Center Snapshot: Howie Lewis
Image Above: Howie Lewis is the director of NASA Langley's Flight Research Services Directorate. Credit:NASA/Sean Smith
By: Brian Marcolini
, LARSS intern
There are two things that Howie Lewis encounters often: flight researchers' safety, and on-center deer.
Every day Lewis, the director of the Flight Research Services Directorate, oversees numerous aeronautic missions to places all over the world. After hours, Lewis fights to keep deer away from his vegetables that he has growing in a garden close to the Langley hangar.
From planes to zucchini and everything in between, Lewis has a vast range of work that falls under him. Controlling both the planes in the hanger and the flight simulators on the other side of Langley, the former pilot says he has the best job on center.
"I always say that the only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys," Lewis said. "And I will say that I have the best toys on center."
Lewis came to Langley in 2004, after 30 years in the Air Force. During his early years in the service he was an instructor pilot, an operational F-4 and F-15 fighter pilot and eventually a test pilot.
Lewis served almost exclusively in the flight test business for the last twenty years of his military career, an experience that he now brings to his current job.
"Understanding airplanes, what it takes to get things on airplanes and doing stuff that you have never done before is an expertise that I bring to the table for the center," Lewis said.
And that expertise is essential for a directorate on the forefront of atmospheric research. In April, Langley's HU-25C flew a mission into the heart of Greenland as part of Operation IceBridge, a mission designed to map both Artic and Antarctic topography.
Trips to Greenland, however, only scratch the surface of the support Lewis and his branch provide to the center. In addition to being a major asset for scientific research, they have helped researchers in the aeronautics field search for alternative jet fuel. They also assist in space exploration research.
"It is really neat to see the diversity of research that we have going on all at one time," Lewis said.
Diverse research experience is something that Lewis has experienced throughout his career. While in California, Lewis was the vice commander of the 412th Test Wing at Edwards Air Force Base, one of the most complex test units in the Air Force. Over four thousand strong, the organization was composed of an assortment of civil servants and civilian contractors. There, Lewis oversaw over 200 tests conducted on a variety of topics, from advanced weapons systems to unmanned aerial vehicles.
Over the course of his career, Lewis has developed a can-do attitude that he tries to convey to all of his employees, an element of leadership that helps within a branch that flies into the unknown.
"I tell all of my people that I won't tell you what you can't do, I'll tell you what you can," Lewis said. "Our goal is to get people airborne and get their flight tests accomplished."
And accomplishing is what Lewis and the RSD do without fail. Despite the persistent safety concerns, there has been no project brought to Langley in his eight years that has not been accomplished.
"There is an inherent risk in doing things with airplanes that nobody has done before," Lewis said. "You have to work with a lot of people to insure that you are operating safely and that there are no issues doing it."
It is a risk that Lewis has to deal with every day, trusting in his team to bring Langley to the forefront of the researching field.
"We always have a lot of stuff going on and a lot of people coming to us. I have been really lucky to be a part of it," Lewis said.
And while Lewis has had average success keeping deer out of his garden, he has had a perfect success rate keeping researchers safe, and that is the bottom line.
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