By Kari Hawkins, Redstone Rocket StaffMay 6, 2009
One of Redstone Arsenal's newest and fastest growing organizations will open its doors to the Arsenal community next week with an event designed to impress and educate visitors interested in the Army's aviation programs.
Army helicopters - including the Apache, Black Hawk, Kiowa Warrior, Chinook and Huey - will be among about a dozen military aircraft on display at the second annual Aviation Technical Test Center open house from 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. May 14 at Redstone Airfield.
"We had about 300 people at our event last year," ATTC deputy commander Keith Darrow said. "Last year was the first year ATTC had a large enough presence on Redstone Arsenal so that we could do an open house. We have grown here over the past year and hope even more people come to our second annual open house. We can accommodate up to 1,000 visitors."
ATTC has gone from about 70 employees to more than 120 employees since May 2008, with the work force being a mix of Soldiers, civilians and contractors. When ATTC's new $50 million test hangar and flight support facility opens in 2011, the organization will have more than 400 employees, up from the original employment figure of 323.
"Our workload has grown since the initial pre-BRAC survey in 2003," Darrow said. "We are a customer-support business. We've had a workload increase so our work force has grown. Army aviation is a high demand combat multiplier in Iraq and Afghanistan. Improvements and modifications are in high demand, and everyone requires some kind of development testing. That's where we come in."
The May 14 event will include aircraft displays, facility tours and presentations on current and future test capabilities. In addition, a deli sandwich lunch is available for $8 and can be ordered by calling 842-9520 before May 11.
ATTC's mission is to "support PEO-Aviation by providing them with flight test services," Darrow said.
About 80 percent of ATTC's flight testing involves helicopters. Yet, airplanes also have a significant presence at ATTC's operations at the airfield.
"Airplane flight testing takes up quite a bit of our attention," Darrow said. "And we use airplanes in support of helicopter testing. As our mission continues to grow here, there will be more occurrences of helicopters and airplanes in the air above Redstone Arsenal and Huntsville at multiple times of the day. ATTC operations over Huntsville and other local communities will continue to grow."
ATTC's presence and growth at Redstone Arsenal necessitates the importance of an annual open house focused on different Redstone Arsenal audiences - non-aviation employees, aviation employees, retirees and families.
"At Fort Rucker and Enterprise (ATTC's previous location), there are hundreds of aircraft flying in the skies every day. The majority of the people working there either fly aircraft or have flown aircraft," Darrow said. "Our target audience is the Team Redstone community because there are many employees out here - both DoD and NASA - who don't deal with aviation on a daily basis."
Another group of employees work in the aviation arena, but they don't have a job that allows them to actually work with aircraft.
"There are a lot of Army employees working in aircraft acquisition, sustainment or other areas with organizations like AMCOM, AMRDEC and PEO-Aviation who rarely get a chance to see the aircraft. They have a high level of interest in seeing these systems up close," Darrow said. "The open house gives them an opportunity to put their hands on a piece of equipment that they have spent their careers supporting. They can sit in it, walk around it, and talk to the pilot and flight crew."
Employees can spend their lunch hour touring the facility, viewing the aircraft and eating lunch. For employees and families who can stay longer, two one-hour test capabilities presentations are set for 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. in building 4815.
"The presentations will include a flight test video and information on what we've been doing during the past couple years to support Army aircraft deployed overseas," Darrow said. "We will also provide information on our flight test support capabilities and test technology at Redstone Arsenal. We will talk about how we do data collection to substantiate air worthiness. And the last third of the presentation will provide information on our facilities plans and the investments already made to support our BRAC move to Redstone Arsenal."
Among the helicopters on display will be the Medevac version of the Black Hawk and a Chinook mounted with the helicopter icing spray system used in artificial icing testing of aircraft. Besides helicopters, military aircraft - including the Army's C-12 transport and reconnaissance airplane and the T-34 trainer airplane - will be on display.
"We are augmenting our normal fleet of aircraft with additional aircraft from Fort Rucker and other places," Darrow said. "Our experimental test pilots who actually conduct development testing will answer questions about what we do in the test arena to support the guys in combat missions. Our flight test engineers will also be available to talk to guests. The work they do makes them the backbone of our efforts."
ATTC employees hope the open house will educate the Arsenal community on all aspects of aviation testing. All details have been worked out to accommodate a large number of visitors. For instance, parking for the open house will be available in the parking lot adjacent to hangar 4832 at the southeast corner of the airfield. From there, visitors will be able to easily walk to the open house or they can take a shuttle bus that will be provided.
"It's important to us to make our aircraft available to the Redstone Arsenal community so that they can experience what we are doing here and they can talk to the flight crews that fly our aircraft over the community," Darrow said. "This is our outreach to the community."