Edward AFB – NASA is transforming aviation by reducing aircraft environmental impacts, enhancing safety and leading the way in revolutionary new technologies.
Those are some of the key ideas from a two-day NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate Social event Nov. 18-19 at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. The event highlighted past, current and future NASA flight technologies that influenced and revolutionized aviation.
“I knew NASA touched so many things in our everyday lives, but I didn’t realize how much work they do in monitoring the environment and reducing emissions,” said Pasquale Murena, an attendee.
One such technology is the NASA-developed Automatic Ground-Collision Avoidance System. Extensive flight testing at NASA Armstrong demonstrated the advanced computing technology could significantly reduce the number of accidents attributed to controlled flight into terrain, a leading cause of fatalities in civilian and military aviation that results in about 100 fatalities a year in the United States.
Cockpit warning systems have virtually eliminated these kinds of accidents for large commuter aircraft, but this could meet the challenges still existing for fighter aircraft, helicopters and general aviation.
Lives have already been saved since system integration recently started with U.S. Air Force F-16 aircraft.
“I learned so much about NASA innovations for commercial airlines that have enhanced safety and added to safer travel and how NASA technology has affected different industries,” said participant Chirag Sagar.
In addition to the Automatic Ground-Collision Avoidance System, Sagar said he learned about digital fly by wire. First flown on a NASA Armstrong’s F-8, digital fly by wire is a method for controlling an aircraft and enhancing maintenance and safety that is transitioning into the automotive industry. Several car manufacturers already use braking systems based on digital fly-by-wire technology and some are beginning to offer vehicles that use drive-by-wire technology for parking and various elements of driving.
Another presentation focused on the Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge flexible wing flap. Researchers believe a pair of experimental morphing flaps for the ACTE project flown on a NASA Gulfstream III aircraft can make future airliners quieter and more fuel-efficient.
This past summer researchers replaced an airplane’s conventional aluminum flaps with advanced, shape-changing assemblies that form seamless bendable and twistable surfaces. Flight testing will determine whether flexible trailing-edge wing flaps are a viable approach to improve aerodynamic efficiency and reduce noise generated during takeoffs and landings.
Included in the two-day event was a look at the NASA Global Hawk aircraft. NASA uses the autonomously flown vehicles for science research missions, like the recently completed Hurricane and Severe Storm Sentinel mission over the Atlantic Ocean. The study to learn more about how tropical storms form and intensify into hurricanes was based at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
In addition to interactive briefings, participants toured the center to see its aircraft and walk through its support facilities. Another aspect of the two-day event was a panel discussion with four NASA Armstrong pilots including Manny Antimisiaris, Scott Howe, Tom Miller and Hernan Posada discussing their careers and missions for NASA.
Participants said they had experiences they will remember when learning about NASA technologies, missions and how NASA is “with you when you fly.”