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March 21, 2002

Release: 02-16

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A traditional rollout ceremony planned for March 27 at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center will showcase a flight research project that is putting a 21st century twist on an old-fashioned aircraft control technology—essentially going "back to the future." The centerpiece of the program is a highly modified F/A-18A that will explore a high-tech derivative of wing warping, a control technology pioneered by the Wright Brothers almost a century ago.

Active Aeroelastic Wing — or AAW — 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 deflecting the horizontal tails and with smaller control surface movements.

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.

Following extensive systems tests and simulation, first-phase parameter identification flight tests are scheduled to begin at mid-year.


Note to Editors: AAW rollout ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. March 27 at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. Featured speakers include Dryden center director Kevin Petersen, Maj. Gen. Paul Nielsen, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory, and Pamela Drew, vice president, engineering and information technology, Boeing Phantom Works. Interview opportunities with AAW project personnel will be available after the 45-minute ceremony.

Media representatives planning to attend the formal unveiling should contact the NASA Dryden public affairs office at (661) 276-2665 or (661) 276-3449 by noon March 26. Media representatives must be U.S. citizens, and furnish the following information: media affiliation, city of birth, date of birth, driver's license and the last six digits of their social security numbers.

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