Category The Apollo of aeronautics

Ld and New. Engines at Lewis


an American World Airways was for a time the most influential airline organization and known quite simply as the airline that “taught the world to fly”1 Begun in the late 1920s through a legendary partnership between Juan Trippe and Charles Lindbergh, it sought to pro­mote international commercial air transport in the United States. It was widely successful and through the early 1970s led the world in the com­mercial transport industry. Because of the increasing price of oil, however, the United State’s largest airline suffered a major setback in 1973, and the company was driven to the edge of bankruptcy in 19743 L. H. Allen, its vice president and chief engineer, said that when “fuel prices for Pan Am. .. reached a staggering 40 cents per gallon,” fuel efficiency then ranked as the “single most important factor in aircraft operations today.”[173] [174] [175] Allen tried to offset these devastating forces by working with NASA’s Lewis Research Center and its Aircraft Energy Efficiency (ACEE) program to devise new ways to make aircraft engines more efficient.

Like the Langley Research Center, NASA’s Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, OH. operated its own specialty fuel-efficiency research programs under ACEE. The first of these propulsion projects. Engine Component Improvement (ECI)—with Pan Am serving as one of its chief

Lewie Research Center NASA


Ld and New. Engines at Lewis

The three ACEE projects at Lewis Research Center. (NASA Glenn Research Center [NASA GRCJ.)

independent evaluators and main program supporter—focused on improv­ing existing turbofan engines through the redesign of selected engine com­ponents that were most prone to wear.[176] An attempt to “cure sick engines,” it was the least technically challenging of the three Lewis ACEE projects and aimed for a 5-percent improvement in fuel efficiency. The second project, the Energy Efficient Engine (E3), involved building “a brand new engine from scratch” and offered a far greater payoff—a 10- to 15-percent increase in fuel efficiency.[177] These two engine projects became Lewis’s most significant contribution to improving fuel efficiency for the Nation’s commercial aircraft. (A third Lewis project, the Advanced Turboprop, the most controversial of all, will be addressed in a later chapter.)

While Pan Am’s collaboration on ACEE was successful, it was not enough to save the company, which declared bankruptcy in January 1991.

Ld and New. Engines at Lewis

Langley engineers ai the Structural Research Laboratory designing the NACA’s new engine lab in Cleveland. Among those pictured are: Addison Rothrock. George Darchuck, Harold Friedman (at the front and center with his back to the camera), and Nick Nahigyan (across table from Friedman) (April 21.1941). (NASA Glenn Research Center [NASAGRC].)

The reason most often cited for its demise, according to historian William Leary, is that it was never able to recover from the ‘’the world oil crisis.”[178]

From Engines to Energy—Lewis Research Center

Established during World War II as an aircraft engine research laboratory, Lewis became the third laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, following Langley and Ames.

From Engines to Energy—Lewis Research Center

Bruce Luiulin in 1960 at the Rocket Laboratory. Lundin investigated heat transfer and worked to improve the performance of World War II aircraft engines. From 1969 to 1977. he was Director of the Lewis Research Center. (NASA Glenn Research Center (NASA GRC|.)

Lewis engineers pursued aircraft engine research in the national interest —often over the objections of the engine companies, who per­ceived the Government as interfering w ith the normal forces of supply and demand. During the early years of the Cold War. the laboratory participated in engine research and testing to assist the engine companies in developing the turbojet engine. After the launch of Sputnik, the laboratory focused on a new national priority—rocket propulsion research and development. All work on air-breathing engines ceased for nearly 10 years. The return to air­craft engine research coincided with drastic reductions in staff, mandated by cuts in NASA’s large-scale space programs. The mass exodus of nearly 800 personnel in 1972 sparked an effort to redefine the Center’s mission and find new sources of funding. One year later, the Nixon Administration reduced the NASA budget by $200 million. This coincided with OPEC’s oil embargo and galvanized the Center’s Director, Bruce Lundin, to look for ways to use its propulsion expertise to help solve the energy crisis* [179] [180]

From Engines to Energy—Lewis Research Center

Lewis Research Center in 1968. (NASA Glenn Research Center (NASA GRC|.)

Lewis engineers were exploring a variety of alternative energy pro­grams, and Virginia Dawson characterized its new focus as “Lewis turns earthward.” These efforts began in the early 1970s with the NASA Volunteer Air Conservation Committee, headed by Louis Rosenblum and J. Stuart Fordyce. They were inspired by the tragic symbol of a polluted Cleveland, which became a national joke after the literal burning of its Cuyahoga River. Then Robert Hibbard began a graduate seminar with stu­dents from area universities, which focused on ways to develop cleaner engines and other environmental issues.4 In 1971, Lewis established its Environmental Research Office, set up monitoring stations throughout the city, and worked with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to study water pollution in Lake Erie. In the early 1970s, Lewis engi­neers also initiated research using its nuclear test reactor at Plum Brook Station, irradiating over 1,000 samples per year for the EPA.[181] [182] According to Dawson, emerging from these programs “were the seeds from which an

From Engines to Energy—Lewis Research Center

Windmill project conducted by Lewis Research Center (September 3. 1975). (NASA Glenn Research Center (NASA GRCJ.)

entirely new effort would grow”[183] These efforts were soon followed by investigations into alternative energy sources—wind, solar, and electric.

In 1974, Lewis received SI.5 million for a wind-energy program from the National Science Foundation and the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA). As a result, the Lewis-managed Plum Brook Station eventually built experimental windmills for research. With 2 massive 62-foot propeller blades, the first 125-foot windmill was capable of generating 100 kilowatts. At the time, it was the second largest windmill ever constructed in the United States. One engineer who worked on the Lewis windmills predicted that the country would soon see "hun­dreds of thousands of windmills generating electricity across the United States.”[184] The most impressive of those built by Lewis engineers w’as a commercial wind turbine generator in Hawaii in 1988. which was then the world’s largest.[185]

A program in solar cell technology development followed on the windmill project’s heels, along with increasing funding for various energy-related programs by ERDA and its successor, the Department of Energy.[186] Though Lewis lost out on a bid for a $35-million Federal solar research institute, its growing expertise in alternative energy was becom­ing well known. In 1978, Lewis’s engineers were consulted in building the world’s first solar-power system for a community —the 96 residents of the Papago Indian village about 100 miles northwest of Tucson. Louis Rosenblum designed the solar array and helped install it. His system replaced the Papago tribe’s kerosene lighting in 16 homes, a church, and a tribal feast house.[187] [188]

The creation of an electric automobile was another Lewis project. Known as the Hybrid Vehicle Project, its engineers researched several experimental concepts to achieve increased fuel efficiency and decreased emissions and address a growing national need caused by its energy depen­dence.1,1 These primarily electric vehicles were charged by an outside source. Lewis engineers completed their initial plan in 1975 and entered discussions with ERDA about how and when to begin research. One Washington Post article speculated that the Center’s work “could make electric vehicles practical and reduce U. S. dependence on foreign oil.”[189]

From Engines to Energy—Lewis Research Center

Electric urban vehicle at Lewis Research Center. (NASA Glenn Research Center (NASA GRC(.)

The changing focus of the Center’s activities prompted rumors— emphatically denied—that it would become part of the ERDA. This even resulted in one report that asked “Should the Agency Continue an Aeronautical Propulsion Program at Lewis?”[190] [191] The Lewis engineers responded by unionizing, and in December 1974, instead of joining the American Federation of Government Employees, they created the new Engineers and Scientists Association and became part of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers. They also looked for a way to return to the roots and the expertise of the Center—engine research. They found their major new mission in the growing national need to develop more efficient engines for commercial aircraft. The new emphasis on energy-efficient aircraft, unlike the ERDA projects, promised to keep Lewis firmly in NASA’s fold.14 Moreover, it brought high visibil­ity to the aeronautics side of NASA, long overshadow ed by the enormous budgets and prestige of the space program.

From 1973 to 1976, according to Donald Nored. the head of the Lewis ACEE programs, “there was much action at Lewis, at Headquarters, and within the propulsion industry addressing fuel conservation,”[192] Preliminary studies explored technology concepts that improved efficiency. At the time, Nored remembered, a strong national need fostered a climate that was favor­able and aggressive in its support of research. Concepts, ideas, and programs were plentiful, but Nored explained that the genesis of many of the origi­nal ideas was blurred because of the frequent interaction and “synergism in the activities.” Nonetheless, the period from 1973 to 1976 demonstrates the early articulation of ideas that eventually led to Lewis’s three main proj­ects in the ACEE program—Advanced Turboprops, a new energy-efficient engine, and engine performance improvements and deterioration studies.

National need prompted Lewis engineers to begin their fuel efficiency studies 3 years before ACEE’s inception. In April 1973.6 months before the OPEC oil embargo, the Energy Trends and Alternative Fuels study began at NASA Headquarters, with Lewis and Ames assisting. The goal was to iden­tify alternative fuel studies and project fuel usage requirements in the future. Abe Silverstein, Lewis’s former powerful Director, chaired the Alternative Aircraft Fuels Committee. By the end of the year, discussions centered on recommending programs more specifically for aircraft fuel conservation and conventional and unconventional modifications to aircraft engines.

In January 1974, a steering committee performed design studies, explored new fuel-conservation technologies, and suggested modifica­tion to existing engines. Its work concluded I month later, with a plan to establish an Energy-Conservative Aircraft Propulsion Technology pro­gram. an ambitious, 9-year plan, accompanied by a funding request of SI36 million. By April of that year, cost-benefit analyses were presented to Headquarters. A main component of the project was a new energy-effi­cient engine, which some speculated would be 30 percent more efficient than existing engines and could possibly be ready for service by 1985. This project eventually evolved into the Energy Efficient Engine program.

The Advanced Turboprop had its origins in an American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) workshop in March 1974. After much discussion, the participants agreed that a 15-percent fuel savings was possible. The Engine Component Improvement program traced its beginnings to summer 1974, when Lewis engineers awarded a contract to American Airlines, allowing them to examine the airlines’ records to begin looking at how its JT8D and JT3D engines deteriorated over time. These records provided early clues as to the extent and cause of the performance decline of the engines. Pratt & Whitney also entered into a contract with Lewis to investigate similar issues and in January 1975 offered its findings on performance deterioration for its current engines. It was at this time that the Kramer Committee took the lead in coordinating NASA’s efforts in air­craft fuel conservation, working to establish one central program to orga­nize these activities. Kramer, according to Nored, was “very successful in guidance of the program. . . through the various Headquarters/OMB/ industry advisory board pitfalls that can squelch a new start.’”1 The ACEE program was underway, and Lewis engineers were anxious and enthusias­tic about their three aircraft propulsion projects.

Curing Sick Engines—Engine Component Improvement

It was Raymond Colladay’s responsibility to establish the three ACEE propulsion projects at Lewis Research Center. Having started his career at Lewis in 1969. he moved to NASA Headquarters in 1979 to become the Deputy Associate Administrator of the Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology, and then head of DARPA in 1985. Colladay recalled that, at the time he was helping to develop the ACEE program, it was an easy sell to Congress. “The general tenor of Congress and the country as a whole was focused on energy efficiency.” and “therefore the Congress was pretty receptive to NASA trying to do what it could in research for energy effi­ciency." The biggest hurdle was the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Ideologically, its concern was the proper role of Government in a research and development enterprise. The OMB did not want NASA developing applications for the aircraft industry. While this was not a problem for the majority of the ACEE programs, Colladay said, “the area that caused them the greatest concern was the ECI program because it was component improvements in existing engines, existing aircraft engines.”[193] [194]

Curing Sick Engines—Engine Component Improvement

Three of the engines studied in the Engine Component Improvement (ECI) project. The EC1 engineers’ mission was to improve various components on existing engines that were most likely to wear and decrease fuel efficiency. (NASA Glenn Research Center [NASA GRC].)

The Engine Component Improvement project was unique among all the ACEE programs in that it was expected to return quick results. While other projects looked to incorporate fuel savings advances over 10 to 15 years, ECI aimed to incorporate new technologies within 5 years. The project did not call for revolutionary advances or fundamental changes to existing airplanes. Instead, the mission of the ECI engineers was to improve the components on existing engines that were most likely to wear and decrease fuel efficiency. Pratt & Whitney Aircraft and General Electric manufactured most of the commercial aircraft engines in the United States in the 1970s, and both of these companies collaborated closely with Lewis Research Center on the ACEE project. According to the ECI statement of work, written in December 1976. the main objectives of the program were to “(1) develop performance improvement and retention concepts which will be incorporated into new production of the existing engines by the 1980-1982 time period and which would have a fuel savings goal of 5 percent over the life of these engines, and (2) to provide additional technology which can be used to minimize the performance degradation of current and future engines."25

In 1976, four jet engines that were responsible for powering all com­mercial aviation in the United States. These engines consumed 10-billion gallons of fuel per year.-4 The ECI project focused specifically on devel­oping fuel-saving techniques for the JT9D, JT8D, and CF6 engines. It ignored the JT3D. the fourth major engine, because most industry ana­lysts believed it would not be produced in the future. Introduced in 1964, the Pratt & Whitney JT8D engine was a “phenomenal success” and at its height of popularity flew 12.000 aircraft of different types.25 Two years later, Pratt & Whitney introduced the JT9D engine, often referred to as opening a “new era in commercial aviation ” because it was the first high-bypass engine to power a wide-body aircraft. It was first installed on the Boeing 747 Jumbo Jet. and Pan American placed the first order for this new jet in April 1966.26 The CF6, a General Electric engine first introduced in 1971, was used on the DC-10 and became the cornerstone of its wide-body engine business for more than 30 years.

