July 1996 *** NOTE: The AGATE program was completed in
December 2001 ***
Affordable Alternative Transportation
AGATE -- Revitalizing General Aviation
"AGATE is visible evidence of the commitments of NASA, the
FAA, and the industry and university community to two important
endeavors: first, to revitalize U.S. general aviation, and second,
to reinvent government along the way . . . The AGATE Consortium
represents the dawning of a new era for NASA and industry in terms
of the ways we do business together. Together, we are undertaking a
challenge neither of us could accomplish apart."
- NASA Administrator Daniel S. Goldin
AGATE Press Conference, July 1995
The challenge for the Advanced General Aviation Transport
consortium is to create a Small Aviation Transportation System
(SATS) as an alternative to short-range automotive trips for both
private and business transportation needs. For example, using small
aircraft would allow business executives to travel to three plants
250 miles apart in a single day-drastically cutting back travel
time. The SATS will make many time-sensitive short-haul trips more
affordable for business, medical, public safety and recreational
The creation of the AGATE Consortium in 1994 is changing the
face of general aviation-related aerospace. The NASA-led
consortium, born out of an effort to stem the gradual decline of
general aviation in this country, is playing an instrumental role
in the forging of new alliances between government and interested
parties, including vital non-profit contributors.
AGATE increases the availability of light aircraft to more
people, in more weather, to more places.
The AGATE Consortium is a unique partnership between government,
industry, and academia established to develop new ways of reviving
the troubled general aviation industry. The partnership is the
product of two years of government-industry collaboration. The
consortium, comprised of representatives from each partnership
sector, has been formed to give the revitalization effort formal
structure. It will also leverage and focus resources for higher
risk efforts with higher payoffs.
The Decline of General Aviation
General aviation (GA) - all flying except the military services
and commercial airlines-has fallen from its position of economic
prominence in the late 1970s to record lows today. American GA
aircraft production numbers are down from 18,000 in 1978 to 954 as
recently as 1993 (an all-time low).
The average general aviation aircraft flying today is about 30
years old. Flight deck technologies currently in use, date back as
late as the 1950s, and piston propulsion technologies have remained
unchanged for the past 40 years.
Regulatory restrictions and liability claims have also taken
their toll, driving up prices and causing some businesses to file
for bankruptcy. American GA manufacturers have spent $3 billion
over the past 15 years on product liability claims alone.
The Prescription for Change
Approximately 70 U.S. aviation-related organizations and
companies including NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA), private industry, academia, and non-profit organizations are
striving to reverse these negative trends. Together, this
consortium will work to develop safer, more affordable aircraft and
user-friendly flight systems that promise to improve pilot training
and simplify operations in and near congested airports.
A significant first step toward an effective partnership was
taken in the spring of 1995, with the first meeting of the AGATE
(Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments) consortium. The
consortium is directed by the head of the general aviation office
at the NASA Langley Research Center, Dr. Bruce A. Holmes. Langley
has been designated as the lead NASA research center for the
general aviation program.
The AGATE consortium consists of three categories of members
from 31 states, 40 principal members from industry, 6 associate
members from industry and universities, and 30 supporting members
from universities, industry and non-profit organizations. A total
of 10 universities have joined AGATE. It is one of the larger
membership consortia in the United States.
The purpose of AGATE is to enable market growth for inter-city
transportation in small aircraft. AGATE aims to make single-pilot,
light airplanes more safe, affordable and available as a viable
part of the nation's transportation system. AGATE targets trips of
150 to 700 miles - round trips that are too far to complete in a
day and too short to efficiently use the hub-and-spoke system.
Next-generation general aviation cockpit with single leverpower
control. The system will utilize a computer that provides
up-to-date weather reports, the latest in airways and facilities
information, and map displays that point out restricted areas,
terrain hazards, airports, and airspace conditions.
The consortium resulted from a meeting between NASA
administrator Daniel S. Goldin and industry representatives at the
Experimental Aircraft Association Convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin,
in AGATE management, as a joint government-industry effort, was
initiated in response to the Clinton Administration and Congress'
commitment to "reinventing government." The AGATE members share
resources and risks to make the market "pie" bigger for everyone.
Leadership is also shared. Costs are shared 50/50 between
government and industry. The focus is on commercializing advanced
concepts through joint ventures in order to produce greater
76 Members in 31 States
The forming of the consortium is also welcomed by the
FAA."General aviation is an integral part of the air traffic system
architecture. AGATE is in the right place at the right time to
support modernization of the system for GA," said Dr. George F.
Donohue, FAA associate administrator for research and systems
The consortium operates under a unique Space Act process called
the Joint Sponsored Research Agree ment (JSRA). Research conducted
under a JSRA eliminates many of the burdensome and time-consuming
operations of the federal acquisition regulations. The consortium,
according to Holmes, is unique in the sense that it serves as a
"blueprint" to map out the GA revitalization effort. It provides
industry with more flexibility and gives it the opportunity to take
greater risks with higher payoff, faster speed of technology
transfer, control of proprietary and shared technologies, and
reduced cost and more efficient use of scarce research and
Map showing nationwide locations of principal AGATE
AGATE Aims and Objectives
AGATE promises to foster revenue growth and job creation in the
areas of manufacturing, sales, training, service, support and
operations industries within the U.S. small airport infrastructure.
