The Best Job I Ever Had~ Part1

15 Oct

A Slice of Life

Bill Lites

Bill Lites

Ever since I was a young boy visiting my relatives in rural Louisiana, I have been playing with fireworks. Back then we could buy fireworks year-a-round, so my cousins and I used them in every conceivable way. Of course, as I grew older, the challenge for bigger and louder projects eventually culminated, when I was a teenager, and learning how to make my own black powder. I’m not going to tell you what all kinds of projects my teenage friends and I used that black powder for, but then maybe you have an idea of how mischievous young boys can be. What finally cured me of playing with the black powder was when I tried to use it to fuel a model rocket (that didn’t work well, and luckily I still have all 10 fingers).


After my stent in the US Navy (one of the best character builders there is), I went to college in Los Angeles where I met my future Aerospace supervisor. My first job with him was as a Hydraulics/Pneumatics Engineer in the company’s Test Group. That was a great job where I learned many of the basics of being a test engineer. The company’s work load was building up about that time, and it wasn’t long before a position opened up in the Test Group for an Ordnance Test Engineer. I must have been in the right place at the right time, because the next thing I knew that was my new title. After much schooling, the Ordnance Technicians taught me the safety procedures and rules for the handling and testing of explosive devices, and I was on my way to enjoying “The Best Job I Ever Had.”


What was so great about this job was that my responsibility covered the testing of any Ordnance Test Specimen from beginning to end. The Test Group performed testing for the Apollo Spacecraft Engineering group, as well as the Second Stage Booster Engineering Group, both of which were for the Apollo Space Program’s Saturn V launch vehicle. The respective Ordnance Design Engineer would write up a test requirement plan for his system specimen and submit it to the Test Group. As an Ordnance Test Engineer, I would estimate how many man-hours it would take for the Test Group to test the system specimen in all the different parameters (high temp, low temp, vibration, etc.). That included the time necessary to design and have built any test fixtures required for the various tests, support personnel (photographers, etc.) and equipment required (high speed cameras, cranes, etc.).



I would then submit this estimate to the Ordnance Design Engineer, and, if he agreed that I had covered all of his requirements in my estimate, he would get the necessary monetary approval from the company’s Engineering Department.   It was then up to me to establish a testing work schedule to perform all the specified test requirements in a timely manner and within the estimated budget.

—–To Be Continued—–

2 Responses to “The Best Job I Ever Had~ Part1”

  1. Barbara A Martin October 15, 2014 at 7:12 pm #

    Fortunately for my nerves, it was more about climbing, jumping and crawling through things for my two boys. Looking forward to part two.


  2. Old Things R New October 15, 2014 at 4:56 pm #

    You were lucky to grow up when children were allowed to do crazy things. I am looking forward to the rest of the series!


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