NASA has contributed to the development of a new class of aircraft called Very Light Jets (VLJs). Some of the new jets are making debut public flights at AirVenture 2005, the Experimental Aircraft Association's fly-in at Oshkosh, Wisc.
Honda R&D Americas, Inc., Greensboro, N.C., tested new designs at the National Transonic Facility (NTF) at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va. The tests provided data for engineers designing the experimental HondaJet. It's an experimental VLJ that made its debut at the air show today.
Honda used the unique capabilities of the NTF to assess aspects of high-speed performance prior to flight tests. "It was a win-win situation for both of us," said NTE manager Allen Kilgore. "They got good data, and we got the chance to demonstrate the new high-pressure air capability of our wind tunnel."
NASA also worked with Eclipse Aviation to develop aluminum structures for their jet, the Eclipse 500. A pioneer in VLJ development, the Eclipse 500 is making its first public flight demonstrations at Oshkosh.
VLJs and thousands of air travelers may benefit from NASA research into a Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS). Last month, the SATS public-private partnership, which includes NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Consortium for Aviation Mobility, demonstrated technologies and operating capabilities that will allow advanced small planes to fly safely and reliably into small community airports.
The demonstration, at the Danville Regional Airport, Danville, Va. was the culmination of a five-year project led by a research team based at Langley. It may have marked the start of a more personalized form of point-to-point air travel.
SATS technologies and operating capabilities enhance pilot situational awareness; provides pilots notification about potentially hazardous terrain, weather; and information about how to fit into the air traffic flow. SATS technologies may allow higher volume operations at airports that don’t have control towers or terminal radar. Pilots will be able to land safely in low visibility at minimally equipped airports. SATS aircraft could eventually integrate seamlessly into the complex national airspace.
The SATS project is part of the Airspace Systems Program of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. The Directorate is advancing NASA's long tradition of aviation research and developing technologies to make planes and airspace safer, quieter and more efficient.
The NTF wind tunnel was used to test Honda's 1/9th scale full-span VLJ model. The model's size allowed duplication of full-scale flight conditions using NTF's recently expanded and less expensive air mode of operation. The NTF wind tunnel provided critical and essential tests to accurately assess the aerodynamic characteristics of the HondaJet's unusual configuration.
The NTF is a pressurized, cryogenic wind tunnel able to duplicate characteristics of full-scale transport configurations on sub-scale wind tunnel models. The cryogenic mode uses liquid nitrogen gas, but the tunnel can also use air to gather data.
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