Gene Moniz
Tracker Operator

I would like to tell you that I made some big decision to be a navigator, but the truth is that when I graduated from college the Vietnam War was going hot and heavy and to avoid being drafted I joined the Air Force and went to pilot training. I washed out of pilot training and Navigator training was the next best thing. I flew in B-52's while in the Air Force. When I got out of the Air Force I went to graduate school and received an MBA. Through a series of coincidences I ran into an old Air Force buddy of mine who was working at Lockheed and they were looking to hire navigators for a project they had going. Flying was more interesting than what I was doing so I went to work for them. About one year later this job with NASA opened up and I took it.

The best thing about the job is all the travelling that I have been able to do. I have been to every continent, flown over both poles and simply been to many places that I would never have been able to get to without this job. The travel is also one of the things that can be the least appealing about the job. You go whether you want to or not. Being away from home can get to be boring after awhile.

We do the flight planning for two and sometimes three of the NASA aircraft at Ames Research Center. For the KAO we build the flight plan with the objects that the astronomers want to observe, but also with certain constraints on the aircraft. The flights are seven and one-half hours long and we have to be sure that the end of the last object observed is within twenty-five minutes of landing at Ames. Also, the astronomers cannot start observing their objects for thirty-five minutes after takeoff in order that the aircraft reach its level off altitude, with the KAO this is usually 37,000 feet. The telescope on the aircraft is limited in its range so that the object being observed must be higher than 35 degrees in the sky, but no higher than 75 degrees. In addition to this there are many commercial air traffic routes and military areas which are restricted to non-military aircraft. So, we also make sure that the course that the KAO is flying does not violate any of these restrictions.

The other main aircraft we work with is a DC-8. It is a flying test bed. That means that its mission changes from time to time . In a typical year it may have three or four different missions. For instance, we have flown over both the North and South Poles on missions studying the ozone hole. Currently it is being configured to fly into hurricanes off the east coast of the United States. It also does a lot of work with the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena with a radar mapping system that they have developed.

I have two children. My daughter is a senior in high school this year and my son is in the eighth grade. Amanda, my daughter, plays the piano and is very good with drama and the fine arts. She has been the lead in a couple of her school's plays. My son, Jeff,is basketball crazy. He is the point guard on his school's team and they are looking forward to having a great season this year.

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