Part-time Passions: Aviators of IEEE

Several EMC Society members team up and take flight

7 June 2013

They’re a small but hearty bunch. Accomplished amateur pilots and members of the IEEE Electromagnetic Compatibility Society (EMC), they discovered one another at society meetings and formed a squadron of their own: the EMC Aviators Club.

Whenever any of the club’s 10 members are attending the same IEEE conference, they try to find time to fly together and discover the countryside from above. The members hail from five countries.

Late last year, four of them—IEEE Fellows Andy Marvin and Antonio Orlandi and Senior Members Richard Perdriau and Ghery Pettit, who is also the society’s president—entered the spotlight.

Marvin wrote an article for IEEE Electromagnetic Compatibility Magazine (Vol. 1, Issue 4) about their September flight from the EMC Europe 2012 Conference, held in Rome, to L’Aquila, in central Italy, where Orlandi teaches. “We wanted to see from the sky how the city is rebuilding after an earthquake destroyed it in April 2009,” Orlandi says.

Andy Marvin

Andy Marvin Occupation:

Marvin and Orlandi launched the club after they met at the 2007 EMC Symposium in Honolulu. A few months later, Marvin recruited Perdriau at a society conference in Detroit. Perdriau met Orlandi at a conference in Switzerland, and so it went.

“Flying is the best fun you can have with your clothes on,” Marvin says with a laugh. “It’s a buzz, and there’s an element of risk.”

Marvin, a professor of applied electromagnetics at the University of York, in England, is the club’s lone glider pilot, a 44-year veteran of the sport and a glider aerobatics instructor. The others fly mainly two- and four-seat, single-engine Cessnas and Piper Arrows. Marvin took up the hobby at age 18, when color blindness kept him from becoming a military pilot. Gliders might seem an odd alternative to jet fighters, but “you really have to be able to fly well,” Marvin explains. “You can’t stay in the air for hours and cover hundreds of kilometers without an engine unless you know what you’re doing.”

Richard Perdriau Occupation:

Richard Perdriau

When a medical condition sidelined Perdriau and his plans for a commercial aviation career, he opted 15 years ago to fly the single-engine planes for fun. Now a professor of electronic engineering at the ESEO Group Graduate School of Engineering, in Angers, France, He flies some 15 to 20 hours a year and teaches flying to keep his skills sharp. For Perdriau, who loves weekend jaunts to Spain and the Channel Islands, flying is about speed and freedom and being able to look down smugly at the snarled traffic headed to the beach.

Antonio Orlandi

Antonio Orlandi Occupation:

Orlandi, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of L’Aquila, was introduced to flying by IEEE Life Fellow Clayton Paul when the two worked together at the University of Kentucky, in Lexington. Returning to Italy, Orlandi earned his pilot’s license in 2001 and now flies twice a month from his home field at the Urbe Airport, in Rome. “I like the discipline of flying, to stick with the rules,” Orlandi says, “and making the effort in doing the right things, at the right moment, in the right way.”

Ghery Pettit

Ghery Petit Occupation:

Like the others, Pettit, an EMC regulatory compliance manager at Intel in Olympia, Wash., dreamed of flying as a child. His dream became a reality in 2001, and he now logs 25 to 50 hours each year flying light aircraft across his home state.

Naturally, the four men’s engineering backgrounds enhance their flying experience. “I have a better understanding of what I’m doing; it’s more fun when you know the physics behind it,” Perdriau says.

It’s also relaxing. “Flying takes all the care and stresses of the day and puts them on the back burner,” Pettit says. “You’re totally focused on what you’re doing, and your other cares cease to be of concern.”

The four expect to reunite in August at the IEEE EMC Symposium in Denver and again in September at EMC Europe, in Bruges, Belgium.

“It’ll be an excuse to get together, do some flying, and enjoy some good Belgian beer,” Pettit says, “but not all at the same time.”

Photos: Antonio Orlandi

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