Search Langley


Text Size


August 2, 1997

Dwayne Brown

Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

Phone: 202-358-1726

Keith Henry

NASA Langley Research Center

Phone: 757-864-6120

Lori Rachul

NASA Lewis Research Center

Phone: 216-433-8806

Les Dorr

FAA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

Phone: 202-267-3461



Three years after the government and the U.S. light plane industry made a pact to revitalize general aviation in this country, leaders of the Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiment (AGATE) Alliance are reporting impressive progress. AGATE partners are working to make airplanes as easy to use as cars.

"These advances were made possible by direct investments in new technologies for general aviation and by indirect investments in for 'free flight' and aviation safety," said Dr. Robert Whitehead, NASA's associate administrator for aeronautics.

"The technology programs that these investments fund support NASA's vision for a small aircraft transportation system that brings safe, affordable and convenient personal air transportation to far more of America's population," he added.

Whitehead's comments were made at a joint NASA, FAA and U.S. industry news briefing held today at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) annual Fly-In and Convention, Oshkosh, WI. Other briefing participants included Guy Gardner, FAA associate administrator for regulation and certification.

The following AGATE program highlights were addressed:


The Federal Aviation Administration has selected a team led by Embry Riddle Aeronautical University to develop a revolutionary training curriculum that could cut the cost of obtaining an instrument rating for non-pilots by as much as 25 percent. The team will also develop learning modules for glass cockpit multi-function displays and single-lever power control systems.

In the next few years, these products will be integrated into training methods for the complete AGATE glass cockpit. The products will be of value in preparing pilots for the FAA's planned Flight 2000 "free flight" demonstration in Hawaii and Alaska aimed at giving pilots more freedom to determine their own routing.

Project cost will be evenly split between government and industry. NASA is funding the government's $1.5 million share the first year, while the FAA plans to fund the government's share the remaining years of the effort.

Team members include Advanced Creations, Inc., Dayton, OH; Cessna Aircraft Company, Wichita, KS; Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, FL; Jeppesen Sanderson, Englewood, CO; and Ratheon Aircraft, KS. Agreements are being negotiated with other potential members.


Single lever power control (SLPC) works much like the accelerator pedal in an automobile, by taking the complex system of control levers and gauges and replacing them with a single lever and single display.

The first successfully flown electronic single lever power control for air-cooled engines was onboard Aurora Flight Sciences' modified Cessna 02-A. Aurora's device took the three standard engine control levers - throttle, fuel-air mixture and propeller pitch angle - and had them performed by a computer referred to as a single channel full authority digital engine control (FADEC).

Aurora Flight Sciences, Manassas, VA, developed their power controller under NASA's Small Business Innovation Research Program. NASA Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio is managing the effort to develop guidelines, standards and certification methods for engine controls and diagnostics.

Cessna Aircraft will soon be flight testing their modified Cessna 182 RG with a mechanical single lever power control connecting the throttle with the propeller. A dual channel engine control is used to control the electronic ignition and fuel injection. This technology is being developed by the ten industry members of the Propulsion Sensors and Controls Work Package of AGATE.

Advantages of SLPC systems include increased engine performance and fuel efficiency while substantially reducing pilot workload.


A NASA Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) contractor successfully crash-tested a small airplane designed to protect occupants against fatal injuries using airbags and energy-absorbing composite structures.

Terry Engineering, Wichita, KS -- along with Cirrus Design Corp., Duluth, MN, and NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA -- has crash tested a total of four airplanes over a two-year period. The tests typically took place at about 60 mph impact speed into both earth and hard surfaces. The tests also successfully demonstrated an improved shoulder harness system and energy-absorbing seats.

Goal of the program was to apply the techniques which have been successfully applied in military helicopters, race cars and modern automobiles to improve the survivability in crashes of small composite airplanes. A further goal was to reduce injury severity in survivable crashes.

The program used a combination of analysis, subscale quasi-static testing and full scale crash testing to achieve these goals. In the final crash test, all of the crash dummies on board "survived" the crash, a first for general aviation crash tests.


John F. Sheehan, President of Business Development Systems, Inc., has been named as executive director of the newly established AGATE Alliance Association, Inc. (AAAI).

AAAI is a non-profit organization, established by the industry members of the Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments (AGATE) Alliance as a means for conducting administrative and managerial business. The organization was created by the AGATE Executive Council and located in Hampton, VA, to provide the AGATE Alliance with greater flexibility. AAAI also maintains the AGATE website at


An AGATE Alliance member company has successfully demonstrated a digital datalink radio using affordable technologies for retrofit as well as future general aviation aircraft.

The high bandwidth software-based digital radio, developed by NavRadio Corp., Denver, CO, has the potential for quickly communicating weather, clearance, flight planning, maintenance and other data. It has enough capacity to bring national and regional aviation weather graphics into the cockpit of general aviation airplanes for display on computer screens. Datalink radios may help to reduce weather-related general aviation accidents, the leading cause of light plane fatalities today.

Datalink radio technology is expected to be available commercially within the next 24 months. The technology is expected to play a key role in enabling the FAA's "free flight" concept for greater flexibility in user-preferred flight routings.


A propeller made of space-age composite materials is being hailed as the first major improvement in fixed-pitch propellers for light planes since the 1930's. The propeller, an advanced "quasi-constant speed" propeller, permits a fixed-pitch propeller to perform like a variable-pitch propeller but without the complexity of a variable-pitch propeller.

As part of its work in the AGATE Integrated Design & Manufacturing Work Package, Global Aircraft, Starkville, MS, took advantage of modern aerodynamic technology and advanced composite structural processes to design and develop a composite quasi-constant speed propeller suitable for a typical 150-180 hp general aviation engine.

The propeller will automatically change pitch by flexure of the propeller blade rather than mechanical rotation of the blade shank. This technology makes it possible to develop a propeller that is both more efficient and quieter than current metal propellers.

Production of the propeller is anticipated to begin in September.

- End -

- end -

text-only version of this release