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Idaho students study Edwards B-52

Capt. Miles Middleton, 419th Flight Test Squadron B-52H test project officer and pilot, shows students from the University of Idaho equipment in the weapons bay of a B-52 here Dec. 5, 2006. (Photo by Airman Stacy Sanchez)

Capt. Miles Middleton, 419th Flight Test Squadron B-52H test project officer and pilot, shows students from the University of Idaho equipment in the weapons bay of a B-52 here Dec. 5, 2006. (Photo by Airman Stacy Sanchez)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Seven students and a professor from the University of Idaho visited several organizations at Edwards on Tuesday for a subsystem evaluation on the B-52 Stratofortress.

The University of Idaho students are currently attending a graduate level course, called Advanced Human Factors, and were assigned to a class project here.

The assignment was for the students to gain familiarization with a specific subsystem on the B-52 using the MIL-STD-1472F, also know as the Human Factors Bible for all controls on an aircraft or vehicle. The students will evaluate a particular subsystem on the B-52 and then write a report. This is a requirement for all students prior to their completion of the course.

Dr. Curt Braun, University of Idaho associate psychology professor, said a major component of the class is the application of existing design standards or Human Factors Guidelines.

Prior to their evaluation of the B-52, Patricia Dunavold, Human Factors Engineers engineering psychologist arranged several tours for the students and professor. The students received a tour at the Benefield Anechoic Facility and a tour at NASA where the students evaluated the modified Boeing 747 that carries the space shuttle to John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

At NASA, the students were also given a tour of the ER-2, a High Altitude Reconnaissance Aircraft. Afterward they were given a physics demonstration where they were shown how cold water can boil, like bodily fluids at high altitudes, and then inflated a ER-2 pressure suit the pilots use, and were explained how the equipment worked.

After the tour by NASA, the students transitioned over to Club Muroc for lunch with several human factors engineers and B-52 personnel assigned to Edwards.

"Since these were human factors students and are working on their master degrees I thought it would be nice for them as students to meet actual human factors engineers that work at Edwards," Ms. Dunavold said. "I think it is great that the students and the engineers on base got to share their stories and experiences. The students are working on cutting edge projects that our engineers would like to hear about as well.

After Lunch, the University of Idaho students proceeded to the 419th Flight Test Squadron where the students were treated to an aircraft ejection seat training session. Afterwards the entire group proceeded to the B-52 where Maj. Gary Eilers, 419th Flight Test Squadron B-52 Flight Commander, and Capt. Miles Middleton , 419th B-52H Test Project Officer and pilot served as tour guides showing the students the entire plane, inside and out, and answered all their questions.

"The students were delighted as they were allowed to sit in the pilot and co-pilot seats and at the navigator stations and push all the buttons and turned all the dials they wanted," Ms. Dunavold said. "This was an excellent hands-on demonstration of the use, misuse, and non-use of human factors principles for these human factors students. Our tour guides, Major Eilers and Capt Middleton, were extremely patient and answered all the students' questions and even assisted by pointing out human factors problems and explaining all their concerns with the plane."

While on the B-52 the professor and students looked over the subsystem of the aircraft and to see how it can be improved. They also checked to see if the aircraft is meeting the military standards and where it is deficient in an area. The professor uses several standards to evaluate systems on an aircraft or a vehicle and the students are learning those same techniques. They evaluated the cockpit and navigation system as well.

"My students and I have done multiple studies on nuclear power facilities, but saw Edwards as an opportunity to evaluate a military aircraft," Dr. Braun said. "This is something we have never done before.

"This advanced Human Factor class is a very difficult class to teach," but he said, over the years I have learned that using opportunities like this can bring to life something that is very lifeless."

Dr. Braun said he has learned the value of giving his students the opportunity to show them where their education can be applied and since the B-52 was built in the 1950s he said he wanted his students to see the design progressions since the aircraft was first built.

"The B-52 represents a unique aircraft since it has been in service for so long, Dr. Braun said. "It is designed with the technical understanding that it is older than most people who fly it, and I think this aircraft was perfect in the human factors aspect."

Afterwards the tour of the B-52 the students met the Commander of the 419th Flight Test Squadron, Lt. Col. Troy Asher, and were given B-1 patches as mementos of their tour.

After the evaluation of the B-52 each of the students will write an independent report of what they saw and how they think they can improve a particular subsystem for their final grade.