(August 31, 2020) AIAA LA-LV Member Spotlight on Col. Mark Pestana

Mark Pestana
Pilot- Engineer-Artist
AIAA Senior Member

Mark Pestana, Colonel, USAF (ret), is a research pilot, aerospace human factors engineer, and consultant for NASA, DOD, and the FAA, and teaches aerospace safety as adjunct faculty at University of Southern California. He’s flown over 5000 hours in over 30 aircraft types, from heavy transport to supersonic jet. As an Air Force pilot he logged 213 combat intelligence sorties. He served as an operations engineer in the NASA Astronaut Office, working in Russia developing the International Space Station and Soyuz spacecraft training. As a NASA pilot at Edwards AFB, CA, he flew aeronautics research and global Earth science mission. Besides missions collecting data on supersonic boom impact characterization, and hurricanes, atmospheric chemistry, global forestry, etc., he flew remotely piloted “drone” research on self-avoidance technology, and wildfire geo-location missions. Mark is an internationally award-winning artist, specializing in landscape, seascape, and aerospace art. His paintings are in corporate, government, and private collections. Fourteen of his paintings are in the Pentagon collection, and one of his paintings hangs in the Russian Space Mission Control Center, Moscow. Mark has the unique distinction of designing nine Space Shuttle mission patches for the astronauts. His art is in space!

“I am captivated and inspired from the great explorers of land, sea, air and space. My early influences in aviation and sciences were my father, a USAF air crew member, and my science teachers who promoted hands-on experiences, like dissecting a shark and collecting rocks in the Sierra Nevada range. The pioneering flights of the X-15 test pilots and the astronauts who ventured to the Moon gave me inspiration to pursue a science and engineering path in education and career. Similarly, my childhood pastime of drawing and coloring evolved into a serious avocation thanks to the inspiration of famed aerospace artists, like Chesley Bonestell’s visions of planetary exploration, and the mentorship of Robert McCall and Keith Ferris. As a volunteer board member for a non-profit STEM outreach corporation, I promote the creative relationships between the art and engineering processes to inspire youth…the “STEAM” approach. I attempt to convey the inherent art and science behind the emotion, wonder, and excitement of these subjects, depicting themes in aviation, space, landscapes, and seascapes…on Earth and beyond.”

Col. Mark Pestana
Col. Mark Pestana and F-15
The Silent War by Col. Mark Pestana

AIAA Member Spotlight on Col. Charles Vono (May 18, 2020)

AIAA Member Spotlight on Col. Charles Vono (May 18, 2020)

