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Kathy Barnstorff
Office: (757) 864-9886/Cellular: (757) 344-8511

RELEASE NO. 03-037

June 3, 2003


NASA honors innovations with special awards

A technology that could help reduce turbulence-related injuries and make airline passengers and crews safer and more comfortable will be recognized by NASA at a national aerospace conference next week.

A list of NASA research advances for the year 2002 singled out that project and a number of other innovations developed at NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.


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The Turbulence Prediction and Warning System or TPAWS has won the  "Revolutionize Aviation Award" to be handed out at the Turning Goals into Reality 2003 Conference by the NASA Office of Aerospace Technology. TPAWS is an enhanced turbulence detection radar system, designed to predict turbulence associated with stormy weather.

A NASA research aircraft, based at Langley, went searching for thunderstorms over an eight-week period. The 757 Airborne Research Integrated Experiments System (ARIES) was equipped with the experimental radar system which detects atmospheric turbulence by measuring the motions of the moisture in the air.

To see how well the TPAWS performed, the 757 and its crew had to find the kind of bumpy weather most airline passengers find uncomfortable. ARIES flew within a safe distance of storms, so researchers could experience the turbulence and compare what the radar predicted versus what the plane encountered.

The flight tests showed the system did it was designed to do. It detected turbulence not seen by the plane’s conventional weather radar.

Langley engineers also received honors for three other projects: Synthetic Vision research, an airborne technology to reduce delays and high-tech foam creation.

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Synthetic Vision Systems would address the single largest contributing factor in fatal worldwide airline and general aviation crashes: limited visibility.  NASA engineers are developing an advanced cockpit display that will give pilots a clear 3-dimensional electronic picture of the terrain outside, even at night and in bad weather.

To help determine what information is most effective for pilots Langley researchers on the Terrain Portrayal for Head-Down Displays Simulation and Flight Test Team created an effective low-cost simulator using mostly commercial off-the-shelf technology to show pilots their display concepts. Then NASA equipped a single-engine Cessna 206 with an experimental Synthetic Vision system to test pilots in real-life scenarios.

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To help reduce delays at airports, another group of Langley engineers developed a computer-based aircraft tool to allow airplanes to more precisely space on approach and landing.

They evaluated the Advanced Terminal Area Approach Spacing system using the NASA 757 and two other specially equipped airplanes at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.

The demonstration confirmed the concept, that if planes can maintain precise spacing, more will be able to land on time especially during high demand periods like bad weather.

Finally, Langley’s developments in materials are expected to make spacecraft lighter in the future.  One of those substances is a high-tech foam called TEEK that can take many forms and be made into dozens of different products.


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Originally developed as a high-performance structural material for spacecraft, TEEK can be used as a superior flame retardant for fire protection, as heat or noise insulation or to reduce weight in structures. One thingthat makes TEEK especially useful is its ability to foam in place during installation and repair, greatly reducinglabor and material waste costs.

This year's Turning Goals into Reality Conference theme is " The Second Century of Flight: Technology Challenges and Opportunities." The conference, to be held in Williamsburg, Va., June 10-12, will focus on the technological challenges as well as the opportunities that lie ahead for the aerospace community in the second century of powered flight.

For more information about the Turning Goals into Reality 2003 conference, please check the Internet at:



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