In a new series, the editors of NASA Tech Briefs magazine catch up with everyday engineers about their unique responsibilities and challenges. This week, we highlight fellow reader and aircraft navigation system professional, Sid Wood.

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Sid Wood, Senior Scientist Engineer


Field/Expertise: Navy aircraft navigation systems.

What are your day-to-day responsibilities?

Sid Wood: I worked for the Navy as a civil service engineer for a number of years. I’ve since retired from civil service and now I’m working for a private company. I work out of the Patuxent River Naval Air Station. Specifically the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) organization is headquartered there. I support one of the departments. Their expertise is with navigation systems. We develop the navigation equipment of various Navy, Coast Guard, and Air Force airplanes and aircraft.

I have some background in their operations, so that was a natural fit for me. What we have done in recent years is to develop a series of rate gyros that can be used on lots of different platforms: fixed-wing, jet aircraft, various turbine-powered airplane, propeller-driven airplanes, as well as helicopters. Each one has a peculiar environment, either from an operations viewpoint or from a vibration or pressurization viewpoint.

What’s the biggest engineering challenge that you face?

Wood: Those varying requirements get to be stumbling blocks for the vendors that make the product. It’s all commercial industry that produces it, but they have to do it to the government’s specifications. And that’s where the problem comes in: What is that specification? Does that reflect something that the industry can do? Does technology exist for that?

Developing the new technology gets to be a pricy proposition. If you can apply existing technology to that particular task, then you’re way ahead of the game, both in time and dollars spent.

When I write a specification, I try to get what the cutting-edge requirements would be and then make those with existing technology. Sometimes the vendor, who would potentially use this, doesn’t even know that that technology even exists. Pulling those things together is an art form in a way. They don’t teach you that in engineering college.