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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Path to Flight Directing. A Road Less Travelled.

Kevin Robert on his First Solo Mission in the Phoenix.

Hello Troops,
A small percentage of the Space Center’s volunteer force step forward to train as Flight Directors. I worry about these individuals. I spend many a sleepless night wondering why anyone would volunteer to undergo Flight Director training. Do these gentle souls have their feet grounded in reality? Do they have a slightly perverted need for punishment? Do they thrive on pure unadulterated adrenaline? Or could it be a longing for attention? Perhaps they are all middle children, never getting noticed because the oldest and youngest in the family soak up whatever spare time their parents have to give. I’m inclined to commission a university study on the subject.

Now, putting aside all queries concerning the sanity of my Flight Directors, I’m happy to say that I’m please we have volunteers willing to put in the time and work to become flight directors. Flight Directing is the hardest job at the Space Center (besides mine. I’m a Flight Director with the additional responsibility to administer the place). Let me remind our kind readers that our Space Education Center is a one of a kind. There isn’t another Center like ours anywhere in the world. Being a one of a kind means we are automatically the best in the world at what we do. It also means you can’t go to school to learn to Flight Direct. You can’t read it in a book or take an online course. It all must be done here working side by side our experienced Flight Directors.

We’ve stepped into the Way Back Machine on this. We’ve adopted the work training scheme of the Middle Ages. We have our Master Craftsman (The Flight Directors). They in turn select their apprentices. The apprentice trains under the Master Craftsman until he or she is ready to venture out and practice the trade. The title Master Craftsman is earned after creating a masterpiece, as judged by other Masters.

Our Set Directors select who will be trained to Flight Direct. The new apprentices work side by side with their sponsoring Flight Directors, leaning the missions and the proper technique to starting, shutting down and operating a simulator. They learn to troubleshoot the ship. Our simulators each have their own personality and must be treated differently, sometimes with kid gloves, to ensure a mission free of glitches. Our apprentices are required to develop multiple personalities and accents. This helps create the illusion that the participants are in a multi deck ship with many other crew members besides themselves.

One important aspect of Flight Director training is learning to be political correct. We can’t risk the Center’s reputation on a Flight Director that doesn’t follow social norms and doesn’t know how to behave in public. Being PC means knowing what to say and when to say it so people aren’t offended by an offhand remark. Again, that takes training and time.

After months of training our apprentices are ready to take the microphone and fly solo. Such was the case a few weeks ago. Pictured above is Apprentice Kevin R. Kevin has been training to Flight Direct the Phoenix simulator for several months. During our last camp the Phoenix’s Set Director, Megan Warner, decide it was time to hand him the microphone and let him demonstrate his new found skills. Megan sat behind him taking notes for a lengthy debriefing and post flight review.

Because my desk sits at the crossroads of the Center I’m able to hear much of what happens in the Phoenix, Odyssey and Voyager. I heard Kevin and, to be honest, I thought he did a good job. I wasn’t privy to the post mission debriefing so I don't know what Megan thought, but I thought it was very good for his first solo attempt.

In closing, I want to thank all our Flight Apprentices for going through the torture of FD training. Thank you for the patience you show every mission and the willingness to go above and beyond the call of duty for your training. I appreciate you and your effort.

Congratulations Kevin on your first solo Phoenix mission. May the wind be at your back and may all the seats be filled with happy, enthusiastic campers ;)

Mr. Williamson
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