ARIES: NASA's 'Flying Lab' Takes Wing
NASA's Boeing 757-200 aircraft is equipped to conduct a range
of research flight tests. Research Focuses On Safer Skies,
A Boeing 757-200 aircraft obtained by NASA in 1994 is now
serving as a "flying laboratory" for aeronautical research. The
aircraft is being modified extensively for a broad range of flight
research programs in the next 20 years to benefit the U.S. aviation
industry and commercial airline customers. Called ARIES, or
Airborne Research Integrated Experiments System, the aircraft is
being used to conduct research to increase aircraft safety,
operating efficiency and compatibility with future air traffic
control systems. It is a vital research tool in support of the
agency's Aviation Safety and Aviation Systems capacity
The 757 is continuing work begun by the NASA 737-100 in
state-of-the-art technologies such as electronic cockpit displays,
flight management systems and flight safety devices. The 737, the
first off Boeing's production line in 1967, was decommissioned in
Current and projected research needs greatly exceeded the
capabilities of the 737. The 757 is a more modern airplane that
utilizes electronic systems to a much greater extent in this
growing electronic age. The 757 will better support research and
development of the aeronautical sub-systems for the airlines and
the airframe and systems manufacturers. Already the airplane has
been used for several research programs, including:
- Flight tests using Global Positioning System (GPS) satellite
data to perform automated landings of the airplane.
- The study of jet-engine contrails to determine their effects on
- Testing of a system to improve the safety and efficiency of
aircraft during landing, taxiing and takeoff by giving pilots a
computerized map showing airport ground operations.
Future research will focus on technologies to improve air safety
and efficiency, including:
- Evaluation of a system that would provide pilots with better
strategic and tactical weather information while in flight.
- Testing of an airborne system that allows closely-spaced
approaches to landings during reduced visibility to increase
- Runway friction research.
The NASA 757 was located after an extensive survey of the jet
airliner market. It was the second 757 built and the first one
produced that was sold to an airline. The first 757 is owned by
Boeing. The airplane now at Langley had been used by Boeing for
Federal Aviation Administration certification of the 757 class of
The second-generation, digitally-equipped transport, designated
N501EA, was obtained from the Eastern Airline bankruptcy estate.
Langley took possession of the $24-million aircraft March 23, 1994,
at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, Nev.
The 757, maintained and flown by NASA's Langley Research Center
in Hampton, Va., is an integral part of the Transport Research
Facilities (TRF). The TRF is a set of tools used in a
simulation-to-flight concept. This concept incorporates common
software, hardware, and processes for both ground-based flight
simulators and the 757, providing government and industry with an
efficient way to develop and test new technology concepts to
enhance the capacity, safety, and operational needs of the
ever-changing national airspace system.
The 757 features a Flight Deck Research Station on the left, or
captain's, side of the cockpit.
Facilities used in the simulation-to-flight concept are:
- The 757, which features the Flight Deck Research Station (FDRS)
on the left side of the cockpit for test subjects to evaluate
flight systems and operational procedures. The 757 also contains
the Transport Research System (TRS), the research computers and
data collection systems used to support experiments and tests in
the Flight Deck Research Station.
- The Research System Integration Laboratory (RSIL), a
special-purpose laboratory that contains a ground-based version of
the TRS, is used for the integration and preflight validation of
key hardwre and software systems required for simulation and/or
- The Cockpit Motion Facility (CMF), a multiple-cab fixed- and
motion-based flight simulation laboratory that contains the RSIL,
the Integration Flight Deck (IFD) simulator cab and the Research
Flight Deck (RFD) simulator cab.
- The IFD cab closely resembles the 757 flight deck and is used
in support of flight testing on the ARIES and for aircraft systems
- The RFD cab is an advanced subsonic transport flight deck used
for full-crew-workload and full-aircraft-systems integration
development and tests by the research community.
- Four research documentation video cameras are on the 757, three
may be arranged anywhere within or on the airplane, and one on the
tail that provides a "bird's eye view" of the wings and front of
the ARIES 757. Eight video recorders support the cameras, flight
displays, and other data collection.
- Over 1,000 different data parameters are recorded throughout a
research flight. Additional different parameters may be specified
for recording during tests.
- Twelve test pallets/research work stations are in the baseline
layout. Others are added depending on research needs.
- The 757 is 155'3" long, and 44'6" high at its tallest point,
the tail. It measures 124'10" wingtip to wingtip.
For more information, contact the NASA Langley Office of
Public Affairs at (757) 864-6124. Visit the web site at < LARC Home Page>.