David Wolf - Muscle Biplane Pilot ( and Astronaut )

Sit back in your seat, and imagine pulling 3+ G's for 30 minutes continuously.  Better yet visualize strapping yourself into your craft, now take off vertically (after and incredible blast) and climb out of a your own ball of fire.  Now just 20 seconds after takeoff, roll over on your back and climb out at a 78 degree angle for 110 miles, good for maybe an 8.0 but impressive all the same..  Don't forget to throttle back at 17,000 MPH or drop your main fuel tank somewhere over the Indian Ocean.  David Wolf has done these maneuvers twice (so far), as a member of our American Space Shuttle Astronauts Corps.  You probably guessed that David competes in aerobatics, fly's the greatest biplane ever built, and is the subject of our spaceman story.
 

David Wolf (BlackEagle) & his Uncle Ed Wolf (S2B Pitts)

 

I met David in 1991 on the ramp in Edna, Texas with his most charming uncle Ed Wolf, who is also an avid aerobatic competitor from Indianapolis.  David is a member of the Houston Aerobatic Club, Chapter 25, and had just purchased his Black Eagle with another Astronaut Curt Brown.  Uncle Ed had a nice new Pitts S2B that he had flown down from Indiana just for the occasion of what I believe was David Wolfs' first or second aerobatic contest, flying in the Sportsman category.  These Wolf guys were immediately serious fun and more importantly surrounded by a following of interesting, educated, attractive, and hard bodied women.  I was not complaining about unfair advantages yet, but this was an incredible show of force.  Unfortunately I was flying in the same category as David, with the same kind of airplane as David, and was wondering how to read a flimsy like just like David.  Nobody told me the guy was an Astronaut, and interestingly enough, I don't think anybody really cared.  You see  quickly on the ramp in Edna, Texas that all men and women are equalized by the heat and the contest environment alone.
 

By the way, some more interesting trivia about Spacemen and Shuttle Launches.  Did you know that the pressure on the outside to the Shuttle hits 580 pounds per square foot at 60 seconds after takeoff.  You also hit your max G for the entire ride in the first 60 seconds at about 4.5+ Gs, which gradually tapers off to 3 Gs some 30 minutes later as I mentioned.  Then of course the drop off is to 0 ZERO Gs for the remainder of your flight.  The solid fuel boosters on either side of your head are I would more closely compare to two sticks of dynamite that have been ignited with one end cut off of the container.  Even the chemical formula for this solid fuel is very close to raw dynamite boosted with lot of nitro.  The thrust from these babies basically kick your butt and your very heavy monoplane right through all the lower atmosphere.  Until these SRB's separate, I think most of us would just hold our breath.  There is no effective throttle control of an SRB ( Solid Rocket Booster ) either, they have a three position switch ON, DUD / OFF,  or GONE so you must pilot the Shuttle with your stick and rudder regardless of the changing and unequal thrust from each of your two dynamite sticks.  Stand on the beach some time where you can see the launch pad and the entire FIRE show; you too will be proud and as patriotic as any normal American taxpayer.  Unlike a Saturn FIVE (V), this Lockheed gets right up and goes, with the acceleration of a fine sports car.   We stood there, mouths open,  watching for an hour altogether but did not loose site of the flames until the ship was 583 miles away.  This might be near something like Washington D.C.  When you attend a night launch, you can clearly observe each stage including the final big fuel tank (ET) separations with the naked eye.  The particular blast put David is some kind of polar orbit, tracking up the east coast just offshore.  It also occurred to me watching the night launch that David must be really really crazy to do this a second time.
 

Spacemen like Ron Jon's Surf Shop Wear !!

Having known David for this many years, when the opportunity came up to attend his first night launch, I immediately crossed off the U.S. National's and flew to Florida.  Back in about 1973 our College arranged a really swish event and had reserved some block house space for the Engineering School students with Wherner Von Braun for a night launch of a Saturn V (5).  Apollo I think.  Since it took me 10 years to stop talking about that particular launch, imagine how long it will take me to stop talking about this launch with our buddy David on board !   In fact, everyone in the entire IAC and aerobatic community should be talking about David on MIR from now until about January 15th or so.  The MIR Space Station has had a very long and not exactly uneventful mission.  Since the MIR collision with a robotic supply vehicle, everyone is a little more edgy.  We are betting that when the truth finally comes out, that David did not sleep for at least 3 days prior to this launch mainly because of the senate hearings attempting to keep him safe on earth.  Literally just hours before launch, David was told he could go to MIR.  Now what most people don't know is that David moved to Siberia for almost two years to learn Russian, and complete the Cosmonaut training programs in Star City Russia.  You want more stress?  Consider these missions your entire lifetime goals and then wait out the decision of some government committee for your boarding pass and final fate to be handed down.   David has been through his fare share of stress before too, but how could any of this compare to the Sportsman starting line in Edna?  Whoa, now there is an anxiety attack !
 
 

 
 

Anyway getting down to the aerobatic contest hard points here, David got 1st place in that contest back in 1991, and I got the coveted heavily sought after 2nd place trophy (again).  Since then, David's practice has been curtailed by some NASA rules and regulations concerning the Astronauts and their hobbies, but I am hoping that only practice can keep me ahead of him now.  I imagine that when he returns to earth again, the aerobatic bug will bite again.  We tried to morph my picture into a photo of his plane in flight so we could send to him on MIR with some annoying note like,   " .... Hey David I think your plane is a little out of rig, and we need to talk about you wing tip when you get back.....etc.".  This article is followed by an astounding biography that few of us in the IAC could ever measure up to.  I read here the makings of an over achiever, who can focus on a goal for a lifetime and get there.  Colossal talent and determination could easily hoist David beyond all of us in aerobatic competition quickly and without equal.
 