The organizations involved in the ECI program read like a who’s who of the airlines industry in America at the time. Beginning in February 1977, NASA awarded the two major contracts to General Electric and Pratt & Whitney.27 Because these companies stood to increase their sales significantly thanks to these NASA advances, a cost recoupment clause was included in their contracts. They were to pay to the U. S. Treasury a 10-percent return on every sale of one of these improved engine compo­nents. which was how the ACEE administrators persuaded the OMB to let [195] [196] [197] [198] [199]

Curing Sick Engines—Engine Component Improvement

Pan Am-Boeing 747 flying in 1975. It was one of the main types of aircraft used to test and incorporate ACEE fuel-saving technology. (NASA Glenn Research Center [NASA GRC).)

them go ahead with the ECI project. Every engine that went into active service and had a component traceable to ECI triggered this recoupment. Colladay recalled, ‘’It was a bigger headache than any money it derived, and NASA never saw the money anyway, it went into the Treasury."211

General Electric and Pratt & Whitney then established subcontracts with American Airlines. Trans World Airlines, United Airlines. Douglas Aircraft, and Boeing. In addition. Lew is Research Center also contracted with Pan American (for an international route analysis) and Eastern Airlines (for domestic analysis of the technology ) to review’ the program independently and provide ongoing assessments for 30 months.[200] [201] All of these contracts called for three specific tasks: feasibility analysis, development and evalu­ation in ground test facilities, and in-service and flight-testing. According to Colladay, the reason for the inclusion of essentially all the major airlines

in the United States was to “generate a broad base of support” and ensure the highest probability that the ECI technology would be rapidly retrolitted into existing engines or incorporated into new engine builds.10

Although getting this broad base of support was important, it did generate some problems—most notably in the relationship between General Electric and Pratt & Whitney. Though within the ECI program they worked together with NASA, in the real world. General Electric and Pratt & Whitney were fierce competitors. Theirs was a historic rivalry. After World War II. Pratt & Whitney dominated in the commercial air­craft engine market, while General Electric was more closely aligned with the military. However, their spheres of influence shifted over time, and by 1977, Pratt & Whitney began losing ground to General Electric in the commercial market. This set the stage, in the early 1980s, for what some have called the "great engine war” between the two companies.4

Because of this, the collaboration was sometimes difficult. Pratt & Whitney thought there were “major problem areas” with their relationship. Nored. head of the NASA Energy Conservative Engines Office, admitted that the office was having “extreme difficulty" with Pratt & Whitney and said. “I think they are suffering a corporate reaction to the increasing com­petition by GE (JT9D vs. CF6).” Both of these engines were scheduled to be improved within ECI. Nored thought the company was nervous about the Freedom of Information Act and as a result wanted to classify all of its research as proprietary. Pratt & Whitney also, in his opinion, sought more and more governmental support to “augment their technology in ways that can influence immediate sales.” In accepting this assistance, the company had to learn how to work in the much more open governmental research atmosphere, and sometimes this included being bedmates with chief rivals. For example, General Electric had expressed no concerns about sharing pro­prietary information, and Nored concluded that Pratt & Whitney needed to “bite the bullet.”’- The program continued despite its often-stated concerns. [202] [203] [204]

There were two main thrusts to EC1 —Performance Improvement and Engine Diagnostics. The Performance Improvement section began with a feasibility study to examine a variety of concepts and to prove which one might offer the highest fuel-savings results for the airlines industry. The study looked at the development of an analytical procedure to deter­mine possible concepts, the identification and categorization of concepts, preliminary concept screening, and detailed concept screening. Engineers evaluated 95 concepts for the Pratt & Whitney engines and another 58 concepts for the General Electric engine. The job of the airline industry was to "assess the desirability and practicality of each concept."3′ The con­cepts were evaluated on two main criteria—technical and economic fac­tors. Technical factors included performance, weight, maintenance, fuel – savings potential, material compatibility, development time, and technical risk, while economic factors included fuel prices, engine cost, production levels, operating costs, return on investment, and life expectancy. Using these criteria, the 153 initial concepts were quickly reduced to 18 and 29, respectively. They were then reviewed in greater detail by NASA and the airlines, which identified 16 concepts that could meet their goals.

The content of these projects can be broken into several important areas. The first was leak reduction. An aircraft engine is similar to an air pump in that it moves air from in front of it to the back. By adding energy to it, the speed of the air moving through the exhaust is faster than what originally came through the inlet. Any air leak in this system caused it to be inefficient, just like an air pump leak. ECI engineers looked for areas in which engine seals could be improved to reduce this leakage. A second major area for improvement was in aerodynamics: ECI engineers devel­oped improved designs of the compressor and turbines. A third area was ceramic coatings on components, which was important because it reduced the necessity of cooling holes and both increased efficiency and reduced manufacturing costs.

Specifically, the 16 projects, and their related engine types, were as follows. For the JT8D. they included an improved high-pressure turbine air seal, high-pressure turbine blade, and a trenched tip high-pressure compressor. JT9D improvements for the high-pressure turbine included a [205] ceramic outer seal, a thermal barrier coating, active clearance control, and new fan technology. CF6 improvements were a new fan, a front mount for the engine, a short core exhaust nozzle, improved aerodynamics for the high-pressure turbine, a roundness control for the turbine, and active clear­ance controls for the turbine. There were two other aircraft-related proj­ects: a nacelle drag reduction for the DC-9 and compressor bleed reduction for the DC-10. The ECI Performance Improvement program was signifi­cant thanks to its success after only a few’ years of research, testing, and development. According to Jeffrey Ethell,“By 1982 most of the improved components were flying and saving fuel, giving the companies involved a firm leg up in the commercial aircraft marketplace, w here they were being challenged by foreign competition."14

The Engine Diagnostics program focused on analyzing and testing the JT9D and CF6 engines.[206] [207] [208] Pan Am engineers considered this to be the “most significant work” of the ECI program. An often-used logo for the Engine Diagnostics program was an engine with a human face, frowning, tongue sticking out. and arms clasped over its midsection. A country doc­tor hunched over it, tools sticking out of his pockets, examining an x-ray machine, diagnosing a w ay to “cure the sick engine.” While just a carica­ture, it did simplistically convey the fundamental goals of this program. The engine “illnesses” were the performance losses they experienced as their flight hours increased. The “doctors” were the Lewis engineers, whose job was to determine the mechanical sources of these problems and recommend ways to “cure" the sick machines. Their recommendations could keep existing engines healthy and help to prevent the deterioration of future engines.3*

One known problem with these or any type of engines wfas that over time, various components begin to deteriorate because of operational stresses, which included combustors that w’arped because of continual fluctuation in temperatures from hot to cold, compressor blades whose tips w’ore down over time, seals that began to leak hot gases, and turbine blades eroding from high temperatures. Other types of damage could occur when foreign objects such as stones or dust entered the engines on the runway and caused dents, breaks, or scratches to the fan blades. The engines were durable and could typically tty for 10.000 hours before they needed major maintenance, but during that time, the engine slowly became less and less fuel efficient because of small degradations that did not compromise the safety of the aircraft. Furthermore, the major maintenance sessions never restored the engines to their original levels of fuel efficiency. Pan American engineers said that prior to the ECI Engine Diagnostics program, “engine deterioration had been largely a matter of educated guessing, speculation, and hand-waving.”” This deterioration became the focus of the Engine Diagnostics program, and engineers estimated that by preventing these wear-and-tear issues, aircraft would become more fuel efficient.

Engine Diagnostics engineers from NASA, General Electric, and Pratt & Whitney began their work by evaluating the existing data on perfor­mance deterioration from the airline industry and engine manufacturers. The data included in-flight recordings, ground-test data, and information on how frequently various parts were repaired and replaced. Additional data, needed on the JT9D and CF6. were obtained though special monitor­ing devices, as well as analysis gained from a complete teardown and eval­uation of the engines. Special ground tests were developed to experiment with short – and long-term performance deterioration. These ground tests helped engineers simulate operating conditions to determine the sources of component deterioration. From the data they collected, they identified certain components whose failure rates could be improved upon/1*

One concern, raised by Pratt & Whitney, was that the deterioration information on its engines was being used by its competitors. Its company slogan was “Dependable Engines," and extensive publications as to how they deteriorated over time was. in its opinion, damaging to its reputation; [209] [210] [211]

Specifically, the company had evidence that Rolls-Royce, a British engine competitor, used the ECI deterioration data from the JT9D and CF6 engines in its then-current marketing campaign, demonstrating the superiority of Rolls-Royce engines. A 1979 letter from Pratt & Whitney’s legal team to NASA expressed concerns that the ECI program would “adversely affect" its marketing and future sales potential. The team wanted NASA to change its dissemination policy for technical reports to protect the Pratt & Whitney “marketing position" for its engines.[212] NASA responded that this was an unintended consequence of the ECI program and the effort to improve engines for the United States airlines industry. Furthermore, according to NASA, Pratt & Whitney’s role in the program had been voluntary and had the “full backing and support of P&W management.” NASA officials had informed the companies at the outset that comparisons between the engines would be made, and both Pratt & Whitney and General Electric “realized the consequences of enter­ing into the program and accepted them.”[213]

The independent outside evaluations by Pan American and Eastern Airlines were an important part of the ECI project. The independent reports by Pan American World Airways are especially revealing. The reports were based upon 10 meetings held during the project in which NASA, General Electric, and Pratt & Whitney representatives summa­rized their work for the Pan America review committee. The first meet­ing, held at John F. Kennedy Airport in March 1977, was a get-acquainted session for the various participants to discuss early concepts, directions, and goals for the project.[214] By the sixth meeting, in September 1978, Pan American was expressing serious concerns, characterizing the program as “disappointing" and criticizing the ECI engineers for taking a “very con­servative approach," rather than a “considerably more aggressive" one. “We are also greatly concerned that the manufacturers appear to be losing sight of the basic objective of this program," Pan American concluded at the time.[215] By the end of the program. Pan American engineers saw significant areas of improvement and at one of the final reviews offered substantial praise to the program, saying, “In spite of what may have been interpreted as high critical comments during various review presentations”the pro­gram has resulted in “important knowledge” and was “quite successful.”[216] In fact, the ECI project was one of the more successful of the ACEE programs, for several reasons. The first reason was the speed with which improvements were incorporated onto commercial aircraft —many of the projects findings found their way into commercial aircraft engines before other ACEE programs even had their first test flights. John E. McAulay, the head of the ECI Performance Improvement project, presented the posi­tive results of the project’s work at the January 1980 Aerospace Sciences Meeting, just 3 years after the program began. While it “has already provided significant potential for reductions in the fuel consumed by the commercial air transport fleet,” he said he was optimistic that even greater savings were possible through their ongoing studies.[217] By March 1980. the ECI engineers had produced 20 technical papers, 21 contractor reports. 4 technical memo­randums, 6 conference publications, and 8 journal and magazine articles.[218]* Second, the organizations that benefited most from the project were very enthusiastic about the results when ECI ended. In 1980. Harry C. Stonecipher (General Electric vice president and general manger) wrote to John McCarthy (Director of Lewis Research Center) to highlight the program’s value to his company, writing that it generated a “wealth of knowledge” and that its main beneficiaries were the airline industry. He estimated the savings of this “invaluable” research at a reduction of 10 gallons of fuel for the CF6 engine for each hour of flight. Stonecipher concluded, “We at General Electric want you to be aware of the benefits this program has provided, and the tremendous potential for the years ahead.”[219]

Third, the ECI program helped to maintain the competitive advan­tage of the entire commercial aircraft industry. For example, in February 1980, Boeing executives approached NASA to ask if they could disclose results of the ECI program to foreign airlines, because in order to sell new American aircraft in the international marketplace, the company needed to show its more advanced understanding of engine deterioration and how to improve engine performance. NASA agreed with Boeing’s request and stated. “In order to meet the challenge presented by interna­tional competition, it is appropriate that the U. S. aircraft industry use the technology generated in the ECI program to maintain its dominant posi­tion in the marketplace.”4*As Roger Bilstein wrote, “Research results were so positive and so rapidly adaptable that new airliners in the early 1980s like the Boeing 767 and McDonnell Douglas MD-80 series used engines that incorporated many such innovations.”[220] [221] [222] Though the fuel-efficiency rewards were never intended to be as high as in other ACEE programs (including the Energy Efficient Engine), ECI was successful in achieving a significant fuel reduction of roughly 5 percent, exactly what its engineers projected at the onset of the program.

