Heard of Volunteering? An FAA Retiree Shows How It’s Done
Vol.6 Issue 5

After serving 37 years as a public servant, (30 years in the FAA and 7 years in the U.S. Air Force) Roger Heard, a former Aeronautical Center employee and Deputy Division Manager in the Regulatory Standards Division (AMA-201), retired from federal service in December 2016. Not one to be idle, Roger has busied himself with home projects, family activities and enjoying one-on-one time with his two grandsons. One of their favorite things to do is explore museums together and have in-depth discussions after each visit.

In February 2019, they decided to tour the National Weather Museum and Science Center in Norman, Oklahoma. The museum is an off-the-beaten-path facility that is fairly new; dedicated to scientists and community leaders who are working together to establish an amazing scientific experience. The museum plans to house many meteorological instruments, but also to be a place where visitors can learn and immerse themselves in the topics of weather and science. The museum houses the history of weather research, containing one-of-kind artifacts and instruments, as well as rare photographs and videos.

During Roger’s visit to this museum, he happened to notice several disassembled aircraft components in a corner. He asked one of the museum volunteers, what their plans were for all the disassembled aircraft parts? They replied, "Whenever we find someone that could help us, we would love for it to be put together." When assembled, the parts would form a T28 ’Trojan’ (storm-penetrating aircraft). The T-28 is a piston-powered, two-seater, training aircraft that was used for weather research. It was designed in the late 1960’s in response to Russia’s claim that they could modify weather at will. The T-28 was fitted with scientific measuring instruments and was given additional structural strength to study hail and weather-modification techniques. Its research gradually evolved into severe storm penetration to study the micro-physical aspects within a storm. The T-28 was also used to study tornado producing storms. During the peak of its usage, it was the only aircraft that was able to withstand the forces of a Level 6 (55 dBZ) thunderstorm.

The museum staff did not know Roger, nor anything about his background or expertise. After a couple of weeks thinking about it, Roger returned to the museum to volunteer his services in the assembly of the old bird. "Having years of experience as an Airframe and Powerplant mechanic, while also having lots of free time on my hands, I decided to accept the challenge," says Roger. However, one minor detail that the museum failed to inform Roger of, was the lack of hardware or landing gear.

So, in March 2019, with the help of some local mechanics at Wiley Post Airport, Roger located several major components and hardware (such as the wing and bolts for attaching the landing gear). "One of the major challenges was putting the aircraft back together inside of a building, leaving only six inches of ceiling height to spare," Roger explains. The museum is only open 3 days a week, which gave Roger plenty of time to work on the project without having visitors in the museum. "It took about one-year to assemble the aircraft, but most of my time was spent finding parts," says Roger. The museum’s website has all of the details as to why this aircraft is so significant to the museum.

The T-28 assembly project is about 98% complete, only lacking a propeller and the engine cowling. If you happen to know of anyone who might have such parts, please contact Info@nationalweathermsueum.com. If you haven’t heard of how just one person can make a difference, Roger has shown us how it is done.

(L-R) Roger Heard with fellow museum volunteer, James Ottman sharing success after the T28 assembly.
The original T-28 on display at the National Weather Museum and Science Center.

Attaching the left wing and main gear assembly.
The T-28 positioned among other exhibits within the museum.
Roger Heard removing a nose gear from another T-28 aircraft.

Getting the T-28 assembled and partially displayed.
Moving the aircraft into position was no easy task.
The T-28 has a Lycoming, R1820, radial engine weighing 1,000 lbs. with accessories.
The T-28 project at 10 months.
Roger hanging the rudder on the aircraft.
Final assembly, minus a propeller and engine cowling.
Federal Aviation Aministration (FAA) seal