Reagan Woolf, 773rd Test Squadron, has worked at Edwards as an Aircraft Performance technical expert for the 412th Test Wing for nearly 14 years. This year, Woolf was recognized for his contributions and achievements in flight test by the Society of Flight Test Engineers with the international Kelly Johnson Award.
Woolf received his award at the 2013 SFTE Symposium, Oct. 31, in Fort Worth, Texas. The first annual Kelly Johnson award was presented at the 1973 Symposium to Clarence J. “Kelly” Johnson from Lockheed Skunk Works. Johnson worked on projects like the Lockheed U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird.
“He was a legendary aerospace engineer,” said Woolf. “My first thought was how relatively early I am in my career. I have a lot to live up to in the remainder of my career.”
In addition to the award recipient’s plaque, a trophy with the names of each winner is kept at the Smithsonian Institution.
“It was completely unexpected,” said Woolf. “I’m not even halfway through my career and I think this is something most people get at the end of their careers, so it was an honor.”
Throughout his career, Woolf has received over 12 distinctive awards, published nine technical reports, and presented 10 conference papers, two of which have won awards.
As the Aircraft Performance technical expert, he oversees every performance effort on base. He has evaluated such aircraft as the F-35 high angle of attack program, the C-130 engine upgrade and aft body drag reduction, the C-17 tailwind take-off and landing and the RQ-4 block 20/40 performance.
Woolf was nominated for the Kelly Johnson Award by the 2011 award recipient and colleague, Lt. Col. Timothy R. Jorris, Hypersonic Combined Test Force director.
“I have co-authored several papers with Reagan and helped with multiple test pilot school Test Management Projects. As colleagues, Reagan and I have continued to contend for similar awards, either as counterparts or collaborative,” said Jorris. “I could think of no other person more appropriate [for the award] than someone which I continue to encounter in a professional rivalry.”
Jorris noted that it was Woolf’s contribution back to the flight test community and local schools that set him apart from other candidates for the award.
“He did a phenomenal job of recognizing the financial constraints levied upon his fellow flight testers which prohibited the technical exchange of information via conferences that often required travel,” said Jorris.
To help the situation, Woolf led an effort to create the first-ever local chapter conference for the Society of Flight Test Engineers. To ensure a cost-effective event, it was held at a “camping” venue which allowed any SFTE member, who so desired, to participate.
“Reagan earned this award by being a model to others,” said Jorris. “He has continued to advance his career and technical knowledge.”
Woolf began his career by “following in his father’s footsteps” when he decided to get his AMP license and work as an airplane mechanic. He later went to the University of Minnesota for his undergraduate studies and finished at UCLA with a master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering.
While in college, Woolf worked in the engineering department for Northwest Airlines where one of his co-worker’s peaked his interest in flight test. That’s when he decided to pursue his career at Edwards.
“I like the interesting data analysis that I get to do. A lot of what I learned in college is directly applicable to my job,” said Woolf. “I think there are a lot of jobs on base and in the world where, once you get out of college, you have to learn new skills. With aircraft performance and flying qualities, that’s one of the things they teach you in aerospace engineering school.”
In his free-time, Woolf coaches a Lego Robotics team at his daughter’s school in Tehachapi, Calif. He has been coaching the team for five years now and really “enjoys” the work.
“One of the questions I ask is, ‘how many of you like sports? And how many of you are going to grow up to be millionaire basketball or football players?’ The answer is almost certainly none of you,” said Woolf. “Then I ask, ‘How many of you could grow up to be very well-paid chemical engineers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers or computer scientists?’ The answer is almost any one of you.”
Woolf encourages his students to pursue subjects that can lead to careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, also known as STEM.
“It’s the usual advice, do well in school and stay curious about the world around you,” said Woolf.