way, I can stay interested and motivated. Also, the projects that I get to choose from are far term technology assessments so I have the luxury of trying some pretty far out and unconventional ideas

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 65 - 11:52:45 ]
Wow this has been a great chat! Thanks for all the great questions, I would appreciate it if you would take the time to complete the feedback form at http://quest.nasa.gov/activities/chats/feedback.html

[ MrThomassstudentBailey - 73 - 12:01:01 ]
Thank you for your time!! BYE!

[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 80 - 12:16:14 ]
Thanks Andy this has been a terrific chat! We have all learned a great deal!

 
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