john first met Gary in the evening of April 12, 1992. john was judging Senior Engineering projects at the 41st Greater Kansas City Science Fair at the Bartle Hall Convention Center in downtown Kansas City.
Gary was a junior at Shawnee Mission South High School and had entered the science fair with his exhibit on "The Effects of a Pneumatic Boundary-Layer Control System and How It Can Be Improved". john discussed the exhibit with Gary and found it to be a very disciplined scientific experiment. John and the other judge of Gary's exhibit decided that Gary's exhibit should be awarded a blue ribbon and submitted for the Grand Prize.
About 2:00 a.m. that same evening, after much discussion, the entire panel of judges awarded Gary the Grand Prize of the science fair. This entitled Gary to compete at the International Science and Engineering Fair. In May, he won the third grand prize there too. Here is the article that appeared in the Kansas City Star after his win at the International Science Fair:
When john got home at 2:30 a.m. from the Greater Kansas City Science Fair, he couldn't sleep because he had an idea to further encourage Gary. He decided that he would go to the President of his company, King Radio Corporation (later Bendix/King, then AlliedSignal and now Honeywell), and ask that the company fly Gary out to Mojave California to meet Dick and Burt Rutan.
You probably will recall that Dick and Jeanna Yeager flew the experimental aircraft, "Voyager", around the world nonstop on a single tank of fuel. Burt Rutan designed Voyager and it now hangs in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. This aircraft had navigational equipment onboard donated by King Radio and there was a close tie between the Rutans and King Radio.
The President approved john's idea. (You can read about the Voyager flight around the world by getting a copy of the book, "Voyager".)
john had assumed that the Chief Pilot would fly Gary out for the day to met the Rutans, maybe stay overnight and return the next day. Here's what really happened...
First, when john contacted Carl Wolf, King Radio's Chief Pilot, he was asked if he would chaperone Gary on the trip. At first, john declined since he and joyce had made vacation plans for that period. After talking with Joyce, john decided that he would chaperone Gary after all.
Gary and john flew to Ontario, CA, early on July 7, 1992 and drove to Lancaster, near Edwards AFB that afternoon. Dick Rutan had reserved VIP badges for them to see the Space Shuttle landing at 6:08 a.m. on July 8. At 3:00 a.m. on the 8th, Gary and john were driving the 30 miles to Edwards through the pitch black, nearly optically-flat desert. Looking back at Lancaster, the town was a disk of orange light hanging on edge. The entire town looked like a giant hovering UFO! Nothing else was visible. Then, in front of them, they saw the multi-megawatt white light coming from the shuttle landing area at Edwards. It was possibly the brightest light they had ever seen!
At NASA's Dryden Test Center where Gary and john were escorted upstairs to the VIP conference room, large screen monitors were displaying the shuttle status. When the shuttle arrived, they were supposed to go to the rooftop to watch. While they waited, they were given a tour of the NASA hangers which houses everything from experimental drones for studying the earth's ozone layer to the retired Mach 5+ SR-71 Blackbirds (Edwards to Washington,DC in two hours). They couldn't help wondering what has replaced the Blackbirds.
Soon they learned there would be no shuttle landing that day. Due to a cyclone over San Diego throwing rain on Edwards, the landing was being postponed until the next day. Gary and john would get an opportunity to lose more sleep in the morning. They drove back to Lancaster and ate a meal. They never did figure out if they were eating breakfast, lunch or dinner...their bodies were way out of whack!
On July 9 at 4 a.m., they found themselves again at the conference center, but the decision had already been made to land at Kennedy. They watched the live feed from Kennedy and listened to the audio directly from the shuttle until it landed in Florida. The Mojave desert has "300 severely clear days each year", but it had to rain when Gary and john visited!
By 10 a.m. they had driven the 40 miles to Mojave, CA, and had found the airport where both hanger 77 (Voyager, Inc.) and hanger 78 (Scaled Composites, Inc.) were located. It wasn't hard to find the airport. There was nothing at Mojave but a few truck stops, fast food joints and the airport! There was one other thing there...the world's largest power generating windmill farm. Thousands of windmills dotted the line where the desert and mountains met.
