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R. Dale Reed R. Dale Reed
NASA Photo
R. Dale Reed

R. Dale Reed was a NASA aeronautics researcher who pioneered lifting body aircraft and remotely piloted research aircraft programs at Dryden. He worked on numerous research programs during his nearly 52-year career at Dryden.

The lifting body program grew out of Reed's confidence that a wingless, low lift-to-drag aircraft could serve as an orbiting vehicle equipped to re-enter Earth's atmosphere and land safely. In the lifting body concept, the entire vehicle becomes a controllable airfoil, eliminating the need for wings. With backing from Paul Bikle, then director of the Flight Research Center, Reed was a prime mover in development of the prototype lightweight M2-F1 lifting body that flew successfully in 1963. The success of the unpowered M2-F1 led to development of the rocket-powered lifting bodies, such as the M2-F2 and M2-F3, HL-10, and the Air Force X-24A and X-24B. Reed's lifting body research provided guidance in the design of the space shuttle.

Reed's use of model drone airplanes for flight research led to the Remotely Piloted Research Vehicle program. In place of the model aircraft operator's simple switch console, Reed substituted an actual ground-based cockpit containing all the flight instruments and sensors of a fully equipped airplane. Using a radio uplink, Reed tested his concept with the Hyper III, the first RPRV to have a test pilot fully in the loop. He carried the concept further with the PA-30 and three-eighths-scale F-l5. Early in his career, Reed was responsible for aerodynamics loads measurements on the early X-series research aircraft as well as aerodynamics heating measurements on the X-15 rocket plane.

Reed retired in 1985, but returned as a contract aerospace engineer to work on the X-33, X-36 and X-38 research vehicles, two of which featured lifting body configurations. In all, Reed managed 19 projects and designed a dozen aircraft during his career.

He died March 18, 2005, in San Diego.