Aerospace Engineer Pilots C-17 to the Cape

The C-17 crew oversees loading of the newest GPS satellite at LAX.

Dr. Kamran Aslam, an Aerospace project engineer, recently piloted a C-17 loaded with the next GPS satellite from El Segundo, Calif., to Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Aslam, who works in the Aerospace GPS Block IIF program office, is also a captain in the Air Force Reserves, based at March Air Force Base near Riverside.

The GPS mission started out in Riverside, where Aslam picked up the C-17 cargo plane on July 9, then flew to LAX. At LAX, the crew loaded the satellite onto the C-17 — about a five-hour process. After loading the satellite, Aslam and the crew departed for Cape Canaveral. The overnight flight to the Cape on July 10 took about five hours.

Aslam, who grew up in the northern suburbs of Chicago, attended Libertyville High School, where he discovered a passion for aviation and engineering. This led him to the University of Illinois, where he received his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering in May 2000.

Aslam wanted more than just a B.S. degree, so he obtained his master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Ohio State University in 2002. In 2003, he began working at The Aerospace Corporation. From 2003 to 2009, Aslam worked on flight software for the GPS Block IIR and Block IIF programs, gaining knowledge in all aspects of the satellite’s on-orbit operations. In 2009 he moved to the program office where he became the lead space vehicle launch integrator for the GPS program. In this role, Aslam works directly with the Air Force customer, providing technical assessments and ensuring program requirements are met. In May, he also earned his Ph.D. in aerospace engineering from the University of Southern California.

Dr. Kamran Aslam, left, who piloted the C-17 in background to Cape Canaveral, goes over plans for moving the GPS satellite with Maj. Robert Russell and Aerospace engineers Randall Hicks and W. “Bill” Causey.

“I have always been interested in aviation,” said Aslam. In response to his interest in aviation, he joined the Air Force Reserves while working at Aerospace. He first learned how to fly in 2004 and piloted his first jet aircraft by 2006. He first flew a C-17 in 2007. Aslam was promoted to captain in 2010.

The C-17, built by Boeing in Long Beach, Calif., is a flexible cargo aircraft with the unique ability to carry gigantic loads while taking off and landing on short, undeveloped runways. It is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to operating bases around the world.

As part of his reserve duties, Aslam flies about one mission per month, some of which take him overseas to combat areas and various hotspots in the world. He requested the GPS mission as soon as he knew that it would be assigned to a reserve squadron.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for Aerospace and myself to participate in such a unique mission. I have worked on GPS since I began at the company and to support our customer and perform this military service concurrently is truly a blessing,” Aslam said. “I really thank Aerospace for providing an environment where activities like this are possible.”

By Karyna Uribe

—Karyna Uribe