The Skyrocket: The NACA’s Pitch-Up Platform

Pitch-up afflicted a wide range of early transonic and supersonic jet fighters, and the NACA was fortunate in having an available research airplane that could study swept wing behavior across the transonic regime. This aircraft was the Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket, "Phase II” of the larger D-558 research aircraft program, a Douglas Company ven­ture begun in 1945 and sponsored by the U. S. Navy and the NACA. The D-558 program had begun as a companion to the XS-1 effort and repre­sented a different design approach. Where the XS-1 was rocket powered, the D-558 Skystreak used a turbojet; where the XS-1 employed an ogi­val projectile shape with a midwing of 8-percent thickness-chord ratio, the D-558 used a constant-diameter tube wrapped around an axial-flow turbojet engine and a low wing of 10-percent thickness-chord ratio; and where the XS-1 was air launched, the D-558 took off from the ground as a conventional airplane. Both were straight wing designs, with their adjustable stabilizers and movable elevators placed midway up their ver­tical fins. All together, the Navy ordered six D-558 aircraft from the firm.[55]

Originally, swept wings had not featured in the D-558 program. Then the discovery by Douglas engineers of a plethora of German tech­nical reports (coupled with the work of Jones and others in the United States) caused the Navy, the NACA, and Douglas to modify the D-558
program.[56] The last three aircraft were completed as a new swept wing design. Initially, the planned modification seemed straightforward: replace the straight wing and tail surfaces with swept ones. In antic­ipation, Langley tested models of the D-558 with a variety of swept wings. But the possibility of giving the swept wing D-558 supersonic performance—something the D-558 straight wing lacked—resulted in a more radical redesign. Gone was the simple Pitot intake inlet. Instead, designer Edward "Ed” Heinemann and his team chose an ogival body shape resembling the XS-1. The new 35-degree slat-equipped swept wing was relocated to midfuselage position and given anhedral (droop), with the landing gear relocated into the fuselage. In contrast to the original single-engine D-558s, the new swept wing design featured both a 6,000- pound thrust rocket engine and a small turbojet. Thus recast, it received the designation D-558-2 and the name Skyrocket, to distinguish it from the straight wing Skystreak, itself redesignated D-558-1. The result was one of the most elegant and significant aircraft of all time.

The Skyrocket: The NACA's Pitch-Up PlatformThe first D-558-2 flew in February 1948, though initial flight tests gave little hint of how remarkably versatile and successful it would prove. At max takeoff weight, it was so underpowered (and thus so slug­gish) that it needed four solid-fuel jettisonable assistance takeoff (JATO) rockets to help kick it aloft. Eventually, the Navy and the NACA would arrange to take the second and third Skyrockets and modify them for air launch from a modified PB2-1S (Navy B-29) Superfortress, dramatically improving both their safety and high-speed performance; fuel previously

spent climbing aloft could now be more profitably expended exploring the transonic and supersonic regimes. While the third aircraft retained its jet and rocket engine, the second had its jet engine removed and additional tanks for rocket propellant and oxidizer installed. Thus modified, the second aircraft reached Mach 2.01 in November 1953, flown by Scott Crossfield, the first piloted Mach 2 flight, having earlier attained an alti­tude of 83,235 feet, piloted by Lt. Col. Marion Carl, a noted Marine aviator. Eventually, the NACA received the first D-558-2 as well (which Douglas had employed for contractor testing). The Agency modified it as an all-rocket aircraft, though it only completed a single check flight before being retired.

The Skyrocket: The NACA's Pitch-Up PlatformBefore all-rocket modification, the second Skyrocket introduced Agency pilots to the hazards of pitch-up. On August 8, 1949, during its seventh flight, pilot Robert Champine banked into a 4 g turn at Mach 0.6, and the Skyrocket violently pitched up, reaching 6 g. It responded rapidly to full-down elevator, and Champine made an uneventful (if pru­dently precautionary) landing. Thereafter, until returning the airplane to Douglas for all-rocket modification in 1950, the NACA flew extensive pitch-up investigations with it. In November, pilot John Griffith repli­cated the 4 g and Mach 0.6 pitch-up that Champine had experienced earlier. This time, however, he attempted to continue flying to more fully assess the Skyrocket’s behavior. Thus challenged, it snap-rolled on its back. After recovering, Griffith probed its low-speed behavior, gradually slowing, with flaps and gear extended and wing slats closed. At 14,000 feet and 130 mph, the Skyrocket pitched up, rolling into a spin, and los­ing 7,000 feet of altitude before its pilot could recover.[57] Clearly its ugly behavior did not match its alluring form.