The Frontiers of Engine Technology — The Energy Efficient Engine

In the early 1980s. the aircraft industry had endured numerous difficulties, including reduced profitability, increasing fuel costs, higher worker wages, political pressures with deregulation, and increasing worldwide competi­tion. Many once-dominant airlines were fighting for their survival, includ­ing Pan Am. Pratt & Whitney and General Electric, two of the leading U. S. engine manufacturers, were “cutting each others’ throats, and prices,” and experiencing increasing difficulties competing in the world market against the British government-owned Rolls-Royce.30 But according to one 1983 report, despite these problems, the “airline industry in the years ahead

The Frontiers of Engine Technology — The Energy Efficient Engine

Model of the E* technology improvements. These included improved component aerodynamics, improved compressor loading, active clearance control, low emissions combustor, and higher-temperature materials. (NASA Glenn Research Center |NASAGRC].)

looks a bit rosier.” One major reason cited for this optimism was a “less noticed effort” that involved the redesign of the aircraft engine itself.[223] [224] This was another ACEE project managed by Lewis Research Center, known as the Energy Efficient Engine. As Forbes magazine reported, EJ was a "NASA success story.. . thoroughly overshadowed by the glamor­ous space programs.”’2

Given their intense competition. Pratt & Whitney and General Electric were strange bedfellows, but they continued this relationship in the Ei project. Each organization had ideas about how to improve fuel efficiency for aircraft engines, but neither was willing to accept the risk, in both time and money, to develop these ideas on its own. NASA stepped in to assume the majority of the risk, providing $90 million to each company, with a promise that each would invest $10 million of its own. This program had

The Frontiers of Engine Technology — The Energy Efficient Engine

GE Energy Efficient Engine (June 16.1983). (NASA Glenn Research Center |NASAGRC|.)

several main goals: to reduce fuel consumption by 12 percent, decrease operating costs by 5 percent, meet FAA noise regulations, and conform to proposed EPA emission standards. Additional goals included guidelines for minimum takeoff thrust and a safe and rugged engine with a 10-percent weight reduction.5′ The engines used for benchmarking fuel efficiency were the same ones used for the ECI studies—the Pratt & Whitney JT9D and the General Electric CF6. Also as in the ECI program, these two prime contractors worked with the airlines to discuss engine design options. These included Boeing. Douglas, and Lockheed. Eastern Airlines and Pan American served as additional advisers and contributed opera­tional experience.

The program was managed by Carl Ciepluch at Lewis (as well as Raymond Colladay for a time), Ray Bucy at General Electric, and W. B. Gardner at Pratt & Whitney. Bucy was extremely enthusiastic about this program, saying that the E’ program was “guiding the future of aircraft engines.”[225] [226] Fuel-efficient aircraft were very complex technological sys­tems that required extensive and costly research, he believed, but the rewards would be well worth the investment. Bucy hoped the resulting engine would save 1-million gallons of fuel per year for each aircraft fly­ing commercially. Gardner even thought that the program would surpass its expectations “beyond the program goal.”[227] [228]

That goal was to have a new turbofan engine ready for commercial use by the late 1980s or early 1990s. A turbojet derived its power and thrust entirely from the combustion and exhaust of its burning fuel.5* A turbofan is also a turbojet, but it has an extra set of rotating, propeller-like blades, positioned ahead of the engine core. The air from the fan goes partly through the engine core, and the remainder flows around the out­side the engine. The “bypass ratio” is the ratio of air flowing around the engine to the air flow ing through it. When this ratio is either 4 or 5 to 1. the engine is referred to as a “high-bypass engine.” The high-bypass turbofans were more efficient than were either the turbojets or the earlier low-bypass engines developed in the 1950s and 1960s. However, by the 1970s. the high-bypass engines promised greater potential for application to wide – body commercial aircraft, although one of their main problems was their environmental impact, in terms of noise and emissions.” The potential of the high-bypass turbofan engine was the Ei program’s main goal.

The idea for incorporating high-bypass engines into the existing com­mercial airline fleet began in 1974. Two investigations—the “Study of Turbofan Engines Designed for Low Energy Consumption." led by General Electric, and the “Study of Unconventional Aircraft Engines Designed for Low Energy Consumption," led by Pratt & Whitney—demonstrated a great deal of promise. Both studies suggested to NASA the importance of new high-bypass engines. But, as was so often the case, “the cost of such pro­grams. . . [was] enormous,” and the time required to accomplish it was at least a decade.5*1 To make the development more feasible for industry’, the report suggested a continued joint effort led by NASA, with the results made available to all airlines and engine manufacturers. Without governmental support, such an open research atmosphere would have been impossible. “Results from these studies.” wrote Colladay and Neil Saunders, “indicated enough promise to initiate the EEE project.”[229] [230] [231]

In the E‘ program, both General Electric and Pratt & Whitney were given the task of building a new turbofan engine. But the idea was not for them to build a commercial-ready engine. The E; engine was to be used primarily for testing and proof of fuel-efficient concepts. The new technological components included a compressor, fan, turbine-gas-path improvements, structural advances, and improved blading and clearance control. Although the contractors had the same goal, they approached their work within Ел differently.[232] Pratt & Whitney engineers took a

The Frontiers of Engine Technology — The Energy Efficient Engine

Energy Efficient High Pressure Compressor Rig (April 10. 1984). (NASA Glenn Research Center [NASA GRC|.)

“component” strategy and concentrated on developing a high-pressure turbine that could be operated with a lower temperature of hot gas to improve efficiency. General Electric proceeded with a more compre­hensive approach, researching the best way to integrate a new fan. high – pressure compressor, and low-pressure turbine. According to Jeffrey Ethell. the freedom that the contractors had was important: “The ‘clean sheet’ opportunity. .. gave both companies the chance to leave their nor­mal line of evolutionary development and leap forward into high-risk. .. areas to research and aggressively push the frontiers of technology.”[233] Along with these two prime contractors, there were subcontracts with major commercial airframe manufacturers. Boeing, Douglas, and Lockheed provided expertise in areas related to airplane mission defini­tions and engine and airframe integration. Just as in the ECI program. Eastern Airlines and Pan American also provided ongoing evaluation of the results from the perspective of the airlines. NASA also planned to use its own in-house technological advances and other contractors to support specific program needs. NASA never intended to develop a new engine as a product. This was a project for the engine manufactur­ers to achieve after NASA assisted with the proof of concepts. Elements of the ECI program such as improved fans, seals, and mixers were incorporated into the E‘program, and the E‘engineers were also able to apply results from the ECI Engine Diagnostic program to improve engine performance.[234]

A first step in the E’ program was to identify risk factors that might potentially cause the new engine to fail. In an April 1976 letter from James Kramer. Director of the ACEE office, to Donald Nored. the chief of the Energy Conservative Engines Office at Lewis, Kramer asked that the Center perform a “risk assessment of the total E‘ program.”[235] With a list of potential failures in hand, the Center could better under­stand the implication on schedules, cost, and program success. A separate action plan could then be put in place to reduce these risks. Two months later, Nored and Lewis completed the risk assessment. “By nature," wrote Nored, “this is a high risk program, as is true of most advanced technology programs, and there is no way to make it a safe bet.”[236] The best way to minimize risk, according to Nored. was to use multiple con­tractors who were supplied with adequate funds. Both General Electric and Pratt & Whitney took on separate areas of risk that were unique challenges to their approaches and engines. With both companies involved. Nored believed “at least one-half or greater of the stated goal” would be achieved.

As the program got underway, one important advance was a com­puter control system known as a full authority digital electronics control (FADEC). It could monitor and control 10 engine parameters at the same time and communicate information to a pilot. Sensors were known to be one of the least reliable of all engine components. The FADEC system was able to compensate for this problem in case of failure by modeling what the engine should be doing at any given time during a flight. If the sensor failed, then the FADEC. based on its model, could tell the various engine components what they should be doing.[237]

In 1982, budget reductions caused “program redirection” for the EJ project. According to Cecil C. Rosen, the manager of the Lewis propulsion office, this meant changes for both General Electric and Pratt & Whitney in how they planned to complete the project. General Electric proceeded with its core engine test and suspended work on emissions testing and an update for a flight propulsion system. For Pratt & Whitney, the redirection meant a continued focus on component technology as opposed to an over­all engine system evaluation. The main concern with this plan was that it provided more funding for Pratt & Whitney than General Electric because it had “much farther to go in its component technology efforts.” Rosen hoped this “unequal funding,” which went against the original spirit of the E’ program, would be acceptable.[238] [239] [240] [241]

General Electric completed the program with a great deal of success and as early as 1983 was being called the “world’s most fuel-efficient and best-performing turbofan engine.”6′ Bucy, the Program Manager at General Electric, called it “one of the most successful programs on an all-new engine in yearsWhile the low-pressure turbine was a diffi­cult challenge from an aerodynamic perspective, it achieved the desired parameters laid out by NASA at the start of the program to define success. There is a 13-percent improvement in fuel efficiency over the CF6-style engine, which was 1 percent better than required. GE immediately began to incorporate the new technology into its latest engine designs, including the CF6-80E, the latest engine for the Airbus A330, and the GE90 engine for the Boeing 777.M The GE90 first made headlines in 1991 because it “pushed the edge of technology ” not only because it was more efficient, but also because it used another ACEE project. It became the only engine to use composite fan blades, making it 800 pounds lighter, with a 3.5-per­cent fuel savings. It also had a cleaner burn, producing 60 percent less nitrous oxide, and was quieter. Though it was a larger engine, its engineers believed that the wind whistling over the landing gear would produce more noise than the engine. As Christopher D. Clayton, the manager of the GE90 technical programs said,‘’It will give us a much more efficient engine. That’s the real purpose of it."[242] [243] The 777 now Hies with an engine based directly upon the one developed through the efforts of the E’ ACEE program.

Pratt & Whitney also had success with its energy efficient engine technology, though at a slower pace. In 1988, it reported that the “effi­ciency trends show a steady increase”’1 with the E3 technology. But the company still had research to perform to enable it to realize the gains for “tomorrow’s engine." These successes were finally realized in 2007, when it launched the new energy-efficient Geared Turbofan as the engine for the Mitsubishi Regional Jet. This was a 70- to 90-seat passenger aircraft, and Mitsubishi planned to purchase 5,000 of them over the coming 20 years. The technology for this engine could be directly traced back to Pratt & Whitney’s participation in the ACEE program.[244]*

These favorable results of the E* program, as well as the achievements of the EC1 program, resulted in enthusiasm for ACEE. In 1979, Colladay said, “This early success in the first of the ACEE Program elements to near completion is certain to continue as more of the advanced concepts are put into production.”[245] However, this “continued certainty” was seri­ously threatened in 1980 with a new presidency on the horizon. Unlike ECI, which returned such fast and positive results, the other ACEE pro­grams required a longer window to develop and prove their technologies, and their engineers required a commitment of time and money from the United States Government to ensure that their research continued. Just 3 years after the entire program began, there were serious concerns not only for the future of ACEE. but for the future of all aeronautics activi­ties at NASA. For the ACEE participants, the question was: Would the Government terminate such a vital fuel-efficiency program to the Nation early, when it had already had such success with its shorter-term projects like the Engine Component Improvement? For NASA, the question was even more dire: Would the Agency be allowed to continue its work in aeronautics?

The Frontiers of Engine Technology — The Energy Efficient Engine

Aeronautics Wars. at NASA

Aeronautics Wars. at NASAn September II, 1980, 2 months before the presidential elec­

tion. Ronald Reagan wrote a letter to Gen. Clifton von Kann, the senior vice president at the Air Transport Association of America. In it. he outlined the aeronautical objectives of his potential presidency, as well as his criticisms of the Carter era. While not questioning the importance of aviation to the economic and military strength of the Nation. Reagan was highly critical of ongoing programs. “1 am deeply concerned about the state of aeronautical research and development,” he wrote, using as an example the “alarming” slowdown in aircraft exports to other nations, an industry the United States had once dominated. He identified energy efficient aircraft as one critical aviation issue facing the Nation, and of these efforts, he wrote, “Our technological base is languishing.” Reagan promised von Kann, “The trends must be reversed. And I am committed to do just that.”1

Soon after Reagan assumed the presidency, a conservative think tank that played a major role in shaping the philosophy of his Administration made the shocking assertion that the NASA aeronautics program was actu­ally eroding the country’s leadership in aviation. The group, the Heritage Foundation, said. “The program should he abolished."[246] [247] The new Reagan Presidential Administration began to seriously consider taking aeronautics away from NASA and letting industry assume the primary role in research. Richard Wagner, the head of the Laminar Flow Control program at Langley, said, when “Reagan came into office… we didn’t know whether

Aeronautics Wars. at NASA

President Ronald Reagan gets a laugh from NASA officials in Mission Control when he jokingly asks astronauts Joe Engle and Richard Truly if they could stop by Washington en route to their California landing. To his right is NASA Administrator James Beggs (November 13.1981). (NASA Headquarters-Greatest Images of NASA (NASA HQ GRIN].)

we were going to stay alive or not. . . it was a struggle.”’ It was an even greater struggle for his colleagues at Lewis Research Center, as the entire base was threatened with closure. The conflict between NASA and other Government agencies had started slowly in 1979, with general disagree­ments over language in an ACEE report by the Government Accounting Office (GAO). Conflict escalated over budget reductions in 1980 and subsequent cuts for ACEE. But by 1981, the clash became a full-on fight for survival as the Reagan Administration pushed for the closure of Lewis Research Center, the elimination of aeronautics from all of NASA, and the termination of over 1.000 aeronautics jobs. These were the aeronautics wars.

ACEE Battles with the GAD

The roots of this struggle predated Reagan’s inauguration, originating with the controversial 1979 GAO report. For much of NASA’s history. [248] aeronautics programs had never required close oversight because of the low levels at which they were traditionally funded. The large budget and greater visibility of ACEE suddenly brought it unwanted attention. In June 1979, the heads of several key NASA programs were asked to com­ment on “where we’re going in aeronautics.” Donald Nored, Director of the Lewis ACEE program, responded by saying that this is the type of ques­tion that is “perhaps best explored in a leisurely retreat" but complied by answering in a four-page letter. In it. he said that NASA should be respon­sive to major national needs and should focus on “break-through, innova­tive. novel, high risk, and high payoff’ programs. Nored. who was far from an unthinking cheerleader, was critical of some aspects of the NASA aeronautical program. He said that there seemed to be a “hodge-podge” of activities, with NASA trying to do too many things and responding to industry in areas that were too evolutionary and incremental. NASA’s aeronautics should be. according to Nored, “more revolutionary.”

