Profile - Dick Friesen

A high-flying NCAR veteran Dick Friesen

In Random Profile, we interview a stochastically selected staff member about his or her life at the office—and outside of it.

Staff Notes: You’re currently a casual in EOL. What are you working on?

Dick Friesen

Dick: I was the project engineer starting in 2002 on the HIAPER aircraft. That was a full-time job until HIAPER was delivered in 2005. It involved taking what they call a “green” airplane, which is the way it comes off the production line, and modifying it for use as a scientific research aircraft. I went to a casual appointment about the time of T-REX [the Terrain-Induced Rotor Experiment in 2006], HIAPER’s first big field project. Now, I’m working on loose ends for HIAPER. We’re trying to finish up the wing stores; that’s probably the last of the major modifications on the aircraft for some time. I also get involved
with projects on the C-130, such as satellite communications.

Staff Notes: Sounds like they keep you pretty busy. How long have you worked at NCAR?

Dick: I started here in 1965 as a student assistant, hired by John Latham [now in ESSL/MMM]. I was going to CU and studying electrical engineering. Back in the ‘60s, engineering wasn’t as sophisticated as it is today—we studied generators, motors, and power transmission, not computers and signal processing. After a couple of years I got discouraged and dropped out of school. I was going to get drafted, so I joined the National Guard. Then I came back and did some civil engineering and surveying. I decided that what I really liked was math and physics. So I went back and got a combined degree in math and physics while working at NCAR part time. After graduating, I got a position as an instrumentation engineer, and took courses in software engineering and atmospheric sciences at CSU to better understand the science aspect of my work. Over the years, I’ve also been a software engineer, project manager, and head of the RAF Data Management and Project Management groups.

Staff Notes: What have you liked best about your long career here?

Dick Friesen

Dick: The variety of positions I’ve held, and the variety of people here—technicians, mechanics, scientists, pilots, engineers. Also, I’ve probably been on 80 field projects; I’ve been to Greenland, Churchill [Canada], Australia, the Maldives, Africa. I really like the travel and all the interesting people you meet on projects. I take great satisfaction in seeing the successful outcome of a field (or development) project and the subsequent publications that lead to a better understanding of atmospheric and environmental processes.

Staff Notes: Tell me about your life outside work.

Dick: My wife, Valerie, worked at NCAR starting in the late ‘60s and was head of HR before she retired. When I’d go on field projects to exotic places, she’d often join me after the project and we’d travel. We used to tour around Colorado on a tandem bike. We do a lot of backpacking and skiing, and have a place up in Edwards, near Vail, that we share with my brother and his family. I like to fly fish, hike, bike, run, and enjoy Pilates and working out. I’ve run the Bolder Boulder for about the past 25 years. We’re going to Hawaii for a few weeks soon, and I’d like to travel more in South America and do more biking around Europe.

Staff Notes: Did you grow up here?

Dick: I was born in Wichita, Kansas, and my family moved to Denver in the early ‘50s. I’ve been here since then. We live in Lafayette now.

Staff Notes: Any other hobbies?

Dick: For quite a while I was pursuing flying. I got my private pilot’s license and my instrument and commercial ratings. In 1992, I started building an aircraft—a kit airplane made out of fiberglass. But after about 10 years, I decided I was never going to finish it. The kit manufacturer said it would take 2,000 hours to build, but I’d spent 3,000–4,000 and was maybe 60–70% done. I sold it to another guy—and he’s still working on it.