Col. Charles Thomas Vono
AIAA Associate Fellow
Retired, Northrop Grumman (legacy TRW) and USAF
Born in 1952, Charles Thomas Vono grew up in Wasco, a small farming town just north of Bakersfield, California. His father, Mike, had been a ball turret gunner in B-24s, flying up the Adriatic to deliver death to Nazi industry. Charlie was named after his uncle who was a gunner as well, fighting in every major naval battle of the Pacific and then on to exploring Antarctica post WWII. The battles started with assignment to the New Orleans, dry-docked in Pearl Harbor and fighting back with their guns. (See the famous WWII song, “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition”). As a kid, Charlie got various jobs around Wasco where he was known as the nephew of the man who ran Vono Jewelers. (Uncle Chuck took over after Charlie’s father passed away in 1956.) Around 15, he got various jobs at farms outside of town, and then his last civilian job was selling door to door in Bakersfield. Like Dwight Yokum he has “Walked the Streets of Bakersfield”. 
Althought he wasn’t exactly Merle Haggard’s “Radiator Man from Wasco”, Charlie’s maternal grandfather was the top mechanic at the Dodge Garage in Wasco. Charlie’s paternal grandparents were from Curcoli, Calabria, Italy. He had the good fortune to visit his ancestral village last July where they still remember Tommasso Vono as a “mean SOB” or words to that effect in Italian. Concetta died of the Spanish Flu in Des Moines, and Tommasso died in the Des Moines prison, leaving orphaned two sons (Mike and Chuck) and 3 daughters. 
Moving along to 1969, it was “cutting over rows” with a shovel in 110-degree heat, at a farm west of Wasco Charlie remembers most clearly looking up and seeing a jet flying overhead from Edwards AFB. “I bet,” he thought “those guys have air conditioning in those cockpits”. This is somewhat akin to the answer Buck Owens gave when asked, “Why’d you get into Country Music?” “I sure as hell didn’t want to pick cotton the rest of my life!” Why join the AF? The air conditioning!
Charles graduated from the USAF Academy in 1976 with a bachelor of science degree in Astronautical Engineering with significant coursework in control theory and computer science. Charlie says he owes a lot of his academic ability to the good Sisters of Saint Francis who taught him at St. John’s Elementary School and his realization he could take on any profession to the local priest who told him he could. While at the USAF Academy, Charlie met his future wife, Juanita Williamson. They are celebrating their 44th wedding anniversary 4 June 2020. They have 3 married children and 3 grandchildren… so far. Nita is a real estate agent, Utah state fair blue-ribbon quilter (she’s sewing lots of face masks right now), and rescues turtles. Charlie’s place in southeast Ogden is a turtle sanctuary with hills, creek, and a pond. 
Charlie’s first assignment in the USAF was at Beale AFB in Strategic Air Command as a KC-135 air refueling pilot supporting the worldwide reconnaissance mission of the SR-71. Charlie also has a Master of Science in Systems Management from USC. He got this during his second USAF assignment in 1982 as Inertial Upper Stage Software Systems Chief at Space Division (now Space and Missile Center) in Los Angeles back in the days of Systems Command. This degree stood him in good stead during his 25-year career with TRW and Northrop Grumman sustaining our nation’s ICBM force in Utah (1985 to 2014 with a 4 year pause in the middle). Many of his fellow sustainers possessed the same degree and applied the principles of systems engineering to management of this complex system. Charlie also has a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Utah State University, again with significant coursework in control theory. Charlie was thrilled to have his primary professor be a man who had been on the control systems design team for the Saturn V. 
While he separated from the USAF at the end of his Los Angeles career, he stayed active in the USAF reserves filling various positions at Hill AFB in Utah. He was a structural engineer in F-16s, a quality control engineer (writing Hill’s first Quality Plan for competition), and manpower. Upon promotion to colonel, Charlie applied and won a full-time position on the commander’s staff at Pacific Command, a joint command responsible for 2/3rds of the Earth. Charlie was the Reserve Forces Division Chief at a time when the US was generating its first ever partial mobilization of all reserve forces after the 911 attacks. 
After this assignment, in 2003, Charlie returned to his position at TRW sustaining ICBMs, except TRW had been bought by Northrop Grumman. Charlie took on various challenges at that time, including acting chief of ICBM Propulsion and Northrop Grumman manager for ICBM Guidance Systems, before retiring in 2014. 
Before retiring, one of Charlie’s duties was teaching Minuteman III ICBM general familiarization to contractors and USAF personnel. In retirement, Charlie remains active in AIAA, INCOSE, and SAME and is an AIAA distinguished lecturer. He travels the country (pre-virus) giving presentations on “Refueling the SR-71 during the Cold War”, “How to Keep Complex Systems Effective for Decades”, “How ICBMs Work and Why They are Important”, and “Evans’ Flour Mill, the First Modern Factory”. Charlie loves to show how today’s world sprang from Industrial Revolution and WWII innovations. He gave a half-day class on keeping complex systems effective for decades at the 2018 INCOSE Western States Regional Conference. 
Just before the virus, on 3 March, he was the keynote speaker for the 45th Dayton-Cincinnati Aerospace Sciences Symposium, where he became the first ever aerospace speaker to start his keynote leading the auditorium crowd in several verses of “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition!”.
Charlie is past chair of the Utah Engineers Council, a council of 17 engineering societies in the State of Utah that celebrate engineers week each year by declaring Utah engineer of the year and giving away 15 to 20 scholarships to undergraduate students in engineering. Charlie started the annual tradition of supporting a STEM booth at the Salt Lake City FanX comics convention, the 3rd largest in the US. Teaming with Hill AFB on this endeavor ensures amazing displays such as an F-16 cockpit for the kids and their parents to try out. 
Charlie has posted his AIAA technical papers, posts, and presentations at his web site: charlesvono.com. He has ebooks on sustainment available at Amazon.com. You can find him on facebook (Charles Thomas Vono) and LinkedIn (Charles Vono). 
Charlie will give an exciting and popular lecture/webinar with AIAA LA-LV “In-flight Refueling the SR-71 During the Cold War” on August 8, 2020. Please join us and enjoy!

Col. Charlie Vono (USAF – Retired)

(August 8, 2020) e-Town Meeting with Col. Charles Vono, Dan Adamo, and Michael Staab

August 8, 2020 @ 10:00 am 2:00 pm PDT


Aug 8, 2020 from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM (PT)

RSVP and Information: https://conta.cc/2WdBwYF


Volunteers are needed for all AIAA activities, please contact cgsonwane@gmail.com


(Online) Saturday, August 8, 2020, 10 AM


In-flight Refueling the SR-71 During the Cold War


Col. Charlie Vono

AIAA Distinguished Lecturer

AIAA Associate Fellow

USAF & TRW – Retired

Questioning the Surface of Mars as the 21st Century’s Ultimate Pioneering Destination in Space


Daniel R. Adamo

AIAA Distinguished Lecturer

AIAA Associate Fellow

Aerodynamics Consultant

NASA JSC – Retired


Michael Staab,
(The Mars 2020 Guy / Gruru)
Fault Management and Autonomous Systems Principal Engineer at Northrop Grumman Corporation,
Former JPL Mars 2020 Engineer

Tentative Agenda:

10:05 am Dr. Chandrashekhar Sonwane (Welcome)
10:10 am Col. Charles Vono
11:30 am Daniel R. Adamo
01:30 pm Michael Staab
02:00 pm Adjourn

In-flight Refueling the SR-71 During the Cold War

This presentation is for any audience looking for a few good stories featuring our high tech Cold War weapon systems. As a KC-135Q aircraft commander, Charlie can relate firsthand what it meant to be a Cold Warrior, how the technology worked, and what he did when it didn’t work. These were the days when we used sextants to cross the Pacific, engines blew up routinely, and no mission went entirely as planned. With most of this highly classified mission now de-classified, Charlie can spice up this Cold War stories with facts about the technologies and mission. A real crowd-pleaser, he always finds a few audience members who supported this mission and speak up with their own stories.

Charlie, an AIAA Associate Fellow, is a retired USAF colonel and retired defense contractor senior manager. In his 45 year career, he has been an operator, e.g., KC-135 aircraft commander. He has been an engineer, e.g., F16 structures. And he has been a sustainer, e.g., ICBMs. Charlie was born and raised in Wasco, California. He has a Bachelor of Science from the USAF Academy in Astronautical Engineering, a Master of Science in Systems Management from the University of Southern California, and a Master of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Utah State University. He is a graduate of Air War College. Charlie has 13 years full time active duty in Air Force and Joint assignments and 12 years part time duty in Air Force Reserve assignments. Since retiring from a major defense contractor in 2014, Charlie has been writing and presenting extensively on the sustainment of complex systems. But his most popular presentation harks back to his first USAF assignment in 1977 as a tanker pilot supporting the world-wide SR-71 mission during the Cold War. Charlie’s Dad, Mike, was a WWII B-24 ball turret gunner in Europe and his Uncle Chuck was a Navy gunner engaged in every major combat operation in the Pacific. For more information on Charlie, his other roles, his blogs about his stories (and his Dad and Uncle’s stories), his presentations and technical papers, visit charlesvono.com.

Questioning the Surface of Mars as the 21st Century’s Ultimate Pioneering Destination in Space

This 1.5-hour lecture reviews historic Earthly distinctions between exploring and pioneering before applying these distinctions to destinations in space. Although a case can be made for human and robotic exploration in space, there is as yet no compelling rationale for “putting down roots” to pioneer anywhere off Earth. Why then is the surface of Mars widely accepted as humanity’s future “home away from home” to the extent some 200,000 people are willing to attempt forming a permanent colony there? There is no evidence suggesting humans can survive on the surface of Mars long term, let alone thrive there to produce viable offspring. A variety of evidence is presented to affirm the surface of Mars is a “socio-cultural” destination whose suitability for human pioneering is based on more than a century of fictional literature and poorly informed research as the Space Age dawned.

More current knowledge of the “unexplored country” in our Solar System suggests small bodies such as asteroids and the moons of Mars are humanity’s best hope for pioneering off Earth this century.

Mr. Dan Adamo is an astrodynamics consultant focused on space mission trajectory design, operations, and architecture. He works with clients primarily at NASA and in academia.

Until retirement in 2008, Mr. Adamo was employed by United Space Alliance as a trajectory expert, serving as a “front room” flight controller for 60 Space Shuttle missions. Along with console duties during simulations and missions, this job entailed development of trajectory designs, software tools, flight rules, console procedures, and operations concepts. Mr. Adamo began his career at the Perkin-Elmer Corporation where he developed and operated proof-of-concept software for computer-controlled polishing of optical elements. He has degrees in Physical Sciences and Optical Engineering from the University of Houston and the University of Rochester, respectively.

Mr. Adamo is an AIAA Associate Fellow and the author of many publications (ref. http://www.aiaahouston.org/adamo_astrodynamics/). He has received numerous awards, including 14 NASA Group Achievement Awards.

Mission Status Updates on Mars 2020
The Mars 2020 Guy / Gruru

Michael Staab is a Fault Management and Autonomous Systems Principal Engineer at Northrop Grumman Corporation, supporting fault management and system autonomy design for the Blue Origin, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Draper Laboratories Human Lander System entry and the NASA Gateway program. In his time with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, he was a Flight System Systems Engineer for the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar Mission, a Spacecraft Systems Engineer and Flight Director for the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity, a flight controller, or ACE, for the Cassini spacecraft, and a Mission Systems’ Systems Engineer for the Mars 2020 rover. Michael is a PhD student in the Department of Astronautical Engineering at the University of Southern California, with research interests in autonomy, system resiliency, and fault management. Additionally, Michael is an Aerospace Engineering Duty Officer in the United States Navy Reserves, supporting the NAVAIR and Navy Space Cadre communities. Michael holds a Bachelors of Science in Aerospace Engineering from Wichita State University and a Masters of Science in Aerospace Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

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August 8, 2020
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AIAA Los Angeles-Las Vegas Section