Nored’s final suggestion addressed what he believed to be the most important issue facing aeronautics in 1979 and the future—fuel. “The prob­lem of fuel,” he said, “is an overriding problem to all other technical issues in the field of aeronautics.” Nothing was more important than solving the technological issues represented by rising fuel costs because it threatened the airline industry and the continuation of American prosperity. Nored believed that ACEE was a good beginning, but that even more needed to be done. He advocated for “continued vigorous support” of this and other related fuel efficiency activities, and he pleaded for what he called “agency urgency."*

Nored’s views were almost entirely discounted in a GAO report on ACEE. In August 1979, 2 months after Nored made his suggestions, the GAO released a draft review that was highly critical of the ACEE project. It was the first in a series of reviews the GAO planned for all of NASA’s aeronautical projects. Since ACEE had the greatest visibility and importanceamongallofthem. itreceivedthefirstofthegovemmental reviews. Under the direction of the House Committee on Science and Technology, the review’s goal was to “recommend potential program options for replacing ACEE,” and the GAO went on a 6-month fact-finding mission

4. Emphasis in original. Nored to the NASA director of aeronautics. June 4. 1979. Box 238. Division 8000. NASA Glenn archives.

in 1979 to Lewis and Langley Research Centers, 3 airframe companies, and 2 jet engine companies.[249] [250]

The first observation made by the report was that it was “unclear” if ACEE—which had, after all, only been operational for a few years — would achieve its objectives, although it found that NASA had some “limited technology successes to date.” All of this should have been a likely obser­vation. since the 10-year program was still, for the most part, in its begin­ning phases and was attempting some risky and revolutionary aeronautical research. The report did indicate one of the main reasons the results were unclear—funding. The programs with the highest fuel-savings potential — the Advanced Turboprop, Laminar Flow Control, and Composite Primary Aircraft Structures—were threatened because neither Congress nor the Carter Administration would commit to funding. The report concluded that “the cumulative affect [sic] of these uncertainties highlights why the meeting of ACEE objectives is currently very unclear.”*

The GAO’s analysis of specific ACEE programs was also critical. Of the Lewis projects, it had little positive to say. The report stated that the Engine Component Improvement project was “falling short” of its perfor­mance goal. The Energy Efficient Engine was too new to evaluate, and its chances of meeting goals were “unknown.” Likewise, the GAO admitted that it was “too early to say” if the Advanced Turboprop would be a suc­cess, but that it was 3 years behind schedule. The Langley ACEE programs did not fare much better. The Energy Efficient Transport was criticized because it appeared to the GAO that only Douglas Aircraft would be able to integrate the new fuel-saving technologies, and not Boeing or Lockheed. The GAO called the prospects for the Laminar Flow Control program “uncertain,” believed that NASA was further away than originally thought to achieving its goals, and claimed the program was 4 years behind sched­ule. Finally, the GAO criticized the Composite Primary Aircraft Structures program for failing to develop a composite wing or fuselage, underesti­mating costs, and not foreseeing the hazardous potential effects of car­bon fiber releases into the environment. The GAO concluded that the

ACEE Battles with the GAD

President Jimmy Carter presents the National Space Club’s Goddard Memorial Trophy to NASA Administrator Robert A. Frosch on behalf of the team that planned and executed the Voyager mission. (NASA Headquarters —Greatest Images of NASA [NASA HQ GRIN|.)

composites program would achieve “dramatically less” fuel savings than originally projected.

On January 24, 1980, NASA Administrator Robert Frosch responded vigorously to the draft. Frosch wrote to J.11. Stolarow. the GAO Procurement Director, that after reviewing the report with officials at Langley and Lewis, “We are very concerned about the negative tone of the report and its implica­tions regarding the value of the NASA Aircraft Energy Efficiency (ACEE) Program.” Frosch criticized the reviewers for basing evaluations of the program upon schedules set up in 1975. before the program began. More significantly, he said, the report trivialized the major advances that ACEE had already achieved. Frosch put the full weight of his support behind the program and described it as a “significant contributor” to the overall avia­tion research and technology program in the United States. He praised the Government and industry team for its cooperation and added that the results would have a “major influence on transport aircraft of the future.”[251] [252]

ACEE managers at Lewis, Langley, and Headquarters wrote a more detailed response to the GAO and fought to have its conclusions changed before the GAO released the final report. They argued that in general, the GAO presented a "distorted view" that, if left unchanged, would create the "false impression that the program has been less than successful," jeopardizing future funding for the program and leading essentially to a self-fulfilling prophecy.[253] NASA produced a several-page document that provided a thorough review on how large portions text of the report should be altered to better reflect the realities of the ACEE program.

Their efforts were successful in persuading the GAO to craft a much more positive document. In the final report, "A Look at NASA’s Aircraft Energy Efficiency Program” (July 1980). the GAO explained its rever­sal of language and opinion, saying that in light of NASA’s concerns, it “carefully reevaluated its presentation and made appropriate adjustments where it might be construed that the tone was unnecessarily negative or the data misleading."[254] [255] For example, the first sentences of the original draft chapter on the ACEE status read: "The prospects of ACEE achieving its objectives are unclear. Technical readiness dates are being slipped.”11 This tone was significantly changed in the final published report, which said: “The ACEE program, which is in its 5th funding year, has experienced some technological successes which will be applied on new and derivative airplanes built in the early 1980s. Examples are improved engine compo­nents, lighter airframe components, and improved wings.”[256]

Changes were also made to specific program reviews. John Klineberg, a member of the founding ACEE task force and eventual Lewis Center Director, said that in the original report, the GAO treated the turboprop project unfairly. He called the reviewers ignorant of the project’s “inherent uncertainties,” because from the start, it was considered one of the more risky ACEE programs.’3 Lewis project managers prevailed in persuading the GAO to cast a more favorable light on the turboprop. In the draft, the GAO argued: “The Task Force Report shows that in 1975 there was considerable disagreement on the ultimate likelihood of a turboprop engine being used on commercial airliners”[257] [258] In the final publication, the GAO amended the sentence to read: “The possible use of turboprop engines on 1995 commercial aircraft is still uncertain, but has gained support since 1975 ”[259] [260] These editorial adjustments demonstrated the effectiveness of project managers working to improve public and gov­ernmental understanding of the project. They also highlight the political skills often necessary to ensure technological success, or the perception of success, at NASA.

In August 1980, 1 month after reading the final report, Walter B. Olstad, the Acting Associate Administrator for Aeronautics and Space Technology, felt as if the battle had been won. He said that upon final review, the report “fairly stated” the ACEE progress. He was also pleased to report that in almost every area that NASA expressed objections, the GAO made appropriate changes. Olstad wrote, “while a great deal of our responses to the draft versions of the GAO ACEE report may have sounded negative… (we) appreciate the opportunities afforded during its prepara­tion to make substantive inputs.”1”

The battle exemplified by the NASA and GAO conflict was not unusual. Institutional conflict is more the norm than the exception. In an article about NASA during the Reagan years, political scientist Lyn Ragsdale wrote that conflict between Congress, the Presidency, and NASA occurred often because they operated within a system of separate institu­tions that all shared a power mitigated through checks and balances. "In order to circumvent such conflict,” according to Ragsdale, “officials in one or more institutions must be willing to invest political capital to raise public awareness.”[261] [262] The political fights for ACEE did not end with the GAO conflict. Instead, they intensified as ACEE managers and NASA leaders fought to raise awareness not only of the importance of fuel – efficiency aviation programs, but of NASA’s role in aeronautics itself.

Oil as a Weapon


n October 6, 1973, a terrorist’s bomb shattered the solemn spiritual calm of Yom Kippur. the most sacred of holy days on the Hebrew calendar. A grenade, thrown by someone whom American news­papers referred to as an “Arab guerilla," wounded a soldier and two police­men in Israeli-occupied Gaza City.[32] This was the opening salvo of a mas­sive. coordinated surprise attack on Israel by Egypt and Syria, whose forces crossed the Suez Canal in retaliation for the loss of their land in the Sinai and the Golan I leights during 1967’s Six Day War. Israel quickly mobilized for war. Prime Minister Golda Meir proclaimed the attack an “act of mad­ness.” Her Defense Minister. Moshe Dayan, spoke in starker terms, calling for "all out war" and with a promise that “We will annihilate them."2

Meanwhile, Israel observed this holiest of days as a nation; its citizens spent the day fasting and praying, not listening to the radio or reading newspapers. Many had no idea the attack had occurred until they gathered for Yom Kippur services later that evening. At synagogues throughout the country, rabbis read aloud the names of those being summoned immedi­ately to fight. In one crowded synagogue, a reservist soldier stood as his name was read, and as he turned to leave, his weeping father held him in a tight embrace, refusing to let him go. The rabbi intervened, saying, “His place is not here today.” The rabbi blessed the soldier as his father released him. The Yom Kippur War (or as some called it the October War) had begun.

Over the next 3 weeks, the world witnessed combat whose intensity rivaled that of World War II. With Americans helping to arm Israel and the Soviet Union stockpiling weapons in the Arab nations, some speculated that the next world war was imminent. This did not happen, but the events

of that day affected the lives of all Americans, because of a devastating economic—not military — weapon. The Arab nations retaliated against the West with an oil embargo, dramatically raising the price of oil and reduc­ing the supply. It revealed a significant weakness of the United States, one that demonstrated how closely its economy was aligned with the accessi­bility of oil. Many believe this 1973 confrontation to be the genesis of the 1970s energy crisis. Although it played a major role, the crisis was actually rooted in earlier events.

The New York Times first used of the term “energy crisis’” in relationship to the United States in 1971. In a three-part series titled “Nation’s Energy Crisis,” reporter John Noble Wilford recounted the effects of a Faustian bargain reaching back to the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Dr. Faust, of German legend, was an astrologer and alchemist who sought forbidden knowledge and ultimately sold his soul to the devil. Mephistopheles, to attain it. The story has been used as a symbol for Western civilization’s constant pursuit of power and knowledge.’ Wilford used it to describe America’s situation in 1971. Symbolically, the 19 century’s bucolic envi­ronment was sacrificed for “modern man to command. . . and to harness in the Saturn 5 moon rocket the power of 900,000 horses.”[33] [34] This energy – dependent society had struck the Faustian energy bargain, and. Wilford argued, it resulted in the energy crisis of the 1970s.

Aside from the environmental damage wrought by industrial society, there was also the problem of how to sustain its momentum. The power to drive modern American society is derived in large part from natural resources not within its control. At the time of Wilford’s article, petroleum represented 43 percent of all domestic energy usage. With more than 90 percent of all the oil consumed in the eastern half of the United States com­ing from sources abroad. Wilford argued. “This gives a number of foreign governments a major voice in the price and How of American fuel.”[35] And more than prices were under their control. As one geologist wrote in 1976, “Whoever controls the energy systems can dominate the society.”[36] As the United States became a superpower in the 20th century, the American engine became increasingly powered by a fuel not of its own making. The effects of external control became evident with the onset of the Arab oil embargo.

In 1973. 2 years after the suggestion that the United States was suf­fering from or had an energy crisis, the Arab world began using “oil as a weapon.”[37] [38] [39] The statistical results of the Yom Kippur War included the loss of more than 3,000 lives, as well as billions of dollars expended in military equipment. But for the first time, a new weapon emerged that had the power to destabilize all industrial nations —oil. Because of American support of Israel, Saudi Arabia announced a 10-percent reduction in the flow of oil to the United States and its allies, with the threat of an additional 5-per­cent reduction each month unless the West stopped sending arms to Israel. Saudi Arabia was at the time producing 8!^ million barrels of oil a day. and it represented the third largest oil exporter to America, roughly 400.000 barrels per day.* Similar threats came from other members of the oil cartel, known as the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Oil was the lifeblood of the United States, and a shortage or a threat to its access quickly revealed it to be the Nation’s Achilles’ heel.

Although a cease-fire was negotiated by October 22, just weeks after lighting began, the conflict caused an economic ripple effect that spread throughout the world. Neither Israel nor the Arab nations officially won. but the conflict became an important symbol of national identity and strength in the Muslim world. It marked the first time Egyptian soldiers inflicted losses against Israel and won substantial territorial gains. “Crossing the Suez Canal" became a slogan that contributed to a new Arab unity and pride. M The conflict was significant outside the Middle East as well. Superpower patrons had come to the support of both sides, threatening to engulf the world in conflict, and it all but destroyed the detente negotiated by President Richard M. Nixon and Leonid Brezhnev. For the first time, both superpowers had a direct confrontation in the Middle East, and it served to heighten the Cold War’s intensity, renewing the United States’ perceived urgency to match and surpass all Soviet military capabilities.[40] [41]

While the United States was confident it could maintain its pace in the arms race, its leaders recognized a more significant threat in its vulnerability to the “oil weapon." In response, just 1 month after the Yom Kippur War, President Nixon signed the Alaska pipeline bill, allocating S4.5 billion to open the most significant oil reserves in the United States.11 Soon, the Nation’s speed limit would be reduced to 55 miles per hour. But oil from Alaska and slower driving would not solve the immedi­ate crisis. A reporter from the Washington Post called the oil embargo the “biggest, most painful single problem ever met by the U. S. in peacetime.” And many speculated that the stakes could not be higher: “The political and strategic independence of the United States” was being threatened by “oil blackmail.”[42] [43]

By March 1974, OPEC had decreased oil exports by 15 percent (a reduction of 1.5 million barrels a day to the United States) and dramati­cally increased prices. On March 17. the embargo essentially ended, but the impact continued to be felt. One reporter noted that the “oil weapon (which looks more like a shotgun than a rifle) has hit its target.” America suffered worsening inflation, decreasing growth, and continued high oil prices. Many predicted that the “United States economy—and indeed the world econ­omy-will never again be the same as in the pre-embargo days."11

The embargo itself was not responsible for the energy crisis, and its end did not make the country less vulnerable. Thomas Rees, a Democratic Congressman from California, stated that the end of the embargo would mean little security for the United States. “I laving the right to buy Arab oil is having the right to go bankrupt.” Me continued his warning, saying,“It’s not the lack of oil that will ruin the world—it’s the price of oil.”[44]

The price of a barrel of oil in the past year alone had increased 450 percent, from $2.59 to $11.65. The price of a gallon of gasoline increased from 38.5 cents in May 1973 to 55.1 cents in June 1974. There seemed to be only one immediate answer to the problem—conservation.

