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Meet the Crew: Nick Underwood, Programs and Integration Engineer

NOAA Programs and Integration Engineer Nick Underwood in his flight suit

What is your role at NOAA and what do you do?

I am the Programs and Integration Engineer at the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center (AOC). I serve as the technical liaison between AOC and our project stakeholders and ensure that all of the necessary project instrumentation gets successfully installed onto our aircraft. 

Where did you grow up?

I was born, raised, and schooled in Beckley, West Virginia. 

Where did you get your training and experience before joining NOAA?

I received my Bachelor's of Science in Aerospace Engineering from West Virginia University in 2014. I then worked as a Flight Test Engineer at Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Maryland, until joining NOAA in 2016. 

What inspired you to work for NOAA?

I've always loved airplanes and wanted to work in support of science, and AOC is the perfect nexus of those interests. Funny enough I didn't know hurricane hunting was a thing until I applied for the job. 

What was one of your favorite missions or experiences?

Flying Hurricane Florence in 2018 aboard NOAA Lockheed WP-3D Orion N42RF, nicknamed "Kermit," is an experience that will always stick with me. Watching a storm grow from a tropical storm to a category 4 hurricane in 48 hours was awe-inspiring and terrifying. It was an incredible crew and ultimately a very important mission series as it turned toward the Carolinas. 

What advice would you give to someone who wants to work for NOAA?

Have a passion for science, be open to stepping into things that are new and uncomfortable, and be ready to work as part of a large team. Nothing happens in a vacuum here and it takes a lot of effort by a lot of people for us to be successful. 

What do you like to do outside of work?

I host team trivia on Wednesdays and I play a lot of board games. Games that are much more complex than Monopoly or Catan. I'm also a stepfather to the two best cats in the world. 

What is your favorite aircraft and why?

WP-3D Orion N43RF. My first flight into a hurricane was Hurricane Matthew in 2016 aboard "Miss Piggy." I got very sick but from that moment I knew I was working for the right place.