Safety in the skies

Ken Geisinger '60
Retired Operations Analyst, Bradenton, Fla.
Major: mathematics

Ken Geisinger An artistic mathematician?
During his time in the United States Army as a radar operator in the late 1950s, Ken Geisinger watched a field engineer servicing equipment and thought that type of work was something he could be very interested in. He was nervous about the math component though: "The last thing I ever thought I'd major in, following high school, was math." Ken originally though art would be his area and spent one year in an industrial design program at Pratt Institute before realizing art wasn't for him. "Bluffton gave me a chance after my Army discharge, and Professor Luther Shetler had a way of making math interesting, understandable and enjoyable," says Ken.

Variety is key.
After obtaining a master's degree in operations research from George Washington University in 1970, Ken took on a variety of roles: mathematician, U.S. Army Chemical Center; research mathematician, IIT Research Institute; member of technology staff, Research Analysis Corporation; senior engineer, Virginia Research Corporation; operations research analyst, U.S. Army Concepts Analysis Agency; and policy analyst and operations research analyst, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)."The good thing about math and computer science is that you can use those skills in many different fields," says Ken. "A person doesn't have to get bogged down in one application area for an entire career. I sure didn't!"

Avoiding delays.
Ken spent the last 27 years of his career with the FAA in Washington, D.C., performing analyses to assess proposed changes in federal aviation policies. He was part of teams that implemented airspace restrictions, approved new devices and financed airport capacity improvements. Ken helped evaluate accident risk, controller workload, travel distance and airline delay. "I did statistical analyses of airline delay and worked on models for predicting delay under alternative scenarios," he says. "I also developed, published and used a math model for predicting collision risk." In his spare time, Ken obtained associate degrees in engineering and information technology (completing the latter after retirement).

Dividing the skies.
One of Ken's most memorable projects was leading a group of analysts in developing a computer program that is still used today. U.S. airspace is divided into sectors, with defined boundaries and responsibilities for each set of air traffic controllers within sectors. "The Sector Design Analysis Tool allows an airspace designer to move sector boundaries to see what impact the move would have overall—how many aircraft would appear in a given sector at a given time, the number of air traffic controllers that would be needed, etc.," says Ken. "It's a very complicated problem, and the tool allows the FAA to consider the impact of proposed changes."

Life's a beach.
Retired, Ken has been staying busy by participating in a barbershop chorus, swimming, teaching Sunday school, developing computer programs (including one to solve Sudoku puzzles), wind surfing, proof-reading Motorwatch and serving as a volunteer for the Manatee County Board of Elections. In the August Florida Primary, he was in charge of a precinct for the first time.