Many oil industry experts thought that the United States could “get by without the Arab oil imports primarily by reducing American consumption.”[45] As early as 1973, vocal proponents called for “strong conversation measures,” including new technologies, which would reduce America’s energy dependence and lessen the effectiveness of the Arabnations’ oil weapon in ’“political and economic warfare”[46] [47] A conser­vation strategy became the primary means to counter the effects of the energy crisis. Despite the urgency, it would be nearly 2 years after the oil embargo before American politicians began to pursue actively a solution to the problem.

To bring attention to this negligence, on January 29. 1975, a group of American scientists that included 11 Nobel Prize winners published a dire warning: the U. S. was facing “the most serious situation since World War II.” The threat was the “energy crisis," and the group believed that the country was “courting energy disaster” through its lethargy, ignorance, and confusion.1 Nobel laureate Hans A. Bethe, a Cornell University phys­icist, drafted the report. He and his colleagues warned that “our whole mode of life may come to an end unless we find a solution.”[48] [49] In agreement with Bethe’s analysis, some reporters chastised the U. S. Government for “fiddling while the energy runs out.”14

While President Gerald R. Ford had recently devised an energy pro­gram that included a $l-per-barrel excise tax on foreign oil, most believed his modest research initiatives would be ineffective. Even Ford was criti­cal of the U. S. Congress and its lack of action on this increasingly impor­tant issue. He thought his excise tax proposal would in a sense, be “putting a gun to Congress’s head,” to try to motivate it to propose a plan to solve

Oil as a Weapon

President Gerald R. Ford meets with Soviet and American space leaders to examine the Soviet Soyuz spacecraft model from a model set depicting the 1975 Apollo Soyuz Test Project, an Earth orbital docking and rendezvous mission with crewmen from the U. S. and U. S.S. R. (September 7.1974). (NASA Johnson Space Center [NASA JSC].)

the crisis. On January 31,1975. a New York Times reporter wrote that “the country may well be hastened into action.”[50] That same day, most likely unknown to the press, to Bethe, or even to President Ford, two promi­nent U. S. Senators—Frank E. Moss, a Democratic Senator from Utah, and Barry Goldwater, a Republican Senator from Arizona—sent a letter to the NASA’s Administrator, James C. Fletcher. They thought the Government Agency that had most recently held the Nation’s attention with its suc­cesses on the surface of the Moon might have the technological capability to coordinate a major conservation initiative on Earth. This letter, dated January 31, 1975. was the genesis of what became one of the largest coor­dinated environmental programs ever attempted in the United States. NASA refocused its sights from the heavens to Earth.

From the Moon to Earth

In December 1972, the last two astronauts to walk the surface of the Moon left their desolate surroundings and returned to Earth. Apollo 17 brought to an end a dramatic era at NASA that began with Kennedy’s famous proc­lamation promising to send a man to the Moon. During the Apollo years. NASA enjoyed the world’s praise as the pinnacle of humanity’s technologi­cal excellence. But Apollo 17’s return marked a new era. Its return signi­fied the beginnings of a fundamental transformation in the Agency’s vision, away from space and lunar exploration and toward Earth and low-Earth orbit. Astronauts would venture no further than the low’-Earth destinations of the Space Shuttle, and more pressing national concerns took the focus and initiative away from long-term dreams in space. Furthermore, space initiatives had become the prime focus of NASA during the Apollo era. to the detriment of its work in aeronautics. Basic research in aeronautics was an area that many believed had been neglected for too long. A 1976 Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences report stated “We are concerned that the nation’s aeronautical research and technology base in aeronautics has in fact eroded significantly over the last several years.’’[51]

One of the practical earthly problems that entered NASA’s new aero­nautical consciousness was the energy crisis. The crisis threatened to shake the foundations of commercial flight. Prior to 1972, fuel represented one – quarter of the operating costs of a typical airline organization.[52] [53] After 1972, foreign petroleum dependency increased, and fuel doubled its revenue drain, resulting in the reduction of flights, grounding of aircraft, and layoffs of thousands employees.2-‘ The situation appeared to grow1 worse by the day.

Because of NASA’s expertise in aeronautics, the United States Congress looked to it to lead a new conservation initiative. It began with the letter that Senators Moss and Goldwater wrote January 31, 1975, to James C. Fletcher, the NASA Administrator. Although the letter came from the Senators, its origins were actually in NASA

Oil as a Weapon

John Klineberg spent 25 years working at NASA. He was the Director of both the Goddard Space Flight Center and Lewis (now Glenn) Research Center. 1 le served as Deputy Associate Administrator for Aeronautics and Space Technology at Headquarters and was a research scientist at the Ames Research Center. (NASA Glenn Research Center (NASA GRC).) itself. John Klineberg, who served NASA in a variety of leadership positions, such as head of Lewis Research Center, recently recalled “Moss, of course, wrote us a letter that justified it… [but] 1 wrote that letter.”[54]

Oil as a Weapon

Richard T. Whitcomb examines a model incorporating his famous transonic area rule in the 8-foot High-Speed Tunnel in April 1954. (NASA Langley Research Center [NASA LaRCJ.)

In the letter. Moss and Goldwater said it was their desire, as leaders of the Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences, that NASA devise a plan to develop new technologies to lessen the effects of the energy crisis.

The plan was needed for the “preservation of the role of the United States as a leader in aeronautical science and technology” They envi­sioned a program led by NASA that would result in significant tech­nology transfers to industry. NASA was to research a new generation of fuel-efficient aircraft that would cost roughly the same as current aircraft, have the same performance capabilities, meet the same safety and environmental requirements, offer significant fuel savings, and be able to take to the skies in the 1980s. Moss and Goldwater ended their letter by stating, “It is our hope that the goal you establish will be one that is both feasible and challenging.”25 Risk and the acceptance of challenge were approved and encouraged components of the daring project from the start.

NASA responded quickly to the request, in part because the Agency had already been investigating some fuel-efficient technologies as part of its base R&D activities. One of the first was the “supercritical wing,” a project led by Langley’s Richard Whitcomb in the mid-1960s, which delayed the formation of a shock wave until the aircraft attained a faster speed.2*’

The result was a significant cruise performance improvement and an increase in fuel efficiency. In mid-1970. NASA established the Advanced Transport Technology office to take advantage of the aerodynamic poten­tial of the supercritical wing for flight efficiency. Other fuel-efficient tech­nology programs were soon added. This included an Active Controls pro­gram. which used computers to control airplane surfaces to reduce drag and increase efficiency. Composite materials were also studied because of the light weight and strength of polymers compared with existing alumi­num and metal airplane components.

With the oil embargo in 1973 and the resulting energy crisis, NASA intensified its explorations into this area. It established the Energy Trends and Alternative Fuels (ETAF) program in April 1973 to search for more efficient uses of petroleum and also for alternative energy sources such as hydrogen and electric power. By the end of the year, a NASA manager wrote, “The relevance and urgency of this study has grown dramatically since spring.”2 In 1973, NASA also collaborated with Hamilton Standard in a program called Reducing the Energy Consumption of Commercial Air Transportation (RECAT). Over the next 2 years, NASA, in collabo­ration with General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, Hamilton Standard, and [55] [56] [57]

Oil as a Weapon

Dr. James Fletcher appearing before the U. S. Senate Committee on Aeronautical and Space Sciences to discuss Skylab (May 23. 1973). As NASA Administrator. Fletcher gained the approval of the Nixon Administration to develop the Space Shuttle as a follow-on human space llight effort. (NASA Headquarters —Greatest Images of NASA (NASA HQ GRIN|.)

American Airlines, would explore several opportunities for achieving more energy-efficient aircraft. When the two Senators challenged NASA’s leaders in January 1975 to come up with a solution for the crisis threaten­ing American aviation, they drew their inspiration from these programs.2*

NASA’s Administrator, James Fletcher, assigned overall responsibil­ity for a new airline fuel efficiency program to Alan M. Lovelace, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Aeronautics and Space Technology.

With a goal of conservation before him, in a month’s time, Lovelace had established the Aircraft Fuel Conservation Technology Task Force. James J. Kramer, from the Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology [58]

(OAST), directed the 15-member task force, which came to be called the Kramer Committee.-‘4 For the next 2 months, the Committee members worked together to develop a technology plan to satisfy the Government’s request. To evaluate their results, NASA on April 17 established an advi­sory board chaired by Raymond L. Bisplinghoff from the University of Missouri.[59] [60] [61] The Kramer Committee included a remarkably diverse and knowledgeable group of members representing universities (MIT), industry (American Airlines, Pan American, Douglas Aircraft. Boeing), Government (NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration fFAAJ, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Defense), and engine manufacturers (Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed, General Electric). They named the new conservation effort the Aircraft Energy Efficiency (ACEE) program.

John Klineberg. one of the key members of the task force, recalled how closely it listened to the needs of industry. As part of the process, task force members went directly to industry leaders. They then reported areas of concern and need back to the task force. They discussedissues with the various NASA Centers in the same way. The information was then turned into briefings, and the task force communicated the results back to indus­try and NASA. This was the process by which ACEE took shape.3′

In May and June 1975. the advisory board met to review and revise the initial recommendations of the Kramer Committee. The group members initially started with a long list of initiatives that would potentially lessen the effects of the energy crisis. They then worked to reduce the options to a manageable number and divided them into specific technology sections. Although some projects might be ready for short-term implementation, most required a projected 10 years of research and development before aircraft fuel consumption would be reduced. The ultimate goal, according to Kramer, was “achieving a technology readiness by 1985 for a 50 per­cent reduction in fuel consumption for new civil transports.”1- There were two unbreakable ground rules for attaining these goals. The first wras that fuel would not be saved at the expense of the environment. The second wfas that fuel savings techniques would not compromise aircraft safety in any way. Ultimately, the Kramer Committee identified six technology plans it believed would achieve the stated fuel reduction goal, without violating safety or environmental criteria.

The Kramer Committee’s six conservation technologies addressed the three ways to improve fuel efficiency in an airplane, as expressed in the Breguet range equation: decreasing the fuel consumption by an engine, decreasing the aircraft drag by improving its aerodynamics, and decreas­ing the weight of the airplane. The Committee’s six conservation technolo­gies addressed all of these areas. The Engine Component Improvement project would identify minor ways to improve existing engines to make them more fuel efficient. At an estimated cost of S40 million, the cumula­tive effects could have a 5-percent increase in fuel savings. The Energy Efficient Engine (or “E3,’’ as it came to be known) project would go beyond modifications to existing engines by creating an entirely new’ model to be ready for airplanes built in 1990. This was a planned 7-year, $175- million project, with a potential 10-percent fuel savings. The final propul­sion project was considered the most radical of the all, a return to propel­lers, or “turboprops.” Though the riskiest proposal in terms of success, it also provided one of the greatest rewards, a potential 15- to 30-percent fuel savings compared with existing jet aircraft. The turboprops w’ere a 9-year, $ 125-million program.

In addition to the three propulsion projects, the Kramer Committee also identified two main airframe aerodynamics performance initiatives. [62]

Oil as a Weapon

Janies Kramer. Associate Administrator for Aeronautics, visiting Langley in 1978. Joseph Chambers, at right, briefs him on stall/spin research for general aviation airplanes. Kramer is holding a spin tunnel model of the American Yankee airplane shown in tlie background. Courtesy of Joseph Chambers.

Oil as a Weapon

Dr. Hans Mark (1929- ) speaks Moffett Field Officer s Club (November 9. 1976). Mark became NASA Deputy Administrator in July 1981. He had served as Secretary of the Air Force and as Undersecretary of the Air Force. Mark has also served as Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center. Mountain View. CA. (NASA Ames Research Center (NASA ARC|.)

The first, the Energy Efficient Transport program, called for evolu­tionary improvements to optimize aircraft designs. Wind tunnel studies would help verify new designs that decreased drag and improved fuel effi­ciency. This was a 7-year, S50-million program, with estimated fuel sav­ings of 10 to 15 percent. A second aerodynamics initiative. Laminar Flow Control, had an even greater potential drag reduction potential through a smooth (or laminar) flow over the wings and tail. Virtually all civil trans­ports cruise with a turbulent flow that increases drag. With anywhere from 20 to 40 percent fuel savings, the 10-year, $ 100-million program was esti­mated to be flight-ready by 1990.

The final area the Kramer Committee identified involved using advanced materials to reduce the weight of aircraft. The Composite Pri­mary Aircraft Structures program investigated composites containing boron or graphite filaments in polyimide, epoxy, or aluminum matrices that could potentially reduce aircraft weight by 25 percent. This was a $180-million, 8-year program with 10- to 15-percent fuel savings poten­tial, with the new composite designs in service by 1985.