The program focuses on the development of new GA technologies
including bad weather flight and landing systems, complete with
graphic displays of weather and guidance information; emergency
coping and avoidance measures that use on-board systems to support
decision-making; traffic avoidance systems; systems that reduce the
flight planning workload and enhance passenger safety; and systems
designed to improve passenger comfort, aircraft performance and
efficiency. The success of AGATE will be measured in terms of
increases in pilot population, flight hours, airport utlilization
and new aircraft deliveries.
An Olympic Challenge
The 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta offer a rare opportunity to
evaluate technologies being developed as part of AGATE and, in the
process, help transport goods and provide public safety services by
helicopter during the July 19 through August 4 Games.
AGATE consortium members are contributing to a
government-industry initiative known as the Atlanta Short-haul
Transportation System (ASTS), (now called Operation Heli-Star). The
ASTS program is responsible for fostering both air and ground
transportation during the Olympics and integrating the two into one
efficient transportation system.
Air traffic managers monitor AGATE-equipped helicopters over
Atlanta during the 1996 Centennial Olympic Summer Games for the
safe and efficient transport of high-value cargo and security,
emergency, and safety personnel.
AGATE Free-Flight operating environment increases airspace and
airport access, safety, and all weather reliability.
AGATE computer-based training devices save time and cost for
instrument flight proficiency.
AGATE is providing the special airborne equipment and ground
monitoring stations that enable the ASTS program to operate safely
and efficiently. AGATE's participation in the Atlanta Olympics is
managed by the AGATE flight systems industry team led by NASA
Langley Research Center.
Up to 50 helicopters equipped with AGATE-designed avionics will
participate, proving communications, navigation and surveillance
concepts, some integrated in flight for the first time. It is
expected that more than 1,400 hours of flight data on operational
use and human factors will be collected during the Olympic
Most of the critical flight operations will be conducted in
"uncontrolled" air space outside Atlanta's radar coverage area,
hence the need for predetermined flight pathways. While flying over
concrete highways on the ground, selected helicopters will fly
electronic "highways in the sky," shown on an onboard computerized
map of the Atlanta area. The composite image will be generated on
the helicopter using an onboard database and replicated on ground
consoles. The pilot sees GPS-based position updates provided via
digital radio data links.
This technology effort will aid participating pilots in the safe
and efficient conduct of their missions and additionally benefit
ground personnel by indicating the precise location of aircraft to
facilitate their timely deployment to satisfy high priority
transportation and emergency response needs during the
Powerful Help for AGATE
A new General Aviation program for FY '97 is expected to
compliment the efforts of the AGATE consortium. It is the NASA
General Aviation Propulsion (GAP) Program, led by the NASA Lewis
Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. This government-industry effort
will lead the way to modern, affordable, user-friendly propulsion
systems of the future.
NASA and Small Businesses Working Together
NASA recognizes the role that small, entrepreneurial general
aviation (GA) business can provide to the revitalization of GA in
the United States. NASA's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)
Program and Small Business Technology Transfer Pilot Program (STTR)
play a major supportive role to AGATE. The programs offer small
businesses the opportunity to transfer NASA and other government
funded research and technology into the marketplace. Projects that
lie within the NASA mission and that can be deployed and
commercialized in the marketplace compete for funding. The
SBIR/STTR GA programs seek technical innovations that support the
NASA GA mission, serve the nation's efforts in revitalizing the GA
industry, and lead to the economic benefits for the United States.
Since 1993, NASA has awarded 65 Phase I and 22 Phase II SBIR/STTR
awards related to GA in excess of $18 million to approximately 50
GA companies. The NASA GA office encourages companies that are
awarded NASA SBIR or STTR contracts to discuss partnering with the
AGATE consortium associate members.
An overview of the NASA SBIR/STTR programs and their most recent
solicitations are accessible on the WWW URL
http://nctn.oact.hq.nasa.gov/SBIR/SBIR.html. Lists of past winners
are also available at this site.
In presenting the awards for the first General Aviation Design
Competition held last year, NASA Administrator Dan Goldin cited the
value of engaging U.S. engineering students in "innovative design
education in general aviation" and encouraging universities to be
partners in creating "a small aircraft transport system for the
nation." NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration are joint
sponsors again this year for the annual general aviation design
competition for students and engineering universities. The contest
has cash awards and will challenge teams of undergraduate and
graduate students-working with faculty advisors-to design small
aircraft transportation systems, including aircraft, training, and
airspace related ground systems.
Teams should address design challenges in one or more of the
following six technical areas: integrated cockpit systems;
propulsion, noise and emissions; integrated design and
manufacturing; aerodynamics; operating infrastructure; and
unconventional designs such as air-cars. For purposes of the
competition, general aviation aircraft are defined as fixed-wing,
single-engine, single pilot, propeller-driven aircraft.
All design projects will receive critical evaluation and
feedback. Faculty and students are encouraged to plan now to
incorporate this design challenge into fall 1996 design classes and
projects. Involvement of industry advisors is encouraged, as is
participation of women and minorities on design teams.
The competition is coordinated for NASA and the FAA by the
Virginia Space Grant Consortium. New guidelines will be available
in August, 1996. Interested faculty and students may request
guidelines from: Virginia Space Grant Consortium, 2713-D Magruder
Blvd., Hampton, Va. 23666. Requests may be faxed to (757)
For more information about
NASA General Aviation topics,contact:
Public Mail Center
Mail Stop 146
NASA Langley Research Center
Hampton, VA 23681-0001
Phone: (757) 864-3293
For information about the AGATE Consortium Call or Write:
Mail Stop 261
NASA Langley Research Center
Hampton, VA 23681-0001
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