Retired general runs Plum Brook for NASA

PERKINS TWP. The new boss at NASA Plum Brook Research Station is an Air Force veteran who always liked space exploration and
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010

PERKINS TWP.

The new boss at NASA Plum Brook Research Station is an Air Force veteran who always liked space exploration and relishes "the opportunity to make a difference" as NASA works to send astronauts to the moon and Mars.

David L. Stringer retired as a brigadier general in the Air Force on Jan. 1. On Feb. 18, he began as director of the Plum Brook Management Office after being recruited for the job by Dr. Woodrow Whitlow Jr., director of NASA Glenn Research Center.

Stringer's last Air Force job after 32 years in the service was commander of the Arnold Engineering Development Center at Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee, where he ran the largest complex of air and space flight simulators in the world.

It was good training for Plum Brook, where he manages the world's largest thermal vacuum chamber at the Space Power Facility and the world's best test facility for upper stage rocket engines. Plum Brook is expected to play a major role in testing new spacecraft for NASA's upcoming moon missions.

"I didn't plan it, but I couldn't have planned it better," Stringer said.

Stringer, 54, is the son of an Air Force veteran. He divides his time between Plum Brook and NASA Glenn, located at Cleveland Hopkins Airport.

Stringer's career included a variety of assignments. He served six overseas tours, including the 1995 air war over Bosnia and the 1999 Kosovo War in the Balkans.

He also was the first maintenance officer assigned to the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron, which flew three types of Soviet fighter planes -- the MiG-17, MiG-21 and MiG-23.

He didn't fly aircraft for the Air Force, but is no stranger to the skies. He holds a private pilot's license and learned to fly while serving in the Philippines, where he discovered that before landing in some of the more rural air strips, "you have to buzz to get the water buffalo off."

Stringer recently flew over Plum Brook's 6,400 acres in a Twin Otter aircraft, scouting possible locations for a new Erie County airport.

The retired general has tried to seize every possible opportunity to argue a new runway serving Plum Brook also would help Erie County.

The companies that build satellites and other space equipment don't want their expensive equipment bouncing on trucks on the nation's highways. They like to fly the equipment in whenever possible, so a runway serving Plum Brook big enough to handle large transports would help the NASA facility attract more equipment tests, Stringer said.

NASA would only need a runway 20 times a year, but one long enough for giant transport planes also could handle charter flights carrying people to Kalahari and Cedar Point, air transport companies rushing shipments to the Ohio Turnpike and corporate jets serving facilities such as Sawmill Resort, Stringer said.

It's important for any new airport to benefit everyone, including Huron County. A new airport would strengthen the case to improve a nearby north-south highway such as U.S. 250, Ohio 4 or Ohio 61. That "would be a boon to the area in general and certainly to Huron County and Norwalk in particular," he said.

Stringer and his wife, Diane, live in Berea. The couple met on a blind date in Germany and married five months later. They have three children.

When he isn't busy with family or NASA duties, Stringer likes to read. He has a bachelor of science in foreign service from Georgetown University and a master's in history from the University of Alabama.