EDWARDS, Calif. – Two new research test pilots, Kelly Latimer and Nils Larson, have joined the Flight Crew Branch at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. Latimer and Larson come to the NASA center after extensive test and operational flying careers in the U.S. Air Force.

Latimer is the first female research test pilot to be employed by NASA Dryden in its 60-year history. Her first association with NASA was while attending graduate school at George Washington University. Her studies included work with the Joint Institute for the Advancement of Flight Sciences at NASA’s Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.

As an Air Force C-141 transport pilot, Latimer participated in the Eclipse project, a Kelly Space and Technology Inc., Air Force and NASA Dryden demonstration of a towed reusable launch vehicle concept. The C-141 towed a QF-106 with a NASA pilot onboard to validate the concept in the late 1990s.

She also flew an Air Force C-17 during a 2005 study at NASA Dryden to reduce aircraft noise impacts. A team of California Polytechnic State University students and Northrop Grumman personnel were stationed on Rogers Dry Lake located at Edwards Air Force Base to record the noise footprint of the aircraft as it made various landing approaches to Edwards’ runway.

“Since the Eclipse project, I have looked for opportunities to work at Dryden,” Latimer said. “I am excited to be involved in the forward-looking research and science investigations conducted by NASA.”

Latimer retired from the U.S. Air Force earlier this year with the rank of lieutenant colonel. While on active duty, she attended the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards, graduating in class 96B.

As a NASA research pilot at Dryden, she will fly a variety of research and support aircraft, including the T-38, B-747, T-34, G-III, C-17 and NASA’s Ikhana, a Predator B adapted for civil research missions.

Nils Larson grew up in a family that valued science and he has always wanted to conduct scientific research. He feels his new position with NASA may help him accomplish that goal.

Larson, who recently retired as an Air Force lieutenant colonel, has a varied flight career. He graduated from Air Force Test Pilot School in class 95A. He has been an instructor pilot in a number of military aircraft, including the T-37, T-38, F-18, T-2, RU-38B, U-2, U6-A Beaver and Schweizer X-26 sailplane. He commanded the U-2 operations for the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center’s Detachment 2 located in Palmdale, Calif. This qualification will aid in his transition to NASA’s ER-2 aircraft.

In addition to the ER-2, Larson will fly research missions in F-18s and F-15s and fly safety chase in the T-38 at NASA Dryden.

Larson realizes that he and Latimer are now working at the same NASA center where some of their childhood heroes, such as Neil Armstrong, Fitzhugh Fulton and Bill Dana, flew research missions and made aerospace history.

“Friends have told me that I am living a dream,” he said.


High-resolution photos to support this release are available electronically on the NASA Dryden Web site at: http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/Gallery/Photo/Pilots/index.html. Reference photos ED07-0045-3 (Latimer) and ED07-0046-7 (Larson).