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Meet Frank Aguilera

photo of Frank Aguilera

Deputy Director, Airspace Systems Program
Ames Research Center

Career Fact Sheet Print Version

Who I Am and What I Do

I help manage NASA's Airspace Systems Program. This program develops technologies for improving the efficiency of today's air traffic control system, while at the same time, laying the foundation for future opportunities. As the Airspace Systems Program Deputy Director, I provide organizational and technical leadership toward achieving the national goal of improving the National Airspace System. Our program considers the following challenges of today's air traffic control system, while developing a vision for the future:

  • Accommodate projected air traffic growth while maintaining safety.
  • Provide for National Airspace System efficiency.
  • Include all stakeholders in the development and transition of new technologies.

My areas of expertise are wind tunnel testing, operational field testing, program and project management, and public policy. What I enjoy most about my job is that program management in the area of Airspace Systems provides an opportunity to contribute to our national goal of improving the National Airspace System. There are many individuals and stakeholders involved in our work making this assignment challenging and most interesting. The only thing I don't like about my job is that there are not enough hours in the day to get everything accomplished, but it does provide the opportunity to prioritize the things you need to get done.

Education and Career Path

I attended California State University, earning my bachelor of science degree in aeronautics; Naval Postgraduate School, where I earned my master of science in aeronautical engineering; and earned my doctorate degree in public policy from Golden Gate University.

During my undergraduate studies, I began working at NASA Ames Research Center as a work-study student in wind tunnel research. After my undergraduate studies, I worked for private industry conducting engineering field testing.

I then joined NASA at Dryden Flight Research Center, where I was involved in SR71 aircraft flight research. Upon leaving Dryden, I worked for the Army Corps of Engineers providing engineering support in the areas of instrumentation and construction. I went on to work for the Department of the Army Missile Command, where I worked in a research lab and began project management assignments. I also had an assignment where I conducted weapon system operational evaluations.

After being away from NASA Ames Research Center for 15 years, I returned to an assignment on the director's staff conducting center level program and project evaluations. Additionally, I managed the Short Haul Civil Tiltrotor Project office before being selected as deputy director of the Airspace Systems Program.

In addition to my education, my career experiences in both private industry and government have provided a foundation in wind tunnel testing, aviation maintenance, engineering field testing, flight testing, weapon system developments, construction and renovation of facilities, navigation equipment operational testing and resource management. Each assignment, over my career, has provided valuable experience to prepare me for this job.

Growing Up

I first became interested in this profession after a junior high school field trip to a power generation facility, where I saw several large turbines and turbo machinery along with supporting infrastructure. That visit fostered an interest in electro/mechanical equipment. Later in high school, I was fortunate enough to help my uncle in his automobile repair shop, where I learned more about engines and machinery. Since my uncle had been in the US Air Force, we also discussed aviation.


I enjoy teaching aviation courses, personal flying and traveling. I have additional training as an FAA licensed private pilot, and have an aviation maintenance A&P license.

My advice to anyone interested in this occupation

Be open to the opportunities of change, as I consider program managers agents of change.




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