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A Day in the Life: Careers at NASA Armstrong

Take a behind-the-scenes look into careers at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center (AFRC)  in California, where pilots and engineers are often the known careers but the center also includes professions such as human resources, education, communications, and legal. Here are some of the many roles students can hold in the future.

David McBride, NASA Armstrong Center Director

McBride oversees all aspects of management, strategy and operations at NASA Armstrong.

Erin Waggoner, Aerospace Engineer in the Aerodynamics and Propulsion Branch

Waggoner’s work includes planning, coordinating and executing ground tests. She also analyzes data, writes papers and serves as a flight test engineer onboard test aircraft. She currently works on the Advanced Air Mobility (AAM) project.

April Torres, Electronics Technician and Telemetry Specialist

Torres currently works in the Telemetry Shop within the center’s Engineering Support Group. The Telemetry Shop is responsible for verifying and testing flight research instrumentation.

Nils Larson, X-59 Chief Test Pilot

Retiring from the Air Force as a lieutenant colonel stationed at Edwards Air Force Base in California, Larson joined NASA in 2007 as a test pilot. Larson continues to fly advanced aircraft to conduct aerospace experiments and perform flight research.

Troy Asher, Director for Flight Opperations

Asher joined NASA in 2008 as a test pilot after retiring from the Air Force with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He is responsible for managing the center’s research flight operation of pilots, technicians, aircraft mechanics and engineers, and overseeing its fleet of highly-modified aircraft.

Jose “Manny” Rodriguez, Aircraft Mechanic & Crew Chief

Rodriguez ensures aircraft and aircraft systems at the center are maintained. During his time at NASA, he has worked on a variety of aircraft, but primarily focuses on the Gulfstream-III.

Elizabeth Ruth, NASA SOFIA Pilot

After leaving the Air Force as a pilot, Ruth flew commercially before joining NASA. Ruth is the only female research pilot to fly SOFIA at Armstrong. She joined Armstrong’s Flight Operations branch in 2016.

J.C. Coleman, Armstrong Aviation Maintenance Technician

For more than 20 years, Coleman has inspected, repaired and upgraded aircraft for the Air Force until retiring to join  NASA. Now he is the division chief at Armstrong, overseeing a team responsible for keeping the research and support aircraft in flight-ready condition.

CJ Bixby, Chief of the Systems Engineering and Integration Branch

Bixby manages an aerospace research team at Armstrong, which provides lead technical representatives on projects. The team ensures each project is safe, meets technical objectives and performs technical systems engineering functions.

Andrea Muir, Avionics Technician

Muir has worked on almost every NASA plane in her career, from fighter jets like the F-15 and F/A-18, to SOFIA, to the unmanned platforms like Ikhana and the Global Hawks.

Allen Parker, FOSS Engineer

Parker’s background is in electrical engineering, and he works in the area of sensor and system development for ground and flight applications. He primarily focuses on research and development of NASA’s fiber optic sensing system (FOSS) technology.

Rene A. Holland, Human Resources Business Partner

Holland came to NASA Armstrong in 2006, working as a contractor support specialist in the Research and Engineering Directorate and then in the Mission Support Directorate. She then moved into Human Resources as a human resources assistant. She works with directorates across the center to find the best solutions for their staffing needs to meet mission goals.

Johanna Lucht, Engineer in the Flight Instrumentation and Systems Integration branch

Lucht is the first deaf engineer to carry out an active role in a NASA control center during a crewed research flight. As a college student, she interned at NASA Armstrong and was offered a position shortly following her internship.

Internships at NASA Armstrong

Looking for a head start to a career at AFRC? The center offers three series of internships for the summer, fall and spring through the California Office of STEM Engagement (OSTEM). Although it is not a requirement to work at NASA, some of the center’s employees had their interest sparked during an internship.

Interns get to work on real world projects like recent intern Nathan Sam, who worked in Armstrong’s Dale Reed Subscale Flight Research Laboratory, or model lab to fabricate and fly a potential Mars airplane called the Prandtl-M.

This competitive program integrates interns with career professionals, emphasizing degree-related tasks, while contributing to the operation of a NASA center and advancing NASA’s missions. Visit NASA’s intern page for more information. You can also contact Lisa Illowsky, Armstrong’s Internships Coordinator at

There are more exciting careers at NASA Armstrong to explore. Share the career you would like to learn about next on social media.