PART FOUR: NASA research pilot dreamed of flying in the sky. Now she pilots SOFIA


Ever since she was a young girl, Liz Ruth wanted to fly in the sky.

As a daughter of an aeronautical engineer for the Navy, she grew up with a strong military and aeronautical influence.

Now, she’s a NASA research pilot.

“I knew I wanted to be a pilot early on,” Ruth says. Adding, “I grew up in China Lake which is out in the desert and out in the Navy base where we had a lot of Navy jet planes flying overhead all the time so it was kind of an air show everyday.”

While Ruth was in high school, the military started a trial program to permit female pilots to achieve flight status. She joined the Air Force ROTC and knew what she wanted to do.

“People would tell me, but you know that’s really hard, like that should get in my way, and I just said i’m willing to work hard and it’s something I really want to do, so why shouldn’t I do it?” she remembered.

After joining the Air Force, she became a pilot for T-38 and T-43 jets, took a decade off to raise her daughters and joined SOFIA two and a half years ago.

She says, “It’s a one-of-a-kind airplane, its a big giant 747 with a giant telescope in the back. It’s the only one in the world and you’re completely right in that it takes an entire team to put this together.”

It is well choreographed and overnight as the mission director is in constant communication with the scientists and the pilots to hit the right targets.

Ruth is an inspiration and is just as unique as the airplane she flies.

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