Focused on extending the Skyrocket’s performance into the super­sonic regime by modifying the second aircraft as a pure rocket plane, the NACA turned to the third aircraft, which retained its jet engine as well as its rocket, for future pitch-up research. Air-launched, the jet-and- rocket Skyrocket had tremendous research productivity; it could accelerate

Подпись: Leading-edge wing chord extensions tested on the third D-558-2 Skyrocket, one of many combinations of flaps, slats, fences, and extensions evaluated in the NACA's 6-year-long study of the Skyrocket's pitch-up behavior. NASA.

into the supersonic regime, above Mach 1.1, and its jet engine enabled it to "loiter” in the transonic region, making repeated data-gathering runs. Its comprehensive instrumentation package enabled assessment of loads, pressure distributions, and accelerations, evaluated against background data on flight conditions, aircraft attitude, and control surface position and forces. Between the end of 1950 and the fall of 1956, it completed 66 research flights on pitch-up and associated transonic phenomena, includ­ing the evaluation of the effects external wing stores—tanks and bomb shapes—had on aircraft performance. It evaluated a variety of proposed aerodynamic solutions and fixes to resolve the pitch-up problem, includ­ing various wing fence designs to "channel” airflow and inhibit the char­acteristic spanwise-flow (flow toward the wingtips) found with swept wing planforms, various combinations of slat and flap position, changes to lead­ing edge shape, and "sawtooth” leading edge extensions on its outer wing panels. All of this testing reinforced what engineers suspected, namely that no one overall technical fix existed that could resolve the pitch-up challenge. Rather, swept wing aircraft design was clearly situational, and, depending on the mission of the aircraft and its resulting design, combina­tions of approaches worked best, chief among them being low placement of

the horizontal tail, below the chord-line of the wing, coupled with provision of stability augmentation and pitch-damping flight control technology.[58]

Ensuring Longitudinal Control: Transforming the Horizontal Tail

Though not seemingly connected to the swept wing, the researching and documenting of the advantages of low-placed horizontal tail surfaces con­stituted one of the major NACA postwar contributions to flight, one dra­matically improving both the safety and flight performance of swept wing designs. As a consequence, the jet fighter and attack aircraft of 1958 looked very different than did the initial jet (and rocket) aircraft of the imme­diate postwar era. Then, high-speed aircraft designers had emphasized tailless planforms, or ones in which the horizontal tail was well up the vertical fin (for example, both the XS-1 and the D-558 families). A decade later, aircraft introduced into test or service—such as the Vought F8U-1 Crusader, the Republic F-105B Thunderchief, the Grumman F11F-1 Tiger, the McDonnell F4H-1 Phantom II, the North American A3J-1 Vigilante, and the Northrop N-156 (progenitor of both the T-38 supersonic trainer and the F-5 lightweight fighter)—shared common characteristics: irre­versible power-operated flight controls, stability augmentation, and damp­ing, large vertical fins for enhanced directional stability, area-ruling, and low-placed, all-moving tails. Foreign aircraft exhibited similar features: for example, the MiG-21, Folland Gnat, and English Electric Lightning.

