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John H. Del Frate John H. Del Frate
NASA Photo
John H. Del Frate

John H. Del Frate is acting director of the Dryden Advanced Planning and Partnership Office, where he works to bring future projects to Dryden.

Del Frate is "bringing new business to NASA," he's a "great PAG [Project Approval Group] leader" and he is "leading the effort to find partners," nominators wrote. In addition, many recognized his efforts in managing solar-powered aircraft projects at Dryden as part of the Environmental Research and Sensor Technology program earlier in his career.

While Del Frate was project manager for the solar-powered Pathfinder Plus and later the Helios Prototype, both aircraft achieved altitude records.

The Pathfinder Plus, which had set a world altitude record for propeller-driven aircraft of 80,201 feet, is now hanging in the Smithsonian Institution Udvar-Hazy Center in Virginia.

While he was project manager for the Helios Prototype, that aircraft surpassed the Pathfinder Plus by reaching a new world-altitude record in 2001 of 96,863 feet. The Pathfinder Plus and the Helios Prototype were built by AeroVironment Inc. The company started with Pathfinder and created an increasingly complex family of solar-powered aircraft to new heights -- literally and figuratively.

The Pathfinder-Plus solar-electric flying wing also flew at Dryden in September 2005 for a flight series to investigate the effects of turbulence on lightweight flexible-wing structures. The Pathfinder-Plus made two low-altitude flights over the northern portion of Rogers Dry Lake. The first was a three-hour flight, followed by a two-hour mission.

Prior to Del Frate's work with solar aircraft, he was project chief engineer for the F-18 High Alpha Research Vehicle and led the effort to conduct smoke flow-visualization research flights to examine vortices generated by leading-edge extensions at high angles of attack.

Bradley C. Flick Bradley C. Flick
NASA Photo
Bradley C. Flick

Bradley C. Flick is chief engineer at Dryden. He is responsible for providing independent technical guidance and oversight to Dryden flight projects to ensure conformance with center and agency standards, policies and processes.

As chair of the Airworthiness and Flight Safety Review Board, he is responsible for determining and providing the appropriate level of independent technical review for each project prior to flight.

Nominators wrote that Flick will influence new programs with his "superior knowledge of aircraft systems and structures." He is "respected," "a class guy," "forward-looking," "open-minded" and a "pragmatic and level-headed thinker."

They also said he was a "great manager," who had "common sense and a big brain" and "technical and leadership expertise," "innovative thinking" and "commitment to safety and following processes."

Flick served as chief engineer in an acting capacity from October 2005 until his permanent appointment to the post in January 2008.

He began his career at Dryden in 1986 as a flight systems engineer on the F/A-18 High Alpha Research Vehicle, or HARV project.

He transferred to Operations Engineering in 1988, where he continued work with the HARV, playing a lead role in the development of several experimental systems, including the thrust-vectoring control system, emergency electrical and hydraulic systems, spin recovery parachute system and actuated nose strakes. He served as mission controller on approximately 100 HARV research flights.

Flick also served as Flight Systems branch chief (from 1998 to 2001). From 2001 to 2005, he served in acting capacity as associate director for Flight Operations, deputy director for Research Engineering and director of Engineering.

Laurie A. Grindle Laurie A. Grindle
NASA Photo
Laurie A. Grindle

Laurie A. Grindle is NASA's Orion Abort Test Booster project manager. In that position she is responsible for NASA's management of the abort test booster, the launch vehicle for the crew module and launch abort system on the Orion ascent abort flights.

Nominators said Grindle is "always willing to help out," "will help [the Crew Exploration Vehicle] be a success," and that she "has touched almost all major Dryden projects."

In addition, nominators said Grindle is "technically sharp," "exceptionally bright," "a great engineer," "gets things done," is "well-rounded and thoughtful," "dependable" and displays "technical excellence."

Grindle is best known for her work with the X-43A program. She was deputy chief engineer for X-43A, flight 2 and X-43A chief engineer for flight 3. This project validated supersonic-combustion ramjet (scramjet) propulsion technology with the research aircraft sustaining hypersonic speeds nearing Mach 10, or almost 10 times the speed of sound.

The National Society of Black Engineers honored Grindle with the 2005 Golden Torch Award as the Outstanding Woman in Technology of the Year.

Prior to the X-43A project, Grindle was principal investigator on the Advanced L-Probe Air Data Integration experiment flown on Dryden's F-18 systems research aircraft.

In addition, Grindle was a researcher on the Supersonic Laminar Flow Control project with an F-16XL research aircraft, and also was involved in analysis of space shuttle maneuvers that resulted in expanding the shuttle's aeronautical database.

Her NASA career began in 1992 with an internship in the Aerodynamics branch of Dryden's Research Engineering directorate. She became a permanent employee a year later.

Thomas J. Grindle Thomas J. Grindle
NASA Photo
Thomas J. Grindle

Thomas J. Grindle is chief of maintenance, a position he accepted in July 2007. He had been the acting chief of maintenance since February 2007. In a nutshell, if anyone touches the airplane, or builds anything that goes on it, he's in charge.

Prior to his current post he was chief engineer for F-15B no. 836, which was used in support of the joint Gulfstream Aerospace/Dryden project Quiet Spike to investigate suppression of sonic booms. The project focused on a retractable, 24-foot-long lance-like spike mounted on the nose of the F-15B that created three small shock waves traveling parallel to one another all the way to the ground, producing less noise than shock waves that build up in front of supersonic jets.

Grindle is perhaps best known as lead propulsion engineer for the X-43A project conducted at Dryden from 2001-2004. The 12-foot-long, experimental scramjet-propelled vehicles were flown at Mach 7 and Mach 10. Prior to that assignment, he worked in the area of fluids and environmental systems engineering for the X-43A.

People who voted for Grindle said he was "motivated and always willing to help" and that his "extensive experience, practical determination and no-nonsense approach" are the reasons he is well respected.

He began his career at Dryden in 1995 as an aircraft mechanic. Two years later he was an engineering technician in Dryden's Flight Operations branch, a position he had until June 1999. During that time, he was assigned to the F-15B, the F-16XL and Learjet projects. In January 2000, Grindle became an engineering technician in the Propulsion and Performance branch.

His duties included assisting on the Predator B for the Environmental Research Aircraft and Sensor Technology program and the DC-8 mission for Airborne Science's investigation of the Mt. Hekla Volcano, Iceland, volcanic ash incident. He also served as propulsion engineer for the F-15B simulator.