At Scaled Composites, they met with Burt Rutan and Mike Melvill*. Gary and Burt hit it off immediately and spent the next 1 1/2 hours discussing Gary's wing design. Burt suggested Gary move his bottom set of microscopic holes to the rear of the wing where the negative pressure is higher. Air drawn in here is exhausted from tiny holes on the top of the wing to provide laminar flow of the boundary area to increase lift and decrease drag.
After the visit with Burt, Mike show Gary and john around Scaled Composites. They saw the Ares jet fighter, a new business jet, the Pegasus space plane and a new low orbiter which can return to earth after ejecting a satellite. All were made of carbon fiber composites.
After the factory tour, Mike asked if they would like a ride in his "Long Eze", a two person 170 mph Burt Rutan designed composite plane.
Gary went up first. He came back down in about 30 minutes with hiccups, but with a smile on his face. He didn't tell john what was ahead for him. Suddenly Mike and john were in the air in seconds. What a responsive plane!!! Mike was saying 'with weather like this sometimes...' and he suddenly took john into a barrel roll! What fun!!! He started to promise not to do that again when john asked for another! They went around the other way. John never felt so "One" with a plane! This was more fun than john flying T-37's in the Air Force. Mike gave john control of the plane and john was in seventh heaven! john could live in this plane! john LOVED this plane! Finally john and Mike had to come back down, but john hoped that he would soon be building a Long Eze for himself!
Gary and john drove from Mojave back down to Ontario, CA, dodging earthquakes all the way. The next day, in Mojave, they had a 5.1 magnitude earthquake which killed one and injured a number of others.
Dick Rutan was running for U.S. Congress and Ontario was his campaign headquarters. He had just won the primaries. They met Carl Wolf and Dick at the Red Lion Inn for lunch on July 11. For a while Dick talked about how one has to behave as a politician , but soon the conversation turned to Gary's project.
Dick began to ask some practical questions about Gary's boundary layer design. Dick isn't a theorist; he's a no-nonsense pilot who puts his life on the line when he flies. A design must really fly! It was the flip side of Burt's conversation with Gary. Gary began fielding questions Dick presented. Dick: "How do you keep bugs out of the microscopic holes?" Gary: "Bugs are of great concern at low altitudes, but not much of a problem at high altitudes. I have seen some designs which cover the holes at low altitudes and open them at high ones. This still save billions of dollars for the airline industry."
After lunch, Dick offered to drive us over to the hanger where Carl had the Baron parked. They all said their good-byes to Dick and headed for San Diego.
Gary and john soon headed for the Air and Space Museum in Balboa Park where nearly every plane ever built is displayed either as an original or as a replica. It took the entire day to just touch the surface of what is on display there.
The next day Gary and john met Carl at the airport and began their journey home. Gary and Carl spent the entire trip discussing the use of each piece of equipment on board. As they had major storms en route, Gary used the weather radar extensively to steer Carl clear of them.
They landed at 10:15 p.m. at Johnson County Industrial Airport. The trip of a lifetime was over, but Gary's enthusiasm for aeronautics had just begun.
postscript: john and Gary spent the next year building a larger windtunnel and running further tests on the boundary layer. When they weren't building the windtunnel, they were building zenpond. Gary graduated from high school the next year, went on to college at the University of Kansas where he earned an electrical engineering degree. He is now an R.F. Engineer for the General Electric Corporation. He has recently gotten married to Kim. She is a civil engineer who specializes in storm water and combined sewer systems. Part of her job requires her to create FEMA flood plain maps for certain storm conditions.
* Mike Milvill has more recently become the first civilian astronaut when he rode "SpaceShipOne", of course designed by Burt Rutan, into outer space. Guess john and Gary can say that they have flown with the first civilian astronaut!
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