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Boeing Frontiers
March 2004
Volume 02, Issue 10
Boeing Frontiers
Main Feature

Flights are generally ‘ho-hum’—and that’s good

Fred Austin

Fred AustinFred Austin is like millions of other people who go to the office every day. Only his office is the cockpit of a C-17 Globemaster III.

"I'd like to tell you that every test flight is a thrill ride," said Austin, a Boeing Integrated Defense Systems test pilot for the huge airlift aircraft. But "there's a great deal of preparation and planning that go into making our flights routine."

Certified for Night Vision Goggle flying, Austin was involved in the development of the C-17 NVG system—a system used in Operation Iraqi Freedom under total blackout conditions.

Austin began his career with Boeing three years ago but is no newcomer to aviation. A graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Austin was an instructor pilot, test pilot and commander of a flight test squadron in the Air Force—and picked up flight time on the C-141, C-5, C-130, KC-135 and C-12, just to name a few. He has a master's degree in aeronautical engineering from Stanford University, an airline pilot type rating in the Boeing 757 and 767, and a business card that says "experimental test pilot."

He prefers "rather ho-hum" thrills. On his first "C-17 first flight," as Austin barreled down Runway 30 at the Long Beach, Calif., airport, he was just moments from being airborne. "Then I noticed a bad airspeed indication. . My instincts and training kicked in, and I aborted the takeoff." Later, troubleshooting uncovered what caused the faulty airspeed indication: a loose connection on an air data computer.

Austin has more than 5,400 flight hours under his belt. "It's my job to make sure our designs are easy for pilots to use, to have efficient production flights [at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.], to discover and resolve any problems in flight test—and, above all, to keep the customer happy."

—Gary Lesser


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