A pair of NASA F/A-18Bs that flew the sonic boom demonstrations flown by research pilots Troy Asher and Nils Larson joined up for a low-level formation flyover for the students. (NASA Photos / Tom Tschida)
Summer of Innovation: A Time to Yell and Go Boom!
About 200 middle-school students who attended a Summer of Innovation educational activity at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center Aug. 27 got a first-hand lesson about research the center is conducting on suppressing or reducing the perceived intensity of sonic booms. Students from as far away as Las Vegas gathered in a NASA Dryden hangar for interactive demonstrations and briefings, capped with a pair of actual sonic booms – one normal and one greatly reduced in intensity – created by a NASA F/A-18 flying at supersonic speed high over Edwards Air Force Base.
Although startling, the "boom-boom" created by the sudden increase and decrease of air pressure trailing from an aircraft flying at supersonic speeds is generally harmless. However, the annoyance factor has led governmental agencies to ban supersonic flight over land, except in restricted military testing airspace. The research being conducted at NASA Dryden is exploring various means of reducing the perceived impact of sonic booms, including reshaping of aircraft structures and changes in flight profiles.
Scores of green-shirted middle schoolers from the Long Beach area were involved in the Summer of Innovation culminating event at NASA Dryden.
|Eighth-grader Danny Medina from Joe Walker Middle School in Quartz Hill, Calif. climbs into a flight suit as NASA life support technician Bobby McElwain assists.
||McElwain then assisted Medina in strapping on a G-suit worn by pilots of high-performance aircraft. Next came the helmet and oxygen mask.
|Finally, Medina was seated in a practice ejection seat, ready to pull the yellow handles that in a real aircraft would activate the seat and rocket him from the aircraft.