NASA's modified Lockheed JetStar flies over the high desert during a research flight in the early 1980s to investigate the acoustic characteristics of one of several subscale advanced-design propellers mounted atop the fuselage. (NASA photo) A modified C-140 JetStar was flown by NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center from 1964 to 1989 on a variety of aeronautical research projects applicable to improved technologies for civilian aircraft. Built by Lockheed, the aircraft arrived at Dryden in May 1963 and bore tail number 814.
Dryden, in cooperation with NASA's Lewis (now Glenn) Research Center, used the JetStar to investigate the acoustic characteristics of a series of subscale advanced-design propellers in the early 1980s. These propellers were designed to rotate at a tip speed faster than the speed of sound. They were, in effect, a "swept-back wing" propeller design.
The JetStar was modified with the installation of an air turbine drive system. The drive motor, with a 24-inch test propeller, was mounted in a pylon atop the aircraft. The JetStar was equipped with an array of 28 microphones flush-mounted on the fuselage beneath the propeller pylon, while microphones mounted on the wings and on accompanying chase aircraft provided far-field acoustic data.
In the 1960s, the same JetStar was equipped with an electronic variable-stability flight control system. Then called the General Purpose Airborne Simulator, the aircraft could duplicate the flight characteristics of a wide variety of advanced aircraft. It was used for supersonic transport and general aviation research and as a training and support system for the Space Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests at Dryden in 1977.
From 1976 through 1982, The JetStar was used to test and certify the Space Shuttle's Microwave Scanning Beam Landing System (MSBLS), a navigation system that provided the precise position of the Shuttle orbiter to the Shuttle pilots in relation to the runway during landing approaches. Dryden pilots logged 671 flight hours during 346 missions to check out MSBLS equipment at the three primary shuttle landing sites at Edwards, NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and the White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.
The refurbished Lockheed JetStar flown for aeronautical research by NASA Dryden for a quarter-century remains on display at the Joe Davies Heritage Airpark adjacent to Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale, CA. (NASA photo / Tony Landis) In the 1970s, the JetStar was part of an industry-government program that attempted to identify noise characteristics and determine the effectiveness of alternate landing approach procedures in reducing community noise levels. In addition to NASA's Lockheed Jetstar, other aircraft flown in the tests were a Rockwell Sabreliner, a Grumman Gulfstream II, a Gates LearJet and a Beech-Hawker 125. Each of the aircraft flew four different types of landing approaches over a microphone array positioned beneath them; the noise level of each approach was compared to the most recent noise level limits proposed by the Federal Aviation Administration at that time.
In 1985, the JetStar's wings were modified with suction and spray devices in a laminar (smooth) airflow project to study ways of smoothing the airflow over airliner wings. Test articles mounted on each wing incorporated insect and ice protection with laminar flow control. The test article or glove mounted on the right wing used suction through approximately one million 0.0025-inch diameter holes in the titanium skin to maintain laminar flow on the article's upper surface.
The research project also studied potential means of reducing the collection of ice and insects on the wings' leading edges. In addition to a shield, a propylene glycol methyl ether/water mixture spray was tested for use as insect protection.
Following its retirement in 1989, the JetStar remained at NASA Dryden for several years. It was eventually transferred on long-term loan to the City of Palmdale's Joe Davies Heritage Air Park adjacent to Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale. Volunteers and City of Palmdale employees restored the aircraft's exterior over a two-month period, including renovation and painting as well as placement of decals and logos. The aircraft was then placed on display in August 2007.