Paul Reukauf Retires From Dryden
When Paul Reukauf retired from Dryden recently, he had accumulated four decades of experience in aerospace. Woven among more than 20 years of cumulative service with NASA were 17 years working with several private sector companies, all of which kept him near Edwards Air Force Base.
Reukauf is probably best known to Dryden employees for his work with the Hyper-X/X-43A program and his most recent projects with the center's two F-15 testbed aircraft. But he actually began his career at Dryden, then known as the Flight Research Center, in 1967 as a co-op student trainee in the field of propulsion systems, first during a brief stint with the X-15 and then with the XB-70.
Following graduation, he was hired and assigned as a propulsion system engineer in support of the YF-12 Propulsion Research program. It was with the YF-12 that he worked with Bill Burcham converting analog propulsion and airframe controls to digital. Research with the Cooperative Airframe Propulsion Control System produced a digital computer system that greatly reduced flight risk.
Prior to the CAPCS project, YF-12 and SR-71 pilots frequently struggled with severe and sudden yawing motion caused by inlet unstarts. This condition resulted when shock waves from the airplane's twin inlet spike (conical structures at the front of each engine nacelle) slipped from their optimum position within the engine air inlets.
"To the pilots, it felt like being hit by a freight train," Reukauf said. The extensive flight program involved 20 NASA flights with the aircraft at Dryden and another 15 flights conducted by the Air Force. Reukauf was appointed chief engineer on the YF-12 in 1977, the year the program ended. So successful was the system that the Air Force retrofitted the operational SR-71 fleet with it, a NASA contribution to the Air Force reconnaissance effort of which Reukauf is very proud.
As the YF-12 work ended, Reukauf left NASA in 1979 to explore new challenges with Lockheed's Advanced Development Projects Division - the Skunk Works - as a group supervisor and, later, as assistant chief engineer on the F-117A stealth fighter development program.
He recalled the first time he saw a partial mockup of the fabled aircraft in Burbank after waiting for months to obtain a clearance to work on it at the Skunk Works. Having worked on the exotic, high-speed YF-12, another product of the Lockheed shop, he assumed the aircraft to which he was being assigned also would be a speedy vehicle.
"How fast does it go?" he asked Lockheed personnel familiar with the F-117A. The answer: "point 8."
"Warp?" Reukauf asked hopefully. "No, Mach," came the answer.
"I thought I'd made a terrible mistake."
But he soon realized that taking the job wasn't a mistake at all, and worked on the program for about five years. Then, as the F-117A development program transitioned to operational and production work, Reukauf accepted a position in a company being developed by former Dryden Center Director and Apollo astronaut David Scott. The company was preparing to accept investment capital to develop a liquid-fuel rocket for the upper stage of the space shuttles. When NASA officials decided a solid-fuel upper stage was safer, the company's effort to develop the liquid-fuel upper stage came to an end.
He next served as Edwards facility manager for the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, where he gained valuable experience managing high-risk tests of space flight hardware for NASA. Then he accepted a position as Science Applications International Corp. program manager for the Systems Engineering and Technical Assistance contract at the Air Force Flight Test Center at Edwards. Subsequently, he instructed students for the National Test Pilot School in Mojave and then worked as Manassas, Va.-based Aurora Flight Sciences director of flight operations at Dryden.
In 1996, shortly after his return to Dryden, he was appointed chief engineer on the Hyper-X project. He became Hyper-X deputy project manager in 1998. Despite the failure of the rocket booster on the first flight, the next two missions went well.
"We had a great team. There were great people, and look at what was accomplished! It was a really good and important effort," Reukauf recalled.
Following the completion of the Hyper-X project in 2004, during which two X-43A research vehicles were flown autonomously at altitudes of about 100,000 feet and speeds of Mach 7 and Mach 10, Reukauf became Dryden's Hypersonic Technology project manager.
In recent years at the center, he was project manager for the F-15 testbed aircraft, a position he accepted in 2006. The two aircraft support several research projects, including the Quiet Spike, in partnership with Gulfstream Aircraft Corp., and a NASA-sponsored space-based range data system.
"They were dynamic and smart project teams," Reukauf said, giving credit for the successes to the teams and to previous project managers.
Having worked with many Dryden organizations during his career, he sums up his experiences at the center with this kudos: "There is no finer, or smarter group of people in aerospace. I made a lot of good friends."
Ruekauf graduated from California Polytechnic University, Pomona, in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science in aerospace engineering. He earned a Master of Science from the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, in 1973. At the University of California, Los Angeles, he completed postgraduate work in the areas of modern control theory and system optimization. He is a registered professional engineer in California.
Reukauf also is a member of Tau Beta Pi national engineering society and an associate fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. As a member of the Society of Flight Test Engineers, he was a director on the SFTE international board and a member of the Flight Test Safety committee. He is an active general aviation pilot with commercial, multi-engine, instrument, glider and several instructor ratings.
Dryden Flight Research Center