Aircraft lacking such features manifested often-perilous behavior. The Douglas XF4D-1 Skyray, a graceful rounded delta, had a sudden transonic pitch change reflecting its legacy of Messerschmitt-inspired tailless aerodynamic design. During one test run to Mach 0.98, it pitched
up so violently that test pilot Robert Rahn blacked out, becoming one of the first pilots to experience sudden g-induced loss-of-consciousness (g-loc). Fortunately, he recovered and returned safely, the battered plane now marred by prominent stress-induced wrinkles, giving it a prunelike appearance.[59] When Grumman entered the transonic swept wing era, it did so by converting its conventional straight wing F9F-5 Panther into a swept wing design, spawning the F9F-6 Cougar. (The use of an identical prefix—"F9F”—indicates just how closely the two aircraft were related.) But the Cougar’s swept wing, midplaced horizontal tail, and thick wing section (inherited from the firmly subsonic Panther) were ill matched. The new Cougar had serious pitch-up and departure characteristics at low and high speeds, forcing redesign of its wing before it could be intro­duced into fleetwide service. Even afterward, however, it retained some unpleasant characteristics, particularly a restricted angle-of-attack range during carrier landing approaches that gave the pilot only a small maneu­ver margin before the Cougar would become unstable. Well aware of the likely outcome of stalling and pitching up in the last seconds of flight prior to "trapping” on a carrier, pilots opted to fly faster, though the safety they gained came at the price of less-precise approaches with greater risk of "wave-offs” (aborted landings) and "bolters” (touching down beyond the cables and having to accelerate back into the air).[60]

Ensuring Longitudinal Control: Transforming the Horizontal TailMcDonnell’s XF-88, a beefy twin-engine jet fighter prototype from the late 1940s, was placed on hold while more powerful engines were developed. When finally ordered into development in the early 1950s as the F-101 Voodoo, it featured a T-tail, a most unwise choice. Acceptable on airliners and transports, the T-tail was anathema for high-perfor­mance jet fighters. The Voodoo experienced serious pitch-up problems, and the cure was less a "fix” than simply a "patch”: McDonnell installed

a stick-kicker that would automatically push the stick forward as angle of attack increased and the Voodoo approached the pitch-up point. Wisely, for their next fighter project (the superlative F4H-1 Phantom II), McDonnell designers lowered the horizontal tail location to the base of the fin, giving it a characteristically distinctive anhedral (droop).[61]

Ensuring Longitudinal Control: Transforming the Horizontal TailBetter yet, however, was placing the horizontal tail below the line of the wing chord, which, in practical terms, typically meant at the base of the rear fuselage, and making it all-moving as well. In 1947, even before the first supersonic flights of the XS-1, NACA Langley researchers had evalu­ated a wind tunnel model of the proposed Bell XS-2 (later X-2) with a low – placed horizontal tail and a ventral fin, though (unfortunately, given its history as related subsequently) Bell completed it with a more conventional layout mirroring the XS-1’s midfin location.[62] The now-classic jet age low, all-moving "stabilator” tail was first incorporated on the North American YF-100A Super Sabre, the first of the "Century series” of American fighters.

The low all-moving tail reflected extensive NACA research dating to the midst of the Second World War. While the all-moving tail surface had been a standard feature of early airplanes such as the German Fokker Eindecker ("Monoplane”) and French Morane Bullet fighters of the "Great War,” the near constant high workload it made for a pilot caused it to fall
from grace, in favor of a fixed stabilizer and movable elevator surface. But by the early 1940s, NACA researchers recognized "its possible advantages as a longitudinal control for flight at high Mach numbers.”[63] Accordingly, researchers at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory modi­fied an experimental Curtiss XP-46 fighter on loan from the Army Air Forces by removing its conventional horizontal tail surfaces and replac­ing them with an all-moving tail plane hinged at its aerodynamic cen­ter and controlled by a trailing edge servotab. Initial tests during turns at 200 mph proved disappointing, with pilots finding the all-moving sur­face too sensitive and its control forces too light (and thus dangerous, for they could easily subject the airplane to excessive maneuvering loads) and demanding continuous attention particularly in choppy air. So the XP-46 was modified yet again, this time with a geared, not servotab, con­trol mechanism. If not perfect, the results were much better and more encouraging, with pilots now having the kind of variation in stick force to give them feedback on how effectively they were controlling the air­plane.[64] Recognizing that the all-moving tail could substantially increase longitudinal control authority in the transonic region, NACA research­ers continued their study efforts into the postwar years, encouraged by initial flight-test results of the Bell XS-1, which began approaching higher transonic Mach numbers in the fall of 1946. Though its adjustable horizontal stabilizer with a movable elevator constituted an admittedly interim step on the path to an all-moving surface, the XS-1’s excursions through the speed of sound generated convincing proof that designers could dramatically increase transonic longitudinal control authority via an all-moving tail.[65]