There were some concerns about the selection of these ACEE proj­ects. Hans Mark, the Director of NASA’s Ames Research Center, wrote to Alan Lovelace in June 1975 saying that “Certainly there are many other aeronautical needs which must not be neglected.”3-‘ He understood that fuel conservation was in the national interest, but he cautioned against committing too much aeronautical funding to the development of civil aviation at the expense of military aircraft technology. He added that aero­nautical priorities change quickly. The main issue in 1968 was airport con­gestion. In 1970. aircraft noise was the central problem. By 1974, it was fuel conservation. Mark wanted to ensure that NASA did not overreact to something that might turn out to be a short-term problem. Furthermore, he suggested that fuel efficiency could be improved by working with the airlines to develop more fuel-efficient flight trajectories.

Lovelace appreciated Mark’s concerns, but the ACEE plan went for­ward without any changes. In total, six recommendations made by the Kramer Committee cost a projected $670 million, with a 10-year timeframe for implementation. The percentage fuel savings for each project could not be added together because they did not all apply to the same type of aircraft. [63]

However, when combined, they did reach the stated goal of 50 percent in total fuel reduction. Raymond Bisplinghoff, the head of the advisory board for the Kramer Committee, officially presented these con­clusions and an outline of the technology plan to Alan M. Lovelace on July 30, 1975*

The role of NASA itself was the one of the final areas of debate by the Kramer Committee. Since the Committee was made up of a cross sec­tion of individuals from different academic, industrial, and governmental organizations, there was a broad and vigorous discussion about NASA and the importance of Government-funded research. The Committee members realized that ACEE was unusual because it “in some instances goes fur­ther in the demonstration of civil technology improvements than has been NASA’s traditional role.” But the consensus was that this was necessary because of the “inability of industry to support these activities on their own.” Specifically, the Kramer Committee stated, individual technolo­gies such as the turboprop or laminar How control would likely never be developed by industry because of their “high technical risks.”* The Committee published its final report. “Aircraft Fuel Conservation Technology,” in September 1975.

Concurrently with the publication of the report, a separate and inde­pendent study examined the costs and benefits of implementing these projects. NASA contracted with Ultrasystems, a California company that specialized in generating computerized economic models. Looking at a 10-year period. Ultrasystems used the Kramer Committee’s $670-million cost estimate and compared it with a forecast of commercial aircraft Heet fuel consumption. While Ultrasystems conceded that the airline industry was in a state of flux and was often unpredictable, it tried to use some baseline assumptions to predict the near-term future. To lessen errors. Ultrasystems used proprietary data given to NASA’s Ames Research Center from various aircraft manufacturers and the airline industry itself. It concluded that implementing the six ACEE programs advocated by the Kramer Committee would save the equivalent of 677.500 barrels of [64] [65] oil each day. The future price of a barrel of oil determined the ultimate potential return on this investment. Again. Ultrasystems made some edu­cated assumptions but concluded that for each dollar spent on the program, there would be anywhere from a return of $7.50 to $26 on the investment. The final assessment examined whether funding for these programs should come from private industry or the Government, and it concluded. “It is extremely unlikely that private industry could meet the expected capital requirements of the NASA program and, consequently. Federal support is necessary.”56

The engineers had finished defining and laying out the program. The only other question to be answered was: Would Government approve the program and provide the funding for one of the largest coordinated fuel conservation projects ever attempted in the United States? To answer that question, the Senate held three hearings in fall 1975 and used the testimony to decide the program’s future.

Advanced Turbdprdps. and Laminar Fldw

Advanced Turbdprdps. and Laminar Fldw1987 Washington Post headline read, “The Aircraft of the Future

1 las Propellers on It."’ To many, this sounded like heralding “the reincarnation of silent movies.”2 Why would an “old technology” ever be chosen over a modern, new, advanced alternative? How could propeller technology ever supplant the turbojet revolution? Mow could the “jet set mind-set” of corporate executives who demanded the prestige of speed and “image and status with a jet” ever be satisfied with a slow, noisy, propeller-driven aircraft?’ A Washington Times correspondent predicted that the turbojet would not be the propulsion system of the future. Instead, future airline passengers would see more propellers than jets, and if “Star Wars hero Luke Skywalker ever became chairman of a Fortune 500 com­pany. he would replace the corporate jet with a … turboprop.”1 It appeared that a turboprop revolution was underway.

The Advanced Turboprop Project was one of the more radical and risky projects in the ACEE program, but it offered some of the highest fuel-efficiency rewards. NASA planners believed that an advanced tur­boprop could reduce fuel consumption by 20 to 30 percent over existing turbofan engines while maintaining comparable performance and passenger comfort at speeds up to Mach 0.8 and altitudes up to 30.000 feet. These ambitious goals made the turboprop project controversial and challenging. Clifton von Kann succinctly summed up these concerns to [299] [300] [301] [302]

Barry Goldwater during his Senate testimony, when he said that of all the proposed projects, “the propeller is the real controversial one.”1′

The Advanced Turboprop was not the only revolutionary, long-range technology in the ACEE program. Some speculated as early as the 1960s that Laminar Flow Control would be a “harbinger of potential revolution in the plane-making business.”[303] [304] The Laminar Flow project was based upon an airplane wing that seemed to “breathe” air. When engineers began achieving significant successes with this technology in the early 1960s, they knew they were on the cusp of a major advance. Many wondered if the resulting aircraft with breathable wings would be able to fly for days— and not just hours—without refueling. Or, more realistically, a nonstop flight from New York to Tokyo might be offered to commercial travelers. First flight-tested in 1963, the “air-inhalation system" was considered “the most promising innovation since the jet engine.”[305] Because of the Vietnam war. the military suspended further work on this technology, but it was resurrected in the 1970s and became the most promising ACEE project in terms of fuel efficiency.

Lewis Research Center managed the Advanced Turboprop Project, and Langley Research Center headed the Laminar Flow Control program. Although the two NASA ACEE projects had little interaction with each other, they shared some important similarities. First, they represented revolutionary potential in fuel efficiency, with the turboprop promising up to 30 percent and laminar flow up to 40 percent. Second, achieving these gains required commitment from the very conservative American airlines industry to a fundamental and radical new aircraft design and pro­pulsion system. Finally, both programs required a long-term commitment to research, and both had risky and uncertain futures. For these reasons, industry alone would never risk the funds to research their potential, but the Government support through NASA offered an appropriate venue for exploring technology that could have a revolutionary impact on the airlines industry. The questions at the start of the program were: Could NASA engi­neers achieve success and develop these new fuel-efficient technologies? And. if they could, would the airlines industry accept the challenge and open its arms to incorporate the technology in its new fleet of aircraft?

Woods Hole Versus the Heritage Foundation

In summer 1980 (just as the GAO report was coming out), NASA’s aero­nautical leaders organized an independent review of its entire aeronau­tics program by the Aeronautics and Space Engineering Board (ASEB). ASEB’s members included some of the most influential people in United States aviation and aerospace history. Chaired by Neil Armstrong, the 24-member board included representatives from NASA (the former Johnson Space Center director), industry (vice presidents or technol­ogy directors at Douglas, Pan American, Sikorsky, United Technologies, Grumman Aerospace, Boeing, General Electric, and Lockheed), and academia (noted aeronautics professors from Stanford. MIT, and the California Institute of Technology). To discuss the state of aeronautics at NASA, the board held a workshop that ran from July 27 to August 2, 1980. at the National Academy of Sciences Study Center in Woods Hole, MA. Sixty experts were divided into five panel sessions. The chairman of the workshop, H. Guyford Stever. called it an “arduous and exhilarating week-long effort” to examine every facet of NASA and its role in aeronau­tics. I!t Its conclusions became known as the “Woods Hole Plan."

The Woods Hole Plan was unveiled to the public in a document titled NASA’s Role in Aeronautics: A Workshop. ASEB agreed that there had been a long and important relationship between the aviation industry and the Government, which started with the NACA and continued through NASA. This had been a positive relationship that had strengthened the American industry, helping it position itself better for competition in the world market. However, this historical strength had faced significant threats in recent years. The ASEB members at Woods Mole emphasized that there was an “urgent need" to counter these economic, social, political, and technological challenges facing the United States in aviation. The United States had lost 20 percent of the world’s aircraft market to European competition during the previous several years, in part because European governments collectively endorsed a plan to displace the United States as the world’s aviation leader. As a result of this government support, these European nations were able to cut into the dominance of the American transport market. To counter the ongoing European threat, ASEB called for greater U. S. governmental intervention and assistance, not less, in order to equip the aviation industry to compete.

Above all. the ASEB aviation experts said it was the worldwide con­cern about the cost and availability of fuel that would potentially have the most important influence over the future of aviation. It pointed to “dra­matic improvements’’ already attained in fuel efficiency through improved aerodynamics, materials, and propulsion, most importantly through the ACEE program. They concluded, "Wrorld leadership in aeronautics will be achieved, in all probability, by the nation or nations that seize the ini­tiative and move such technologies from their present research status. . . [to build] more efficient aircraft.” The only way to achieve this and reverse the “erosion of momentum” of the American aeronautical technol­ogy was to “clarify and strengthen NASA’s role in aeronautics.”14 NASA was extremely pleased with ASEB’s findings and believed that they would be most valuable should any criticism of its aeronautics program emerge. NASA would not have to wait long to confront the critics.

While the Woods Hole group was writing its findings, Republican campaign strategists began defining the shape of a future Reagan presi­dency. Although the election was still 2 months away, Edwin Meese. the Chief of Reagan’s campaign staff, said he wanted a low-visibility effort as far as planning making plans for a Reagan presidency that would not detract from the campaign. One of the key groups assisting in this planning was the Heritage Foundation, the nonprofit conservative think tank estab­lished in 1973.[263] [264] In October 1980. a spokesman for the organization said it would establish a “comprehensive game plan for implementing conserva­tive policy goals under vigorous White House leadership.’”1 This included, in part, reducing the budget, balancing it. and restoring “moral values.” It became what was called a “blueprint for the construction of a conservative government.” Meese told reporters that he would be relying heavily on it.

Fall 1980 was a time of great uncertainty for NASA. John Noble Wilford, a New York Times reporter, wrote in September 1980 about NASA’s launch of a Delta rocket at Cape Canaveral to place a weather satellite into orbit. Wilford said this launch might represent the “death of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as we know it.”[265] [266] [267] It was a difficult time for the Agency. There were numerous difficulties with the still unlaunched Space Shuttle. Of its first 17 scheduled missions, only 2 were defined by NASA, with the Pentagon taking significant con­trol of the others. The Department of Defense was investing in rocketry and satellites, and NASA was becoming more of a service agency that launched spacecraft for other nations. Budgets were being cut. and NASA was getting little support from either of the United States presidential can­didates. NASA’s Administrator. Robert Frosch, announced his retirement in October 1980, to be effective on Inauguration Day. January 20, 1981.2J NASA employees eagerly awaited the results of the presidential election and wondered how it would shape their future. They would soon find out.

Twelve days after Reagan won. the Heritage Foundation published a report, the Mandate for Leadership, which became the blueprint for the new presidency. Called by the Los Angeles Times a “quick strike a week after Reagan’s election,” the report began the process of dismantling 48 years of New Deal liberal policies.[268] It included such suggestions as abol­ishing the Department of Energy, reassigning most of the functions of the Environmental Protection Agency to the states or other Federal agencies, and increasing the defense budget by $20 billion. While some called it the most complete report on government ever written, one observer said,‘The political fall-out. . . will be great. Opposition will be savage.”[269] Meese’s strong endorsement of it was in part responsible for it appearing on the Washington Post’s bestseller list for 3 weeks in 1981. It became the bible of the Reagan Administration.[270] [271] [272]

The report argued that the Government should no longer play a role in the commercialization of technology. It contended that Government’s commercialization endeavors had been expanding in recent years, and while there were certain areas where this was necessary—such as weap­ons labs, uranium enrichment, and other areas of nuclear research—on the whole, these activities should stop. Aviation was not on the list of appro­priate areas for commercialization. The report concluded, “Generally it should not be the function of the Federal government to involve itself with the commercialization of technology.”2’ While ACEE was not explicitly a commercialization project, it did push the lines of development farther than most NASA aeronautics programs had in the past, and so it became vulnerable to cancellation by the Reagan Administration. Reagan’s sci­ence adviser from 1981 to 1985, George A. Key worth, explained that it was a “new era” for American industry, and specifically for industrial R&D, an area that it would offer new opportunities for industry to exercise its inven­tiveness and ingenuity, while at the same time challenging it to accept new roles and to fund research previously supported by Government on its own.24

A philosophy explicitly opposed to governmental support of aero­nautics research was more completely articulated in another Heritage Foundation report, the Agenda for Progress. It said that NASA was spending $500 million each year for research related to civil and military aeronautical technology and that it could find “no good justification for the federal government to spend money on this program." The founda­tion also criticized NASA for diverting skilled engineers away from profitable aeronautical ventures in industry and toward careers that supported a particular political agenda. The Heritage Foundation claimed that the continuation of the existing aeronautical policy would eventually “erode our leadership, not strengthen it." The report concluded by saying that taxpayers should not bear the burden for this program. The solution was for the aircraft companies to “finance their own research," and for the NASA aeronautics program to be “abolished

Although aeronautics engineers at NASA and in industry were extremely disappointed—some were enraged —they were not entirely taken off-guard. NASA countered the Heritage Foundation assertions with the Woods Hole report. One NASA official wrote to Donald Nored that the “Woods Hole Plan is a strong endorsement of NASA’s program, at an opportune time."[273] [274] NASA’s administrators used the report to raise public awareness and secure aeronautical support from Congress. In February 1981, NASA’s Acting Administrator, Alan Lovelace, wrote letters and provided copies of the Woods Hole report to members of all the con­gressional committees and subcommittees associated with aeronautics. Olstad, the Acting Associate Administrator for Aeronautics and Space Technology, initiated his own related campaign as well. He w rote, “We have been concerned for some time that the practices and guidelines used by NASA to carry out its aeronautical programs are not generally well understood."[275] He hoped the report would clarify that aeronautical mission with a concise public statement about this NASA responsibility and its importance to the Nation. Olstad then sent the report to NASA’s center directors, including Donald P. Hearth at Langley and John F. McCarthy at Lewis, and provided them with copies of the ASEB report.[276]

Despite these advocacy efforts, on February 5, 1980, the Reagan Administration announced plans to slash the NASA budget by 9 percent.

