AFRL Aerospace Systems Open House wows visitors

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – Air Force Research Laboratory friends, family members, and colleagues were afforded a unique glimpse into the inner workings of the Aerospace Systems Directorate labs, equipment, and facilities during the 2019 Open House, held August 19.

The event was organized to give visitors an opportunity to interact with AFRL scientists and engineers, get a close-up view of world-class laboratory facilities, and participate in hands-on demonstrations of innovative technologies.

“The Open House was a wonderful opportunity to display the scope and diversity of our directorate to our workforce and our families,” said Col. Tim West, director, Aerospace Systems Directorate. “The reality is many of our families do not fully understand what we do at the Lab, nor how our efforts contribute to national security. This was a great opportunity to change that.”

The event kicked off with refreshments, followed by a welcome from West. After that, attendees were invited to visit the various tour stops to get a taste of life in the labs.

Guests were able to customize their tour experience, which included a wide range of labs to choose from. On view were technologies including the Auto Ground Collision Avoidance System, hypersonics, and advanced turbine engines. Visitors were also able to experience wind tunnels as well as facilities that test structural loads, fuels, engines, and engine components, to name just a few. Over a dozen labs were opened for the experience.

Maj. Sam Meyer, deputy chief, Aerospace Vehicles Technology Assessment and Simulation Branch, presented the Auto GCAS system, which takes over control from a pilot in an emergency situation and performs autonomous maneuvers to avoid collision with ground terrain. The system has been credited with saving eight aircraft and nine pilot lives since its first implementation in 2014. Guests who attended the Auto GCAS presentation were given the opportunity to fly the simulators to get a feel for the system in operation.

“Everyone seemed impressed with the technology and left with a better understanding of what capabilities AFRL is developing and how we support the Air Force as a whole,” said Meyer.

Another popular tour stop was the Turbine Engine Fatigue Facility, where Mechanical Engineer Luke Sheridan showed participants state-of-the-art equipment for component measurements and material characterization, and gave visitors a hands-on demonstration of the power of vibration energy on a real turbine engine component.

“The demonstration fascinated all of the attendees, from elementary school children to senior-level directorate leaders,” said Sheridan.

Dr. Rick Fingers, associate director, Aerospace Systems Directorate, commended the event and presenters, saying, “We have many ‘Pockets of Research Excellence’ within AFRL, and our researchers did a fantastic job showcasing them to fellow teammates, families, and friends. The event was a wonderful way of bringing us together as one team as we continue to do our part each and every day to develop new capabilities for our warfighters and to keep the fight unfair.”