Flying with the wind

Sequim grad, now at UW, helps keep planes safe

  • Tuesday, March 18, 2014 6:57pm
  • News

Hans Boenish runs at turbo speed. Every day, the 23-year-old Sequim High School alumnus works with winds up to 200 mph.

Boenish, who graduated from SHS in 2004 and Arizona’s Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University this year, said he found the job of a lifetime when he enrolled in graduate school at the University of Washington and learned about the school’s Kirsten Wind Tunnel from former employee and fellow Sequim graduate Ryan Smith.

"Ryan said I should apply for this job," said Boenish, who is working toward a master’s degree in aeronautics and astronautics.

Kirsten Wind Tunnel, which has seven propeller blades, was built in 1939 with the help of Boeing – now the airline giant gets a number of hours of free testing.

"Every major aircraft (Boeing) has built, except the most recent 787, has been tested here," Boenish said.

Boenish said he has tested two aircraft and several spacecraft so far. Testing includes turning on the heavy wind and making sure the aircraft can handle the three types of turbulence it might come across in the air – yaw (when the nose of the plane swings left or right), roll (when one wing dips) and pitch (when the plane’s nose moves up and down).

"It’s pretty cool to see," Boenish said.

Although he was intrigued by the aircraft testing, the cycling buff was most excited when bike and helmet companies, including Bell Helmets, used the wind tunnel to test their products before the Tour de France. A highlight came right before the companies arrived, when Boenish was able to test his own bicycle in the tunnel.

"We’re trying to improve the testing for athletics because of the comparatively low wind speeds," Boenish said of the 30 mph winds they release for bicycle testing.

Boenish has completed a few months of what he expects to be a two- or three-year stint at the UW’s graduate school and he hopes to work in the wind tunnel throughout his stay.

"I’m not really sure yet about my long-term career goals," Boenish said. "The wind tunnel is kind of cool that you can get a feel of what it is like to work in the industry."

Plus, Boenish added, "it’s a pretty cool job."

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