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Active Aeroelastic Wing

A traditional rollout ceremony is planned for March 27, 2002 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center to showcase a flight research project that is putting a 21st century twist on an old-fashioned aircraft control technology. The centerpiece of the program is a highly modified F/A-18A whose bright red, white and blue plumage only hints at its purpose — to explore a high-tech derivative of wing warping — a control technology pioneered by the Wright Brothers almost a century ago.

The Active Aeroelastic Wing (AAW) project is a jointly funded and managed program of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, Boeing's Phantom Works and NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center to investigate use of lighter-weight flexible wings for improved maneuverability of high-performance military aircraft.

The AAW project goal is to demonstrate aircraft roll control through aerodynamically induced wing twist on a full-scale aircraft. The test aircraft — an F/A-18A obtained from the U.S. Navy — has been modified with additional actuators, a split leading edge flap and thinner wing skins that will allow the outer wing panels to twist up to five degrees. The traditional wing control surfaces — trailing edge ailerons and the outboard leading edge flaps — are used to provide the aerodynamic force needed to twist or "warp" the wing. Project engineers hope to obtain roll performance at transonic and supersonic speeds close to that of production F/A-18s, without using the stabilators and with smaller control surface deflections.

AAW research could also enable thinner, higher aspect-ratio wings on future military and commercial aircraft, which could result in, reduced aerodynamic drag, allowing greater range or payload and improved fuel efficiency. Data obtained from flight tests at Dryden will provide benchmark design criteria as guidance for future aircraft designs.

For more on the Active Aeroelastic Wing project, click on "News Room" and then select Active Aeroelastic Wing or AAW from the Fact Sheets or Research Update buttons.

In a related activity to the Active Aeroelastic Wing rollout ceremony Wednesday, retired Air Force Flight Test Center flight test engineer Robert Hoey will present a colloquium at NASA Dryden that afternoon on his research into how birds maintain stable flight without vertical fins or rudders.

Hoey's presentation, entitled "Research on the Stability and Control of Soaring Birds Using Radio Controlled Models," is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. at the NASA Dryden auditorium. Hoey's presentation will summarize his 12 years of research on the subject. The source of the low levels of static stability will be discussed as well as birds' use of wing tip feathers as ailerons. Videos will show the development of four successful radio-controlled bird models.