Testing to ensure the safety, functionality and quality of essential aircraft components for military and commercial customers takes skill and attention to details large and small.
For more than 70 years, General Dynamics engineers have been developing and producing radomes – the protective, exterior shells covering sensitive equipment such as radar, navigation and satellite system antennas typically mounted on aircraft nose cones.
With years of experience serving in the U.S. Air Force, senior engineering technician Cody Patterson has developed a keen eye and skill set required to excel at the development and testing of high performance aircraft components like radomes. Patterson shared some insight into what his work entails as an engineering technician on these critical aircraft components.
Can you give us some insight into your background and history?
My professional background primarily includes six years of service in the U.S. Air Force as a B-1B Lancer Crew Chief. In that role, I managed and performed maintenance on the aircraft I was responsible for. The B-1B is a very maintenance-heavy airframe, so many, many man-hours were required to ensure air-worthy aircraft were available to complete the mission. During my six years, I deployed twice to Southwest Asia and went on temporary duties many times. Deployments were difficult but very rewarding because we were the "tip of the spear" in a sense. My background in aviation maintenance led me to General Dynamics. We develop, manufacture and test the very radomes that I installed on the B-1Bs, as well as many other airframes and programs.
How would you describe your "typical" day on the job?
As an engineering technician my role varies, I could be testing F-35 Joint Strike Fighter radomes one day and helping laminate a test panel for a research and development project the next. However, my primary responsibility is running our Radar Cross-Section Range to ensure proper performance of certain radomes we manufacture. A typical day involves testing and/or dispositioning F-35 radomes, tri-band radomes, next-generation jammer specimens, answering emails, scheduling future testing, etc.
What has been the most challenging aspect of your job?
The most challenging aspect is training on the testing procedures on all of the different programs. There were some brilliant minds that put together how we manufacture and test our products, so trying to carry on what they've set in place can require a lot of studying.
I would just like to reiterate the fact that many people and companies have tried to do what we do every day … and they've failed.
Trying to build an aircraft radome that will allow the airplane's antenna to accurately transmit through it, is structurally sound enough to be at the forward-most tip of a supersonic jet and sometimes is practically invisible to enemy radar is VERY challenging. Attention to detail is crucial.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I enjoy the importance of what we do here. Coming straight from the military, many professions cannot supply the job satisfaction that comes with wearing the uniform. General Dynamics made for a smooth transition and has a rewarding nature that comes from working for or with the Department of Defense.