The Washington Post reported that these cuts “took NASA’s top man­agement by surprise.”’3 While the official hit list naming which programs would be targeted for reduction had not been established, the aeronautics engineers knew they were in jeopardy. With NASA as a whole fighting for survival, the aeronautics budget threatened, and the ACEE managers deeply concerned about the continuation of their program, Nored decided NASA needed to focus on marketing. In January 1981, Nored produced a document establishing advocacy guidelines for the aeronautics programs in NASA, writing that the “effective advocacy or ‘selling’ of new pro­grams is essential to the health of [NASA],” His document was used by the aeronautics directorate personnel within NASA to conduct an “effec­tive ‘marketing’ campaign which will eventually lead to approval of their proposed new programs by Congress.”’4 Walter Stewart, the NASA Lewis Director of Aeronautics, called this emphasis on advocacy and marketing “vital to our well being.”[277] [278] [279]

It was also very timely. In March 1981. NASA’s Deputy Administrator, Alan Lovelace, gave an impassioned plea on Capitol Hill at the NASA budget hearings. The No. 1 problem America faced was the national econ­omy, he said, and aviation’s role was to serve as a model for reestablishing worldwide economic leadership. He outlined some of his major concerns: for the first time, a major U. S. airline purchased a fleet of foreign-made aircraft, the French-made Airbus had begun outselling the most advanced U. S. transport by a 3 to 1 ratio throughout the world, and enrollment in aeronautics courses at colleges and universities was at an all-time low. In the midst of these threats, Lovelace said NASA faced curtailment of its aviation programs with a new governmental philosophy regarding the aviation industry: “let them go it alone."

Lovelace explained that the situation was dire and said, “Because I am not happy enough to sing," he w ould paraphrase the lines of a vintage Bob Dylan song. The pertinent lyrics were,“My friends the message is blowing in the wind; the message is blowing in the wind.” Lovelace testified that he believed the Woods Hole report stated well the reasons for support of NASA’s aeronautics program. He reiterated that American leadership in aviation has been sustained and cultivated by the work of the NACA and NASA, in collaboration with industry. NASA, in his opinion, and in the opinion of experts from Government, industry, and academia, needed to be able to continue its aeronautical research to help stimulate the air­lines industry and strengthen the American economy. The model had been successful for decades, and there appeared no reason to change it fun­damentally during a period of intense international threat to American leadership. Lovelace spoke directly to Ronald Reagan when he said, “My message, then, Mr. President, can be summarized by saying simply: Let us keep that beacon brightly lit and let us supply the fuel to do it.”S6

Lovelace’s plea had little effect. The resulting budget, presented after the hearings, was disappointing. Congress cut NASA’s funding by $219 million. While support for programs such as the Space Shuttle remained unchanged, aeronautics programs lost $33 million in funding as compared with the previous year. Of these, ACEE saw program reduc­tions of $7 million, including a $5.5-million reduction for the Energy Efficient Engine. Though funding was maintained for Laminar Flow Control, the budget postponed important ground evaluations for 2 years. Lovelace concluded that the effect of these reductions “will be signifi­cant.” but that they are not “crippling.”[280] [281] The most crippling threats were still to come.

Fighting to Save Lewis and Aeronautics at NASA

Significant problems remained on the horizon for NASA’s aeronautics efforts even after the budget reduction debate in March 1981. The OMB, under direction from the Reagan White House, continued pressing a plan that would fundamentally change NASA. In response, a variety of influential individuals from the Department of Defense and Congress fought alongside NASA to prevent the OMB from dissecting the Agency and amputating its aeronautics arm.

In November 1981, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger became aware of the plan to eliminate aeronautical research at NASA. The specifics of the plan, according to Weinberger, would “result in the closing of Lewis Research Center,” as well as the loss of over 1 .(XX) aeronautics jobs at NASA. While NASA would be removed from civil aeronautics work, it would con­tinue to support the development of military aircraft. This was at a time when the Government had the green light to expand significantly the Nation’s defense, and Weinberger became concerned that the closure of Lewis and the changes to NASA at this critical moment would weaken the development efforts of the B-1B Bomber (and other military programs). So Weinberger wrote a letter to OMB Director David Stockman saying, “I am deeply con­cerned that the proposed reductions will adversely impact (these) programs, and are not consistent with DOD needs.”18 Before any action to close Lewis or to eliminate the aeronautics program was taken. Weinberger said, the Defense Department should review the consequences of these actions.

Weinberger was known as such a staunch cost-cutter in Washington that he was often called “Cap the Knife.’49 But this was one instance when he fought to keep a program intact. Weinberger had his Undersecretary of Defense, Richard D. DeLauer, immediately contact NASA Administrator James Beggs. In a letter dated November 30, 1981, DeLauer told Beggs that the OMB was “proposing major reductions” in the 1983 budget for the “aeronautics technology program." These reductions would change the landscape of NASA itself, including the “closing of Lewis Research Center" and also the “substantial reductions in aeronautics activities” at Ames and Langley Research Centers.[282] [283] [284] Thirteen hundred other aeronau­tics personnel would also be eliminated throughout NASA. DeLauer said many of the advanced Department of Defense programs were “critically dependent on a vital and productive NASA aeronautics program.”

Woods Hole Versus the Heritage Foundation

James M. Beggs was sworn in as NASA’s sixth Administrator at a White House ceremony July 10,1981. Officiating was Vice President George Bush. At center is Beggs’s wife. Mary. Beggs was previously an executive vice president and director of General Dynamic Corp. (July 10.1981). (NASA Headquarters—Greatest Images of NASA [NASA HQ GRIN].)

I le then made the essential argument for keeping NASA involved in civil aircraft work: "We should not lose sight of the fact that manufacture of civil aircraft contributes not only to the economy, but also the maintenance of the industrial base which is so important to DOD under surge conditions.” (It is interesting to note that NASA’s Administrator. Daniel Goldin, from 1992 to 2(X) 1 removed NASA from the DOD connections that represented such important support for the aeronautical program during the lean years. According to Joseph Chambers, "After NASA cut the cords, the DOD labs established their own specialists and forgot who NASA was. That situation exists today —in spades.”)[285]

NASA also garnered the support of the Army. On December 1, 1981, Beggs received a letter from Jay R. Sculley, the Assistant Secretary of the

Army. Sculley again confirmed the closure rumors and told Beggs that, in his view, the relationship with NASA was “essential to the Army to in furthering its R&D programs"4* The expertise that was resident at the various NASA Centers was as unique and vital as the aeronautical facilities under their control. If these were to disappear, the result would be a dramatic increase in funding requests by the Army to offset those NASA reductions. The net effect would be the expenditure of more money. From the Army’s perspec­tive. this was a counterintuitive and damaging step for the OMB to make.

This view was also supported by Dan Glickman, a Congressman from Kansas and the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Aviation, and Materials. In November 1981, he invited aviation indus­try leaders to a hearing to discuss “The First ‘A’” in NASA, which of course was “Aeronautics.” The hearing was held December 8, 1981, and its goal was to document the historic role of Federal support of aeronautics to determine if funding should continue. He told his invitees that “some in the Reagan Administration have suggested that the NASA Aeronautics program be drastically curtailed.”4′ This was. according to Glickman, a “radical departure," and all the consequences and ramifications needed to be understood. He sent letters to all the major commercial airframe and engine manufactures in the United States, including General Electric.

Though in the “First ‘A’” hearings NASA fought to retain a central piece of its heritage, the story did not merit enough attention to be covered by the Nation’s major newspapers. The only NASA news reports during this period discussed the status of the Space Shuttle and the hopes of some enthusiasts to send a probe to Halley’s Comet. But the hearings did draw the attention of the aeronautics industry and politicians in Cleveland, OH, the home of the endangered Lewis Research Center. Mary Rose Oakar, who represented Lewis’s congressional district, fought Capitol Hill for the preservation of 2,700 jobs at Lewis and the millions of dollars of tax rev­enue the Center generated for Ohio. She invited President Reagan to come to Lewis to see for himself how vital a laboratory it was. describing it as a “beacon of the highest form of technology research.”[286] [287] [288]

Thomas Donohue, the general manager from the General Electric air­craft engines group, provided a historical overview of the important aero­nautical work NASA and the NACA performed for the Nation and called for the Government to keep this tradition alive.4′ Other aircraft and engine manufacturers provided similar supporting comments, and after the ’“The First ‘A’” hearings. Glickman sent letters to the CEOs of each of these com­panies. In his communication with Jack Welch, at General Electric, he praised Donohue’s testimony and urged Welch to write to President Reagan and lend his endorsement that aeronautics deserved to remain within NAS A.4(1

One of the Heritage Foundation’s main arguments was that aero­nautics was a “mature” technology and therefore did not need active Government-supported research. ACEE program proponents refuted this stance. Brian Rowe, a General Electric senior vice president, wrote a response to this question by Victor II. Reis, Assistant Director, Office of Science & Technology Policy: “Is aeronautics a stagnant technology?” He said, quite simply, “No!” Rowe firmly believed that with continued research, the aeronautics industry would see a rate of progress over the next 20 years similar to that of the previous 40. He used as a specific example the important gains still to be realized in fuel efficiency, and he projected that the “the fuel consumed per passenger on an inaugural flight of an airliner in the year 2002 will be 40% to 50% less than that of the first revenue service of the new Boeing 767 later this year.”[289] [290] [291] [292] Aeronautics, in his view, was not a mature technology, and ACEE was spearheading many of the developments that would enable the United States to maintain its worldwide aeronautical leadership.

The results of these “First ‘A’” hearings were discussed at the critical February 1982 budget hearings for NASA’s fiscal 1983 fund­ing. Glickman said the hearings results demonstrated unanimous sup­port in rejecting the Reagan Administration’s plan to shift the burden of aeronautical research to industry and eliminate NASA from this work.4*

Despite the groundswell of support, the OMB pushed forward with the plan to slash aeronautics. A headline in Defense Daily stated that budget cuts were “Forcing NASA to Close Lewis Research Center” and many in Washington saw its closing as fait accompli.[293] [294] [295] Likewise, the headlines of an Aerospace Daily article read, “NASA Aircraft Energy Efficiency Program Marked for Elimination.”*’ Though the program had been achieving impressive gains at both the Langley and Lewis Centers, the funding cuts proposed by the OMB threatened ACEE because it was a pro­gram that directly benefited industry, and this went against the grain of the Reagan philosophy. But the announcements of the demise of Lewis and ACEE were premature. Though funding cuts were a significant loss for aeronautics in 1983, it was not an across-the-board termination of the program. The insistence of the Department of Defense, industry leaders, politicians, and NASA managed to counter the Heritage Foundation’s recommendation. The Reagan Administration allowed NASA’s aeronau­tics program and ACEE to limp forward.

NASA responded with an attempt to develop a strategic plan for the future of aeronautics. Hans Mark, the head of Ames Research Center, led the initiative. Jack L. Kerrebrock, the Associate Administrator for Aeronautics and Space Technology, said in February 1982 that the plan would provide long-term goals as well as short-term suggestions for the 1984 fiscal budget/’ The resulting document, the “Strategic Plan for Aeronautics,” included mission statements related to the importance of aeronautics to national policy and an emphasis on maintaining all the existing NASA Research Centers and their areas of expertise.[296] Nowhere was this goal more important than in Cleveland, OH.

In July 1982, Lewis Research Center organized a “Save the Center Committee” with support from the Ohio delegation to Congress and Ohio’s Senators, John Glenn and Howard Metzenbaum. It was at this time

Woods Hole Versus the Heritage Foundation

President Ronald Reagan shaking hands with Andrew Stofan, who served as Director of the Lewis Center (April 23.1986). (NASA Glenn Research Center (NASA GRC].)

that Lewis Center Director John McCarthy stepped down and Andrew Stofan from Headquarters replaced him. Although some were concerned about the timing of this decision. Stofan injected Lewis with a revital­ized spirit. Stofan had strong Lewis ties, having served as the director of its very successful launch vehicles program. Upon taking control, he initiated an extensive review of Lewis and started planning not only how to save it, but also how to make it more viable in the future.1′ Through his charisma, confidence, and powers of persuasion, Stofan kept Lewis alive. The strategic plan committee, headed by William “Red” Robbins [297] and Joseph Sivo, gave Stofan the task of winning five major new programs for the Center. When he returned from Washington having secured four of them, as well as an indefinite stay of execution for the Center, it was, Robbins said, “a damn miracle.”[298] One of the programs Stofan fought to retain funding for was the ACEE Advanced Turboprop Project. Aeronautics across NASA was much weaker than it had been from a budgetary standpoint, but it survived extinction. The two long-range and risky ACEE projects. the Advanced Turboprop (at Lewis) and Laminar Flow Control (at Langley) had opportunities to achieve success and program resolution.

