Center Snapshot: Paul Stough
Image above: Intern Maggie Stough with her father, Paul, who works Air Space Systems Program in the Crew Systems and
Aviation Operations branch. Photo credit: NASA/Sean Smith
Editors note: Maggie Stough is a senior at Tabb High School and is working
as an intern with the NASA Langley News Media Team. This is her story about
her father, Paul.
By: Maggie Stough
"It's a good day to go flying," he commonly says. Paul Stough's life and
work could not reflect that more.
His life-long interest in aviation, education in aerospace engineering and
his training as a pilot landed Stough a perfect position at NASA Langley,
where he works in the Air Space Systems Program in the Crew Systems and
Aviation Operations branch.
There, he works with other researchers developing concepts and technologies
to increase the ability of airports to handle traffic.
His route to Langley was involved.
While Stough was a senior at Virginia Tech, an interviewer from NASA Langley
visited and he became interested in working there. But he chose to go to
graduate school at Cal Tech instead.
He served in the U.S. Army as a scientist and engineer at White Sands
Missile Range in New Mexico, where he worked on the Pershing Mobile Tactical
Ballistic Missile System. He also learned to fly and was a member of the
White Sands Missile Range Flying Club.
After two years at White Sands, he began to look for a job.
"I was contacted by a college roommate, Bruce Fisher, who was working at
Langley and he asked if I was still interested in working at Langley because
there was a job opening. I told him that I’d already sent my paperwork in,"
Starting in flight research, he worked on direct lift control, propeller
noise and spin testing of light airplanes. He served as assistant then
acting head of the Flight Research branch before going over to Advanced
General Aviation Transport Experiments, where he led a team developing
computerized cockpits for small airplanes.
He also worked on the Weather Accident Prevention Project, leading a team
developing cockpit weather information systems.
For all of that, over 37 years at Langley, he finds that working with the
people at NASA has been among the most rewarding aspects of his career as an
aerospace research engineer.
"It's just a bunch of very capable people, and every day I learn something
new," Stough said. "When you come in the gate, it’s like entering a magical
During his early days at NASA, Stough was involved with improving the safety
of small airplanes. With a team at Langley, he helped to enhance spin
resistance of airplanes.
"I appreciate the diversity of skills and perspectives needed to address air
traffic management concepts," Stough said.
For Stough, family is first and flying comes second. But, when possible, he
combines the two.
He, wife Mary and daughter Maggie have traveled to the Southwest and
Northwest, New England states, as well as to England, France and Germany.
Stough considers them all cherished travels, but at the top of his list was
a trip to Melbourne, Australia, in 1986 to present a paper.
"It reminded me of what the U.S. was like in the 1950s," Stough said.
He took some time out to see more of Australia than Melbourne. He attended a
cookout at a co-worker’s house where he learned more about their culture and
gained more appreciation for his own homeland.
"The family lived in constant fear of fires, because where they lived, one
could start at any moment," Stough said. "It made me realize how fortunate I
am to live somewhere where I don't have to fear that."
On the flight back home, Stough received the opportunity to see the cockpit,
as well as talk with the crew, which left an impression on him, and further
reinforced the pleasant memories associated with his trip to Australia.
As a licensed pilot himself, Stough likes to spend time flying small
airplanes. He is the president of the Tidewater Flying Club and tries to fly
at least once a month.
The Tidewater Flying Club shares three Cessna airplanes among their members.
When Stough goes flying he often takes a fellow member or friend that is
interested in going up in an airplane with him. He often flies around the
peninsula, but has also flown several times to Lake Gaston, where he has a
house, as well as to New York and Pennsylvania with his family to visit
Even when Stough isn't piloting, he's finding answers for those who are.
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