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Volume 46 | Issue 1 | January 2004

People & Places

photo: painting
Pestana painted the piece, an acrylic on canvas, for the cover of an upcoming book by Jill Rutan-Hoffman. Other works by Pestana are on permanent display at the Pentagon and at the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla.

From throttle to paintbrush

Beth Hagenauer
Dryden Public Affairs

For Mark Pestana, the hues of the heavens that he sees from a cockpit window translate effortlessly to paint and canvas when he sits down at his easel. A painting by the Dryden research pilot and flight engineer was recognized recently by Aviation Week & Space Technology in the magazine's annual aviation photography and art issue. Pestana's painting "First Flights" earned an honorable mention.

The competition was co-sponsored by the American Society of Aviation Artists (ASAA). "First Flights" has been on display at the Hill Air Force Base Museum, Utah, as part of an annual exhibit sponsored by ASAA. Pestana painted and donated the piece for the cover of a soon-to-be-published book by Jill Rutan-Hoffman, daughter of pilot Dick Rutan. Rutan set a world aviation record in 1986, when he and another pilot, Jeana Yeager, flew around the world nonstop and unrefueled. Pestana's painting was composed to illustrate some of the stories Rutan-Hoffman collected that convey the experiences of pilots and crewmembers. Proceeds from the book support Looking Skyward, an Arlington, Va., non-profit organization that provides scholarships to underprivileged youths to enable them to attend aviation and space camps.

photo: Mark Pestana and his plane
Dryden research pilot and flight engineer Mark Pestana, was honored recently when Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine selected Pestana's painting, "FIrst Flights," for an honorable mention in the publication's annual aviation photography and art special issue.
NASA Photo / by Tony Landis

He attributes his interest in aviation and space art to his life as an "Air Force brat," citing his father's Air Force duty as a B-29 gunner and boom operator on tanker aircraft as a strong influence. Pestana was raised around airplanes and his interest in them was reflected in his l

ove of drawing. In addition to aviation topics, Pestana subjects also include seascapes, landscapes and scenery from the small mountain community of Tehachapi where he lives, about 45 miles northwest of Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.

"Mom was an artist, so it was only natural when, as a teenager, I began borrowing her paints to create aviation art," said Pestana. He prefers using acrylic on canvas, although some of his compositions have been painted with oils.

Pestana's interest in the science of flight moved him to pursue a flying career in the Air Force. He currently is an Air Force Reserve colonel based at Edwards.

While employed by NASA at the Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, Pestana created eight Space Shuttle mission patches. As a flight crew operations engineer in the Astronaut Office, Pestana was approached by Shuttle crewmembers from STS-62, 59, 69, 83, 94, 86, 89 and 93 for help in designing their patches. The patches can be viewed at:

Pestana's art also is on permanent display at the Pentagon and the National Museum of Naval Aviation, Pensacola, Fla. His painting of the Sputnik I launch hangs in the Space Station Mission Control Center near Moscow. He earned first place in the 1990 U.S. Air Force Artist/Craftsman Competition and received a Par Excellence Award in the 2001 Experimental Aircraft Association Sport Aviation Art Competition at Oshkosh, Wis.

Pestana is a Dryden flight engineer on the DC-8 flying laboratory for the Airborne Science program. He also is a pilot for Dryden's Beech King Air 200.