The Aerodynamicist’s Pot of Gold—Laminar Flow Control

Laminar flow control has been an elusive and alluring quest that has tempted aeronautics engineers for nearly 80 years. According to histo­rian James Hansen. “Nothing that aerodynamicists could to do to improve the aerodynamic efficiency of the airplane in the late twentieth century matched the promise of laminar flow control.”[306] Richard Wagner, the head of Langley’s Laminar Flow Control program, said that of all the ACEE programs, it offered "by far. the biggest payoff.”[307] Engineers knew that, if it could be perfected, laminar flow control could improve fuel efficiency by 30 percent or more and decrease drag by 25 percent. Using 2004 esti­mates, if the United States airlines could reduce drag by just 10 percent and fuel economy by 12 percent, it would result in a savings of SI billion per year. Albert L. Braslow, who spent his career working in the laminar control field, argued that it was the “only aeronautical technology” that would enable a transport airplane to fly nonstop to any point in the world and to stay aloft for 24 straight hours. 1 le concluded that the incredible fuel savings was the ‘“pot of gold at the end of the rainbow” for aeronautical researchers."[308] This allusion was perhaps more appropriate than Braslow realized, or would have liked. Though the lure of the rainbow’s gold and laminar flow control are undeniable, to this day, neither exists, though the commercial potential for laminar flow remains in sight.

The fundamentals of laminar flow’ are as follows. When a solid (such as an aircraft wing) moves through air. it encounters friction. The thin layer of air that interacts with the solid’s surface is called the boundary layer. Within this layer, two conditions can occur: a laminar condition, where the airflow is uniform in nonintersecting layers, and a turbulent, where the airflow within the boundary layer is characterized by turbulent eddies that cause additional drag. At lower speeds, conditions are relatively favorable for an aircraft to enjoy the smooth laminar flow over its wing surfaces, tail, and fuselage. But as the speed increases, it becomes more difficult to maintain laminar flow, and a more turbulent boundary layer takes over.11 For example, a transport plane flying at subsonic speeds spends half of its fuel to maintain normal cruise speeds while attempting to counter the friction and turbulence found in this boundary layer.

Attaining ideal laminar flow is possible in two main wrays. Natural laminar flow (also known as “passive”) can occur over the leading edge of an airplane’s wing by contouring the airfoil to a particular shape. To achieve laminar flow’ rearward from the leading edge of the wing requires an “active" approach, known as laminar flow’ control. One of the best approaches is a suction method in which holes or slots in the w’ing draw some of the boundary layer air through it. Pumps suck the air down through the surface, w here ducts vent it back out into the atmosphere. In this way, the w ing or airfoil appears to “breathe."

The earliest laminar flow investigations began in the 1930s, when German engineers first developed stability analysis methods. In 1939, Langley engineers began performing wind tunnel tests to study turbulence and laminar flow. The NACA became increasingly interested in studying this phenomenon, and 2 years later. Langley was able to flight-test a B-19 with 17 suction slots in a special test section mounted on one wing panel. During World War II. active laminar flow’ control work was suspended in order for research to take place on natural laminar flow for aircraft such as the P-51 Mustang, while Germany and Switzerland continued their active approaches. After the war. Langley (aided by the release of confi­dential German research after World War II to the aeronautics community) returned to suction studies in wind tunnels and provided theoretical sup­port that this approach wras indeed possible.[309] [310] The Air Force also became interested in laminar flow and contracted w ith Northrop Corporation to

The Aerodynamicist’s Pot of Gold—Laminar Flow Control

Early laminar flow tesLs on a blunted 15-degree cone cylinder in free flight at high Reynolds number (July 23. 1956). (NASA Glenn Research Center [NASA GRC|.)

investigate suction through slots and holes. The NACA concluded that the main impediment to achieving laminar How control was the difficulty in creating smooth surfaces on the airplane. Even factors such as bugs or ice crystals could cause the loss of a laminar flow.

Research continued and tremendous optimism surged in the early 1960s over the Air Force’s work with laminar flow. In 1963, the New York Times announced an “aviation landmark” and a “new aeronautical milestone” with the flight of an X-21. a reconnaissance-bomber research aircraft, and a “revolutionary air-inhalation system."1′ Under the direction of Wener Pfenninger at Northrop, a slot-based laminar flow control system was suc­cessfully flight-tested, and some observers called it the most promising development in flight since the jet engine. Even though the Air Force viewed laminar flow as the most “prominent” and “promising” of its leading aerodynamic projects, further research was delayed for another decade.[311] [312]

The Aerodynamicist’s Pot of Gold—Laminar Flow Control

The center section of each wing of this business jet was modified for tests of laminar flow control (October 15.1984). (NASA Langley Research Center {NASA LaRC].)

From the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, laminar flow studies were sus­pended. in large part because of the commitment of military resources to the war in Vietnam. Also, the low cost of jet fuel completely offset the savings when compared with manufacturing and maintenance costs for aircraft with active laminar flow control.

This economic situation changed with the rise in fuel prices and the end of the war. When NASA began looking at technologies to include in the ACEE program, laminar flow was an early favorite. Langley research­ers had resumed studies on it, and in 1973. Albert Braslow wrote a white paper arguing that it had “by far the largest potential for fuel conservation of any discipline.”1′ While many were enthusiastic about it. Braslow noted that some managers at NASA Headquarters and Langley were “luke­warm” to the idea. Detractors thought the technological barriers were so [313] steep that it would be throwing away limited aeronautics funding to pursue the research.

As fuel costs continued to rise, the promise of laminar flow became more and more attractive. In March 1974, the AIAA held a conference with 91 of its members to discuss aircraft fuel-conservation methods, and they concluded that laminar flow deserved attention. Their ideas were sup­ported by the ACEE task force, and in September 1975, Edgar Cortright, the Langley Director, initiated the Laminar-Flow-Control Working Group. Cortright announced that Langley had accepted the responsibility of imple­menting a research and technology program focused on the “development and demonstration of economically feasible, reliable, and maintainable laminar flow control.”[314] One of the primary new focuses was a change from military to commercial applications.

There seemed to be as many staunch proponents of laminar flow’ as there were detractors. The optimists believed that a laminar flow wing could be developed using existing manufacturing techniques and known materials and implemented in a reasonable timeframe: by the 1990s. The laminar flow pessimists argued that even if all these achievements were possible (and many believed they were not), the costs and efforts required to keep the airfoil surfaces smooth, clean, and in flight-ready condition would make the entire system prohibitive. The airline industry sum­marized its concerns in four main areas: manufacturability, operational sensitivity, maintainability, and methodology.[315] Hans Mark, the Director of Ames Research Center, was one detractor. He said that the laminar flow program under ACEE should be “given low priority due to the low probability of success, and because benefits are not likely to be realized for many years, if ever”[316]

The laminar flow’ group w ithin ACEE had a difficult mission in front of it: to provide data to support or refute assumptions by both the optimis­tic and pessimistic camps so that industry could make “objective decisions on the feasibility of laminar flow control for application to commercial transports of the 1990s time period.”141 Despite the uncertainties, laminar flow was included in ACEE for two main reasons: first, it offered the prom­ise of dramatic fuel-efficiency improvement, and second, the work in com­posites might directly contribute to developing materials more operationally and economically suited for achieving laminar flow control.

The program, “involved a major change in Agency philosophy regard­ing aeronautical research," according to Albert Braslow. It included an extension of the traditional NACA role in research to include a “demon­stration of technological maturity in order to stimulate the application of technology by industry.”’0 This was also a risky proposition, made even more so during the political environment of the Reagan years. Project man­agers accepted the high level of risk in taking on this program because it was such a revolutionary idea with such great potential. Because NASA had to produce flight research results in several areas, it decided that a phased approach—by breaking down the problems into smaller units—would offer the best chances of success. Phase one involved developing methods for ana­lyzing boundary layers with new computer codes. Also included were studies of surface materials and how to best maintain them. Phase two would move to basic fabrication of test pieces and subject them to wind tunnel testing. This would include subsystems such as pumps for suctioning. Phase three included actual flight-testing, with laminar flow control over a wing or a tail. Braslow was extremely enthusiastic about the potential for the program but was also aware of the risk. He said, “Everybody agrees that you have a hell of a payoff, but the question is, ‘Can you do it on a day-to-day basis?””1

As phases one and two progressed, several key problems were over­come. Insect contamination was thought by many to be a critical issue in preventing program success. Although the insect remains on the wings were small, they were nonetheless large enough to disrupt laminar flow’. That an insect represented the margin of success or failure suggests how difficult the project was. Engineers tested washing systems and nonstick surface materials and concluded that it was best to keep the wings wet [317] [318] [319] so the insects they encountered wouldn’t stick." The potential impact of engine-generated noise waves disrupting laminar How on wings was another area of concern, and a NASA contract with Boeing investigated the laminar flow acoustic environment on a 757. Engine noise, it was found, did not cause the laminar flow to become turbulent. Research went beyond suction laminar flow control. Natural laminar flow investigations were carried out on F-l 11 and F-14 jets at Dryden Flight Research Center.

With success in these first two phases building confidence, phase three began by selecting a vehicle for flight-testing. The airlines wanted an aircraft similar in size to their commercial transports, while NASA pushed for a smaller plane to reduce costs. A compromise was eventually made using a larger plane but restricting experiments to the leading edge of a laminar flow wing, the most technically difficult area to overcome. The leading edges had to be smoother than other areas and had to withstand rain, insects, corro­sion. icing, etc. Langley eventually used a JetStar plane, similar in size to a DC-9. NASA contracted with three industry leaders—Douglas. Lockheed, and Boeing—with NASA assuming 90 percent of the cost.

The Lockheed studies used a composite (graphite epoxy) wing covered by a very thin titanium sheet. The ducting was achieved through slots, and compressors induced the suction. However, it forced the wing to maintain the entire weight of the system, which became problematic. Douglas engi­neers used a different approach, opting for perforated holes instead of slots for the ducting, and explored using a glass fiber material for the suctioning. Boeing came to the laminar flow studies later than the other two companies, preferring to focus all its early attention on near-term fuel efficiency endeav­ors, as opposed to the uncertain future of laminar flow control.2J

After 4 years of flight tests (1983 to 1987), all results were extremely positive.[320] [321] [322] Laminar flow control had been achieved for this leading edge area of the wing in a variety of test conditions, including cold. heat, rain.

The Aerodynamicist’s Pot of Gold—Laminar Flow Control

Laminar flow test aircraft in flight (November 15. 1984). (NASA Langley Research Center (NASA LaRCJ.)

freezing rain, ice, moderate turbulence, and insects. Pilots had no diffi­culty adjusting to the new system. The titanium surface did not corrode over time. Enthusiasm soared higher after a series of test flights with the C-140 JetStar at Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility, which simulated a commercial airline service operating in a variety of weather condi­tions and achieved 22-percent fuel efficiency at cruise speed. Roy Lange, the Laminar Flow Control program manager at Lockheed-Georgia. was pleased with the initial results, though more work still awaited completion. “The only question we have now,” he said in 1985,“is whether the systems can handle a day-by-day flight schedule. … I think we could get there for a 1995 aircraft.”’1 In addition, Langley engineers also investigated hybrid laminar flow control, a combination of the suction and natural laminar flow techniques. Boeing began research on a 757.[323] [324] Braslow recalled that “results were very encouraging. … All necessary systems required for practical [hybrid laminar flow control] were successfully installed into a commercial transport wing."[325] Calculated benefits for a 300-person trans­port predicted a 15-percent savings in fuel.

Despite the successful outcomes, laminar flow control is not currently used in any commercial transport. While the concept was proved in theory and flight-tested, it was never put into service nor put through the rigors of a day-to-day operational environment. It fell victim to the drop in fuel prices in the late 1980s, as there was no economic incentive for pushing through the remaining technological obstacles and actually incorporating laminar flow control into a commercial airlines’ service.

There has been some continued laminar flow research that has yielded positive results since the end of ACEE. including the NASA-Boeing-Air Force B-757 Hybrid Laminar Flow Control (HLFC) flight experiments. As one Langley press release noted in August 1990. the “aerodynamic effi­ciency of future aircraft may improve sharply due to better-than-expected findings from a joint-government-industry flight test program.” Laminar flow was achieved over 65 percent of the modified 757 wing, and engi­neers speculated that if the entire span of both of the wings were modified, the airplane drag would decrease by 10 percent. This would save roughly $100 million annually for the U. S. airline industry.[326] Despite the progress, the technology was not perfected. In 2004, aeronautical engineers William S. Saric and Helen L. Reed presented a paper on the remaining challenges in achieving practical laminar flow. They concluded that “crossflow insta­bility” remained the most significant challenge.[327] [328] [329]

Richard Wagner, the head of the program, lamented the fact that the lam­inar technology is still unused. He said,“I really was disappointed that we didn’t see, or haven’t seen an application of… laminar flow control because… the stuff was ready. I guess it’s just going to take some time to where the fuel price makes it so attractive that they can’t turn their back on it.”4′ Despite its lack of industry acceptance, the ACEE program made major advances in understanding the potential of laminar flow. As James Hansen argued, “all of the promising research indicated that its time might yet come.’’51