Kai D. Patterson
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Kai Patterson's Accomplishments at NASA

Kai Paterson was a aerospace software engineer, who developed software for the Wake Attenuation Analysis Program that analyzed aircraft wing characteristics against air turbulence for aerial refueling and acrobatic formations.  The program was also used to modify the wing foil fences on the Boeing 747 and the Space Shuttle Transporter to reduce turbulence and increase laminar flow. 

Kai Patterson's responsibilities also included analyzing the Thermal Protective System (TPS) Tiles for he Space Shuttles Discovery and Atlantis.  Kai Patterson developed software evaluate the thermal dispersion of the heat shields, their expansion and stress under extreme aerodynamic conditions before comparing the results at the wind tunnel facility located at NASA Langley, in Hampton Virginia.

Kai Patterson's NASA Story and Inspiration

Kai Patterson desired to become an astronaut from the time he was a young child.  As a teenager, he joined the United Airlines Future Aviation Program, held at Newark International Airport for high school students.  "When I was a teenager a teacher gave me a book called the Fundamentals of Aviation and Space Technology, which I read from cover to cover for years, until the book fell apart". 

Kai Patterson attended Hampton University because of their Student-NASA Program, before Hampton University had an aeronautical or aerospace engineering program.  To supplement that aviation courses not offered at Hampton University, Kai Patterson attended Indiana University to take aviation courses.  "I would read every issue of Aviation Week and Space Technology magazine from cover to cover at the library, while attending college". 

After returning back to Hampton University from Indiana State University, and having been selected into the United States Marine Corps Platoon Leaders Class - Aviation Program Kai Patterson was denied entry into the Hampton University Student-NASA Program.  Because he was listed as a mathematics major at Hampton University, the head of the Mathematics Department needed to approved Kai Patterson's application for the NASA Program, but refused.  "I could not believe that I was refused admission into the program".  "I had studied aviation on my own since a child, and was not going to let one person's decision determine my future".

After being denied acceptance into the Student-NASA Program, Kai Patterson contacted NASA's human resources department and explained that he had been selected into USMC Platoon Leader Class Program with an Aviation Option, which meant that Kai Patterson had a flight contract to become a pilot in the United States Marine Corps. 

Kai Patterson already completed the two Officer Candidate School summer training program requirements and was receiving flight lessons, which were being paid for by the Marine Corps.  At the time he spoke with the person in Human Resources, he did not think very much was going to come out of the call, and concluded the call was a waist of time.  "I applied to work in the kitchen cafeteria at Hampton University for the school year and the summer".   

Kai Patterson's NASA Mentor, Lee Person

A week later, Kai Patterson received a call from a gentleman at NASA's Langley Research Center by the name of Lee Person.  "Mr. Person told me that he was a NASA test pilot engineer that one of the first people to every fly the Kestrel, which was the first version of the Harrier".  "He told me that he was a former Marine Corps Pilot and arranged for me to spend a full day taking a tour of the entire NASA Langley Research Center". 

A few days later Kai Patterson was picked up by a blue government vehicle with yellow "NASA" letters on the side door and was provided with a tour of the facility, where he was taken to several departments, introduced and interviewed for a position.  "I interviewed with a man by the name of Dr. Bruce Holmes, who asked me questions about Laminar Flow concepts that I studied for years". 

 "Fate would have it, his questions came directly from the that old Fundamentals of Aviation and Space Technology book that I had read from cover to cover many times".    "Dr. Bruce Holmes had a copy of the book in his office that I spotted from several books on his book shelf".  "Although I previously provided the hyperlink to an older edition of the book, both of our editions had a black cover with the Apollo rocket on the cover, more recently developed concepts and theories.   "I blew through the answers, met with some software engineers to confirm that I could write code and the rest was history".  "It turns out that D. Bruce Homes was a leading researcher and developer of the concept of Laminar Flow". 

Kai Patterson was hired directly by NASA, and made more than three (3) times what the Student-NASA Program paid.  "It was the greatest blessing because although I needed the money, I would have worked for free to get the experience that I received at NASA".  Kai Patterson spent most of his lunch breaks at Langley's video center, where he would watch documentaries on each of NASA's space projects.  "I worked full time as a aeronautical and aerospace software developer, and credit my first computer development experience to NASA".  "At the time, I did not realize that my mentor Lee Person would become one of aviation's greatest test pilots".  "Mr. Person took me under his wing (literally), because I was in the Marine Corps Aviation Program.  I hope one day he "Google's his name, sees my website, goes to my Facebook page and reconnects with me".

Copyright © 2013 Kai D. Patterson, All Rights Reserved