Ensuring Longitudinal Control: Transforming the Horizontal Tail

Tail location—midfin (as in the XS-1 and D-558), at the base of the fin (as with the F-86 and most other jet aircraft), or high (as with the T-tail F-101)—was another significant issue. German wartime research had favored no tail surfaces or, at the other extreme, high T-tails—for example, the DFS 346 supersonic research aircraft under development at war’s end or the proposed Focke-Wulf Ta 183 swept wing jet fighter (which influenced the design of the MiG-15 and early Lavochkin swept wing jet fighters and a proposed British supersonic research aircraft). But the pitch-up problems encountered by the Skyrocket and even the F-86, as angle of attack increased, argued powerfully against such loca­tions. In 1949, coincident with the Air Force and North American begin­ning development of the Sabre 45, a 45-degree swept wing successor to the F-86, Jack D. Brewer and Jacob H. Lichtenstein, two researchers at Langley, undertook a series of studies of tail size, length, and vertical location using the Langley stability tunnel and a model having 45-degree swept wing and tail surfaces. Their research demonstrated that placing a tail well aft of the wing and along the fuselage centerline (as viewed from the side) improved longitudinal stability and control.[66] Building upon their work, Langley researchers William Alford, Jr., and Thomas Pasteur, Jr., ran an investigation in the Langley 7-foot by 10-foot high­speed tunnel to determine aspect ratio and location effects on the lon­gitudinal stability of a swept wing model across the transonic regime from Mach 0.80 to Mach 0.93. "The results,” they subsequently reported in 1953, "indicted that, within the range of variables considered, the most favorable pitching-moment characteristics at a Mach number of 0.90 were obtained by locating the tail below the wing-chord plane.”[67] Compared to this, other changes were inconsequential.

Ensuring Longitudinal Control: Transforming the Horizontal TailFlight tests at Ames in 1952 of a North American YF-86D (an inter­ceptor variant of the F-86) specially modified with a low-placed horizon­tal tail, confirmed the Langley test results. As researchers noted, "The

test airplane, while having essentially the same unstable airplane static pitching moments as another version of this airplane [the F-86A] with an uncontrollable pitch-up, had only a mild pitch-up which was easily con­trollable,” and had a nearly 40-percent increase in stabilizer and elevator effectiveness at transonic speeds.[68] The prototype YF-100 Super Sabre, first flown in May 1953, incorporated the fruits of this research. Next came the Vought XF8U-1 Crusader and the Republic YF-105 Thunderchief, and thereafter a plethora of other types. Aviation had returned full circle to the technology with which powered, controlled flight had begun: back to pivoted all-moving pitch-control surfaces of a kind the Wrights and other pioneers would have immediately recognized and appreciated.

Inertial Coupling: Dangerous Byproduct of High-Speed Design

The progression of aircraft flight speeds from subsonic to transonic and on into the supersonic changed the proportional relationship of wing to fuselage. As speed rose, the ratio of span to fuselage length decreased. At the onset of the subsonic era, the Wright Flyer had a wingspan-to – fuselage length ratio of 1.91. The SPAD XIII fighter of World War I was 1.30. The Second World War’s P-51D decreased to 1.14. Then came the supersonic era: the XS-1 was 0.90. In 1953, the F-100A, lowered the ratio to 0.80, and the F-104A of 1954 cut this in half, to 0.40. The radical X-3 had a remarkably slender wingspan-to-fuselage length ratio of just 0.34: not without reason was it nicknamed the "Stiletto.” But while the dra­matic increase in fuselage length at the expense of span spoke to the need to reduce wing-aspect ratio and increase fuselage fineness ratio to achieve idealized supersonic shaping, any resulting aerodynamic benefit came only at the price of significant performance limitations and risk.