 

Since this David's second trip into orbit we have all discovered E-Mail, and via a roundabout process, can communicate directly with MIR Space Station and David right now.  David is a great writer and speaker, and has been typing away up there in zero G telling us about life, astronaut stuff, and biology in space.  If you were in space for 3 months, can you imagine what a spaceman would pay for a nice greasy hamburger and fries?  I have included three notes from David since launch for your reading enjoyment and deep space cogitation.  When he gets back here on the Blue Planet, there are plenty more questions we need to ask him.  Please enjoy these excerpts we have collected so far:
 
 

 
 

Texas is really incredible, particularly Houston, with three or four Astronauts flying around all the time in our contests.  While we are talking "spacemen" here, I should also mention Edward Tsang Lu from Hawaii who is trying to form an aerobatic chapter there now, and Curtis Brown a partner of David Wolf in the most awesome Christen Eagle ever built.  There are also large numbers of NASA and NASA subcontractor employees flying upsidedown in Houston and Florida.  David Reinhardt, Dan Bailey, Patty Hilliard, Bob O'Dell, and Dustin Hamm are all working on this cosmic stuff every day.

"Uncle Ed" Wolf had a hand in finding the Christen Eagle for David, and apparently these guys have an eye for style and a refined taste in their aerobatic equipment.  The Wolfs' and all these people I have named here, and in fact most of the people you find today flying up-side-down are pretty eccentric but truly make the sport worthwhile, fun, and rewarding for me too.  Setting even higher standards are these Pilot / Spacemen who offer encouragement to beginners, making every gesture they can by giving airplane rides, and educating the masses to help grow our sport.  The entire aerobatic community can be proud of our sport and what we do, in part because of WHO we have in this group.  Another important observation for the veteran or neophyte alike is that our real
HEROES don't fly unlimited all the time.  David is flying intermediate because of the time he has had to practice mostly, but there are many people like David Wolf in every level of competition.  David is one of my Heroes, and I don't have many.

God speed and safe return SPACEMAN.
 

 

 

 
 
 

 

NASA BIOGRAPHY
 

Born 1956, in Indianapolis, Indiana. David enjoys sport aerobatic flying, scuba diving, handball, running, and water skiing. His parents, Dr. And Mrs. Harry Wolf, reside in Indianapolis.
 
Graduated from North Central High School, Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1974; received a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University in 1978, and a doctorate of medicine from Indiana university in 1982. He completed his medical internship (1983) at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, and USAF flight surgeon primary training at Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas.

 
Member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers; the Aerospace Medical Association; the Experimental Aircraft Association; the International Aerobatic Club; and the Air National Guard.

Special honors: recipient of the NASA Exceptional Engineering Achievement Medal (1990); NASA Inventor of the Year, 1992. Dr. Wolf graduated "with distinction" from the honors curriculum in Electrical Engineering at Purdue University and received an academic achievement award upon graduation from medical school. He received the Carl R. Ruddell scholarship award for research in medical ultrasonic signal and image processing. He is a member of Eta Kappa Knu and Phi Eta Sigma honorary societies. Dr. Wolf has received 11 U.S.. Patents and over 20 space act awards for 3-dimensional tissue engineering technologies earning the Texas state bar patent of the year in 1994. He has published over 40 technical papers.

As a research scientist at the Indianapolis Center for Advanced Research from 1980 to 1983, he developed digital signal and image processing techniques utilizing matched filter detection of high time-bandwidth product transmissions producing "state of the art" high resolution medical ultrasonic images to the 100 micron level. He also developed new doppler demodulation techniques extending the range velocity product limitation of conventional pulsed doppler systems. He is a USAF Senior Flight Surgeon in the Air National Guard (1982 to present) and is a member of the board of directors of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He has logged over 2000 hours of flight time including air combat training as a weapons systems officer (f4 Phantom Jet), T-38 talon, and competition aerobatics (Pitts special and Christen Eagle).

 
Dr. Wolf joined the Medical Sciences Division, Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas in 1983. He was responsible for development of the american flight echocardiograph for investigating cardiovascular physiology in microgravity. Upon completion he was assigned as chief engineer for design of the space station medical facility. In 1986 he was assigned to direct development of the space bioreactor and associated tissue engineering and cancer research applications utilizing controlled gravitational conditions. This resulted in the state of the art NASA rotating tissue culture systems. He has particular expertise in the design of real time computer process control systems, communications, bioprocessing, physiology, fluid dynamics, and aerospace medicine. Dr. Wolf is an active public speaker.
 
Atlantis Night Launch
Atlantis Night Launch & Fire Show
 
Selected as a Nasa Astronaut in January 1990, Dr. Wolf became qualified for space flight july 1991. His technical assignments have included orbiter vehicle processing and test at Kennedy Space Center (1991-1992), STS-58 Mission Specialist (1993), and Spacecraft Communications (CAPCOM) (1994-1995). He is qualified for extravehicular activity (spacewalk), remote manipulator system (robot arm), and rendezvous. He was the CAPCOM for the first and third Shuttle-MIR rendezvous. He is at the Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center in Star City, Russia, training for a 4-month stay on the Russian Space Station MIR which began this September 1997. Dr. Wolf served as a Mission Specialist Astronaut aboard Space Shuttle Columbia (STS-58), a 14 day dedicated Spacelab Life Sciences Research Mission (10/16/93-11/1/93). During this record length shuttle mission the crew conducted neurovestibular, cardiovascular, cardiopulmonary, metabolic, and musculoskeletal research utilizing microgravity to reveal fundamental physiology normally masked by earth gravity. They accomplished 225 orbits in 336 hours.
 
 
 
David Wolf giving airplane rides @ Clover Field in Houston
 
 

 

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