|By Brandi Bernoskie,
Institute for Global Environmental Strategies
When Carl Magnusson was seven years old, he knew he wanted to be a pilot. Growing up in a little town in Western Oklahoma, Air Force training aircraft would fly low and fast over his home. "At the time, they were painted white and gleamed like angels," Magnusson remembers. "I knew I wanted to do that."
Many years later, Magnusson flew one of the same airplanes he had watched as a child over his hometown at over 200 miles an hour. Looking out the window as he passed, he saw his mother and neighbors waving from the ground below.
Magnusson had always been interested in science and aviation. "It turns out the two are linked in many ways," Magnusson says. "Even though we've been flying airplanes for a hundred years and we have overcome many of aviation's technical challenges, there is still-out on the edges-that explorer spirit that comes with flying. That's where we work. That's where the excitement is."
Since Magnusson's parents could not afford to send him to college, he joined in the Air Force ROTC. Through that program, Magnusson was the first member of his family to finish a four-year university program. He attended the University of Oklahoma then began to train to fly. He then entered flight training, receiving his navigator wings in 1992, and his pilot wings ten years later.
Magnusson began flying with NASA when the Air Force loaned him to NASA to help fly the DC-8 Research Laboratory. Eventually, he joined NASA Dryden as a full-time navigator and pilot.
Most recently, Magnusson worked on a project that took place in August and September 2012 called the Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel (HS3). This program is a five-year mission specifically targeted to investigate the processes that underlie hurricane formation and intensity change in the Atlantic Ocean basin.
Later this year, Magnusson will participate for the third time in the Operation ICE BRIDGE deployment to southern Chile, where they will fly earth measurement missions over Antarctica, providing a three-dimensional view of Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets, ice shelves and sea ice.
During his travels, Magnusson has seen many interesting things. "I've chased thunderstorms, forest fires, and flown over glaciers," Magnusson says, "but the best moment happened off the coast of Jamaica: we were able to watch a tropical storm as it began to rotate and turn into Hurricane Karl in 2010."
The long periods of time away from home can be hard for Magnusson and his family, but when he looks back at the end of a long day, he is satisfied knowing that he has helped collect important data about Earth.
The Earth and its variety of experiences continue to fascinate Magnusson, and, as a pilot, he has seen more of our planet than most people. His path was not always clear or effortless, but Magnusson thinks it was very worthwhile. "Don't settle for the easy road," he advises. "Not only will you be more competitive out there, but you will find yourself surrounded by great people who have the same standards and dedication."