Increasing fuselage length while reducing span dramatically changed the mass distribution of these new designs: whereas earlier airplanes had most of their mass concentrated along the span of their wings, as the wing-fuselage ratio changed from well above 1.0 to well below this figure, the distribution of mass shifted to along the fuselage. Since a long forward fuselage inherently reduces directional stability, and since the small low aspect ratio wings of these airplanes reduced their roll stability, a potentially deadly mix of technical circumstances existed to
produce a major crisis: the onset of transonic and supersonic inertial coupling, also termed roll-coupling.

Inertial Coupling: Dangerous Byproduct of High-Speed DesignWilliam Hewitt Phillips of the NACA’s Langley laboratory had first forecast inertial coupling. His pronouncement sprang from a fortuitous experience while supervising tests of a large XS-1 "falling body” model in the summer of 1947. The model (dropped from a high-flying B-29 over a test range near Langley to assess XS-1 elevator control effectiveness as it approached Mach 1) incorporated a simple autopilot and was intended to rotate slowly as it fell, so as to maintain a "predictable trajectory.”[69] But after the drop, things went rapidly awry. The model experienced violent pitching and rapid rolling "well below” the speed of sound and fell so far from its planned impact point that it literally disappeared from history. But optical observations, coupled with telemetric data, led Phillips to conclude that "some kind of gyroscopic effect” had taken place. Intrigued, he drew upon coursework from Professors Manfred Rauscher and Charles Stark Draper of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, using the analogy of the coupling dynamics of a rotating rod. He substituted the values obtained from the falling XS-1 model, discovering that "the results clearly showed the possibility of a diver­gent motion. . . . The instability was likely to occur when the values of longitudinal stability and directional stability were markedly differ­ent and when a large amount of the weight was distributed along the fuselage.”[70] Hewitt subsequently published a seminal NACA Technical Note in 1948, which presciently concluded: "Design trends of very high­speed aircraft, which include short wing spans, fuselages of high density, and flight at high altitude, all tend to increase the inertia forces due to rolling in comparison with the aerodynamic restoring forces provided by the longitudinal and directional stabilities. It is therefore desirable to investigate the effects of rolling on the longitudinal and directional stabilities of these aircraft. . . . The rolling motion introduces coupling between the longitudinal and lateral motion of the aircraft.”[71] Out of

this came the expression "inertial coupling” and its more descriptive equivalent, "roll-coupling.” Phillips continued his research on roll-cou­pling and rolling maneuvers in accelerated flight, noting in 1949 that high-speed rolls could generate "exceptionally large” sideslip loads on a vertical fin that might risk structural failure. He concluded: "The provision of adequate directional stability, especially at small angles of sideslip, in order to prevent excessive sideslipping in rolls at high speed is therefore important from structural considerations as well as from the standpoint of providing desirable flying qualities.”[72]

Inertial Coupling: Dangerous Byproduct of High-Speed DesignIn the summer of 1952, as part of an investigation effort studying coupled lateral and longitudinal oscillations, researchers at the NACA’s Pilotless Aircraft Research Division at Wallops Island, VA, fired a series of large rocket-boosted swept wing model airplanes. Spanning over 3 feet, but with a length of nearly 6 feet, they had the general aero­dynamic shape of the D-558-2 as originally conceived: with a slightly shorter vertical fin. These models accelerated to supersonic speed and then, after rocket burnout and separation, glided onward while onboard telemetry instrumentation relayed a continuous stream of key performance and behavior parameters as they decelerated through the speed of sound before diving into the sea. On August 6, 1952, techni­cians launched one equipped with a small pulse rocket to deliberately destabilize it with a timely burst of rocket thrust. After booster burn­out, as the model decelerated below Mach 1, the small nose thruster fired, inducing combined yawing, sideslip, and rolling motions. But instead of damping out, the model swiftly went out of control, as if a replay of the XS-1 falling body test 5 years previously. It rolled, pitched, and yawed until it plunged into the Atlantic, its death throes caught by onboard instrumentation and radioed to a NACA ground station. If dry, the summary words of the resulting test report held ominous import for future flight-testing of full-size piloted aircraft: "From the flight time history of a rocket-propelled model of a representative 35° sweptback wing airplane, it is indicated that coupled longitudinal motions were excited and sustained by pure lateral oscillations. The resulting longitudinal motions had twice the frequency of the lateral oscillations and rapidly developed lift loads of appreciable magnitude. The longitudinal moments are attributed to two sources, aerodynamic

moments due to sideslip and inertial cross-coupling. The roll charac­teristics are indicated to be the predominating influence in the inertial cross-coupling terms.”[73]

