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Larry Schilling Retires From Dryden
Larry Schilling, Dryden's associate center director for operations, an architect of Dryden's digital real-time simulation capability and a driving force in establishing key Dryden infrastructure, has retired, concluding a 31-year career.

Larry Schilling shaking hands with Deputy Center Director Steve Schmidt Schilling called the center's future bright, noting that Dryden recently doubled its available hangar and office space with the addition of the Dryden Aircraft Operations Center in Palmdale.

Image right: Deputy Center Director Steve Schmidt, left, bids farewell to Larry Schilling with a handshake at a Jan. 11 retirement event held in Schilling's honor. (NASA Photo)

"There are many challenges ahead, but Dryden is up to it," he said. "Where there is challenge, there is opportunity. (The new operations center) will bring us opportunities in the future that we cannot even imagine now. The challenge is to get it up and integrated and that it has a feel like Dryden and not an isolated outpost."

Schilling sees two immediate areas that will be vital to Dryden's continued success.

"Challenges include continuing to seek and find exciting work to add for a healthy and vibrant aeronautics program," he said. "Shorter term, there has been a loss of talent. We've hired excellent young people who are going to breathe life into the center. However, they need to be nurtured and trained at a time when we are short on mentors and have a lot to accomplish."

It was trial by fire for Schilling when he first came to Dryden as a simulation engineer. That era saw the origins of a new kind of simulation called full-envelope, all-digital, real-time simulation, which was programmed in high-order computer language (Fortran). The effort was in its infancy and Al Myers, who hired Schilling, was the first to make it work when simulation experts at other NASA centers said it couldn't be done.

"I began as a contractor simulation engineer assigned to the F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire aircraft and my first assignment was to re-program the aero model to clean it up and improve efficiency," Schilling recalled.

"Ken Szalai was the principal investigator and he wasn't too happy about it because he believed he had a good, working aero model. I assured him that I would satisfy him that the new model was correct before we changed over. We really wrung it out and, in the process, found a lot of errors in the old model."

Following his work on that project, Schilling led the development and operation of simulations for many flight research programs, including Dryden's space shuttle engineering simulation; the remotely piloted, three-eighths-scale F-15 Spin Research Vehicle; the Highly-Maneuverable Aircraft Technology research vehicle; and the Advanced Fighter Technology Integration F-111 research aircraft. In 18 years as a simulation engineer and, later, sim group leader, he contributed to sim work for the F-111 Mission Adaptive Wing; F-18 High Angle-of-Attach Research Vehicle; F-18 Systems Research Aircraft; SR-71; Forward-Swept Wing X-29; and the X-31 Enhanced Fighter Maneuverability demonstrator.

"When a PIO (pilot-induced oscillation) was experienced on the last shuttle ALT (approach and landing) flight, Al Myers and I pulled together a quick shuttle sim for approach and landing. This sim was used by John Smith and, I think, Bruce Powers to develop a PIO suppression algorithm that was incorporated into the shuttle flight control laws prior to the first orbital flight - one of those quick response efforts that Dryden is known for," Schilling remarked with a chuckle.

As lead simulation engineer for the HiMAT program, Schilling saw technology take a leap.

"Many of the processes Dryden uses today were developed or refined on that program. We tied the actual flight vehicles into the loop for extensive testing. Kevin Petersen and I developed and programmed an automated pre-flight that pre-dated the built-in test feature in today's digital avionics. It was joked that we would wear the airplanes out on the ground before we ever flew. But we learned a lot and formed an early vision for the Integrated Test Facility (now Dryden's Research Aircraft Integration Facility, or RAIF). I also programmed and tested the primary HiMAT flight controls in the ground-based computers," he said.

Another major chapter in Schilling's career came in 1986 when he began work on the National Aerospace Plane, or X-30.

"I developed the first-ever real-time NASP sim and became the government-wide lead for NASP simulation. I led the efforts of industry and other government simulation activities, which resulted in multiple validated simulations at various government and contractor sites. By consensus, it was eventually decided to use the Dryden sim as the truth model and basis for all these activities. Our sim was distributed to all participants," he said.

NASP simulation efforts did not end with the program's cancellation, Schilling said, and the simulation was used as a basis for later work.

Of particular pride to Schilling is his role in the development of Dryden's capabilities. As a member of a small team in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he assisted in development of the Integrated Test Facility. He was a member of a small team that laid out the building, but his principle role was in design of the simulation elements and defining requirements for aircraft-in-the-loop simulation.

Schilling also had a long-term role in advocacy for the management of the Western Aeronautical Test Range and Dryden's information technology systems. He also oversaw Dryden's facilities when the organization that is today's Code F made a huge turnaround in construction safety.

He served in several senior management positions at Dryden, including director for research systems; acting deputy center director; acting associate director; acting director for research facilities; and deputy director for research facilities.

Schilling began his civil service career in 1973 as a mathematician at the Naval Surface Weapons Center-Dahlgren Laboratory in Dahlgren, Va. In November 1975, he joined Electronic Associates Inc. as an on-site simulation engineer at Dryden. He rejoined civil service at Dryden in November 1978, serving as Simulation Technology leader from March 1987 until March 1993, when he became branch chief.

Schilling earned a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, where he graduated magna cum laude with a double major in mathematics and physics (1973). He has completed postgraduate work at California State University, Fresno, and UCLA.

He is a senior member of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and served on the AIAA Flight Simulation Technical Committee. In 1998, Schilling served as General Chairman of the International Telemetering Conference and currently serves as the NASA liaison to the International Foundation for Telemetering.

Awards and recognition he's received include the NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal (1987); the NASP Gene Zara Award for Outstanding Contributions (1989); a Space Act Award for Real-time Computer Communications (1996); the Outstanding Service Award from the International Foundation for Telemetering (1998); the NASA Outstanding Leadership Medal (2001); and the Presidential Rank of Meritorious Executive in the Senior Executive Service (2004). He has received numerous Exceptional Achievement Awards and been a member of more than 14 teams winning Group Achievement Awards.

Schilling recalls his career with enthusiasm.

"I love the people. I love the work. Together, we're doing something grand for NASA and the nation - we're always doing something new and different. I've been able to work with my heroes and have become somewhat addicted to the high level of intellectual stimulation our work brings."

"I'm going to really miss Dryden."

Jay Levine
X-Press Editor
Dryden Flight Research Center