Water and Air: NUWC Engineer Finds Balance

Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport mechanical engineer Noah Forden finds balance between his work and personal life quite literally by having his head in the clouds. When he’s not designing or testing underwater vehicles, Forden, takes to the sky in a hot air balloon, hydrogen balloon or single-engine airplane, all of which he built.

A Division Newport employee since 2002 who works in the Undersea Warfare Weapons Vehicles and Defense Systems Department, Forden has been building balloons for 33 years and flying them for 29 years. For Forden, his technical background as an engineer has proven to be quite helpful in his gas balloon races.

“Balloons let you experience the natural world in a way that is impossible any other way, and I have always found that fascinating. No two flights are the same, and never knowing where you will land with any real precision, or who you will meet when you get there, is always a real adventure in a
time where adventure is harder and harder to find. That has always been a big draw for me,” he said.

Forden has built a number of balloons, including a one-man balloon that he designed to fit in the back of the airplane he built, a Vans Aircraft RV-7 all-aluminum, riveted construction two-seat airplane kit with a cruise speed of more than 200 mph.

This journey also has kindled a desire to share his love of flight with others.
“I’m a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association and we have a local chapter over at Quonset. In my tenure as the chapter coordinator, we’ve given rides to more than 350 kids locally here in Rhode Island. This can motivate kids and provide insight about career choices in technical fields they might not have thought about if they didn’t have this opportunity.
Being a part of that is very rewarding,” he said.

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