Inertial Coupling: Dangerous Byproduct of High-Speed DesignTwo model tests, 5 years apart, had shown that roll coupling was clearly more than a theoretical possibility. Shortly thereafter it turned into an alarming reality when the Bell X-1A, North American YF-100 Super Sabre, and Douglas X-3 entered flight-testing. Each of these encoun­tered it with varying degrees of severity. The first to do so was the Bell X-1A, a longer, more streamlined, and more powerful derivative of the original XS-1.[74] The X-1A arrived at Edwards in early 1953, flew a brief contractor program, and then entered Air Force evaluation in November. On December 12, 1953, test pilot Charles E. "Chuck” Yeager nearly died when it went out of control at Mach 2.44 at nearly 80,000 feet. In the low dynamic pressure ("low q” in engineering parlance) of the upper atmo­sphere, a slight engine thrust misalignment likely caused it to begin a slow left roll. As Yeager attempted to control it, the X-1A rolled rapidly to the right, then violently back to the left, tumbling completely out of control and falling over 50,000 feet before the badly battered Yeager man­aged to regain control. Gliding back to Edwards, he succinctly radioed: "You know, if I’d had a seat, you wouldn’t still see me in this thing.”[75] Afterward, NACA engineers concluded that "lateral stability difficulties were encountered which resulted in uncontrolled rolling motions of the airplane at Mach numbers near 2.0. Analysis indicates that this behav­ior apparently results from a combination of low directional stability

and damping in roll.”[76] The predictions made in Phillips’s 1948 NACA Technical Note had come to life, and even worse would soon follow.

Inertial Coupling: Dangerous Byproduct of High-Speed DesignBy the time of Yeager’s harrowing X-1A flight, the prototype YF-100, having first flown in May 1953, was well into its flight-test program. North American and the Air Force were moving quickly to fulfill ambitious pro­duction plans for this new fighter. Yet all was not well. The prototype Super Sabre had sharply swept wings, a long fuselage, and a small ver­tical fin. While fighter pilots, entranced by its speed, were enthusiastic about the new plane, Air Force test pilots were far less sanguine, noting its lateral-directional stability was "unsatisfactory throughout the entire combat speed range,” with lateral-directional oscillations showing "no tendency to damp at all.”[77] Even so, in the interest of reducing weight and drag, North American actually shrank the size of the vertical fin for the production F-100A, lowering its height, reducing its area and aspect ratio, and increasing its taper ratio. The changes further cut the direc­tional stability of the F-100A, by some estimates as much as half, over the YF-100.[78] The first production F-100As entered service in the late sum­mer of 1954. Inertial coupling now struck with a vengeance. In October and November, two accidents claimed North American’s chief test pilot, George "Wheaties” Welch, and Royal Air Force Air Commodore Geoffrey Stephenson, commander of Britain’s Central Fighter Establishment. Others followed. The accidents resulted in an immediate grounding while the Air Force, North American, and the NACA crafted complementary research programs to analyze and fix the troubled program.[79]

