[SatNews] NASA's Wallops Flight Facility Aircraft Office in Virginia has been recognized as the best small aviation program in the Federal government by the General Services Administration and the Interagency Committee for Aviation Policy.
The Wallops aircraft team provides NASA and commercial platforms for worldwide airborne scientific research, technology development, cargo airlift, launch range surveillance and recovery, and remotely piloted aircraft systems and required chase operations.
The award is provided to agencies that have demonstrated their flight programs support for the success of the agency's mission. An independent panel of aviation experts judge agencies based on aircraft administration, operations, maintenance, training and safety.
In 2014, Wallops participated in 30 NASA airborne science missions, flying more than 2,000 flight hours. Both were records surpassing all previous marks during the office's 45 years.
In addition, Wallops completed the expansion of its airborne science fleet growing the number of aircraft from two to seven and doubled the mission flight hours and personnel. The program is currently supported by 50 personnel, including 20 part-time professionals from outside NASA.
The 2014 program met 100 percent of success criteria on all missions, with zero mishaps and excellent customer feedback. From 2005 to 2014, Wallops flew more than 6,000 mishap free flight hours with science flights conducted worldwide using a variety of different aircraft.
The aircraft office's roots date back to 1969 with the acquisition of a Beech Queen Air and two Douglas C-54's to provide airfield and range support. In the 1980s, the office expanded its mission to NASA airborne science flights and aeronautics research projects, including test projects on clear air turbulence, aircraft, noise, stall spin, wake turbulence and advanced approach systems.
These aircraft support NASA missions across the United States from the east to west coasts, as well as Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, Africa and Antarctica.
In addition, Wallops recently opened and conducted missions from a new Global Hawk Operations Center (GHOC-East) control center. The GHOC allows NASA to conduct Global Hawk operations worldwide, including missions to study Atlantic tropical storms.
Bill Wrobel, director of the Wallops Flight Facility, said, "It is an honor for our aircraft office to be recognized for their efforts as the best small aircraft office program among the 18 Federal agencies with aviation programs. From its beginnings in 1969 to the record breaking year in 2014 supporting airborne science operations, this office has truly shown the ability to provide safe, reliable and cost effective operations."
Shane Dover, chief of the Wallops' aircraft office and NASA research pilot, said, "I am extremely proud for our office. The team has made tremendous strides over the past several years and has been consistently recognized by the scientists we support for our capabilities and 'can do' spirit."
Rich Rogers, NASA research pilot and Wallops aircraft office assistant chief, said, "The aircraft office has seen many changes over the years. In the early 1990s we operated six scientific research aircraft with three flyable spares. During the lowest point in 2005 and 2006, the office operated only two aircraft with 12 personnel. We have since seen steady growth, and now operate eight different aircraft including a P-3 Orion, two C-130 Hercules, a C-23 Sherpa, a B200 King Air, a UH-1H helicopter, a T-34C chase aircraft and a Rigel remotely piloted aircraft system. I am extremely proud of our people for being recognized as the government's best small aviation program for 2015," he said.