Then, in the midst of the F-100’s travail, inertial coupling struck the Douglas X-3. First flown in October 1952, the X-3 had vestigial straight wings and tail surfaces joined to a missile-like fuselage. Though it was
the most highly streamlined airplane of its time, mediocre engines con­founded hopes it might achieve Mach 2 speeds, and it never flew faster than Mach 1.21, and that only in a dive. The NACA acquired it for research in December 1953, following contractor flights and a brief Air Force eval­uation. On October 27, 1954, during its 10th NACA flight, test pilot Joseph A. Walker initiated an abrupt left aileron roll at Mach 0.92 at 30,000 feet. The X-3 pitched up as it rolled, sideslipping as well. After it returned to stable flight, Walker initiated another left roll at Mach 1.05. This time, it responded even more violently. Sideslip angle exceeded 21 degrees, and it reached -6.7 g during a pitch-down, immediately pitching up to over 7 g. Fortunately, the wild motions subsided, and Walker, like Yeager before him, returned safely to Earth.[80] With the example of the X – 1A, the F-100A, and the X-3, researchers had conclusive proof of a newly emer­gent crisis imperiling the practical exploitation of the high-speed frontier.

Inertial Coupling: Dangerous Byproduct of High-Speed DesignThe F-100A raised the most concern, for it was the first of an entire new class of supersonic fighter aircraft, the "Century series,” with which the United States Air Force and at least some of its allies hoped to reequip. Welch’s F-100A had sideslipped and promptly disintegrated during a diving left roll initiated at Mach 1.5 at 25,000 feet. As Phillips had predicted in 1949, the loads had proven too great for the fin to with­stand (afterward, North American engineers "admitted they had been naive in estimating the effects of reducing the aspect ratio and area of the YF-100 prototype tail”).[81] Curing the F-100’s inertial coupling prob­lems took months of extensive NACA and Air Force flight-testing, much of it very high-risk, coupled with analytical studies by Langley personnel using a Reeves Electronic Analogue Computer (REAC), an early form of a digital analyzer. During one roll at Mach 0.7 (and only using two – thirds of available aileron travel), NACA test pilot A. Scott Crossfield experienced "a large yaw divergence accompanied by a violent pitch – down. . . which subjected the airplane to approximately -4.4g vertical acceleration.”[82] Clearly the F-100A needed significant redesign: the Super

Sabre’s accidents and behavior (and that of the X-3 as well) highlighted that streamlined supersonic aircraft needed greatly increased tail area, coupled with artificial stability and motion damping, to keep sideslip from developing to dangerous values. North American subsequently dramatically increased the size of the F-100’s vertical fin, increased its wingspan by 2 feet (to shift the plane’s center of gravity forward), and incorporated a yaw damper to control sideslip. Though the F-100 sub­sequently became a reliable fighter-bomber (it flew in American service for almost a quarter century and longer in foreign air arms), it remained one that demanded the constant attention and respect of its pilots.[83]

Inertial Coupling: Dangerous Byproduct of High-Speed DesignInertial coupling was not, of course, a byproduct of conceptualizing the swept and delta wings, nor was it limited (as the experience of the XS-1 falling model, X-1A, and X-3 indicated) just to aircraft possessing swept or delta planforms. Rather, it was a byproduct of the revolution in high-speed flight, reflecting the overall change in the parametric rela­tionship between span and length that characterized aircraft design in the jet age. Low aspect ratio straight wing aircraft like the X-3 and the later Lockheed F-104 were severely constrained by the threat of iner­tial coupling, even more than many swept wing aircraft were.[84] But for swept wing and delta designers, inertial coupling became a particular challenge they had to resolve, along with pitch-up. As the low-placed horizontal tail reflected the problem of pitch-up, the increasing size of vertical fins (and the addition of ventral fins and strakes as well) incor­porated on new aircraft such as the Navy’s F8U-1 and the Air Force’s

F-105B (and the twin-fins that followed in the 1970s on aircraft such as the F-14A, F-15A, and F/A-18A) spoke to the serious challenge the iner­tial coupling phenomenon posed to aircraft design. Not visible were such "under the skin” systems as yaw dampers and the strict limitations on abrupt transonic and supersonic rolling taught to pilots transitioning into these and many other first-generation supersonic designs.[85]

Inertial Coupling: Dangerous Byproduct of High-Speed DesignThe story of the first encounters with inertial coupling is a salu­tary, cautionary tale. A key model test had resulted in analysis leading to the issuance of a seminal report but one recognized as such only in retrospect. A half decade after the report’s release, pilots died because the significance of the report for future aircraft design and behavior had been missed. Even within the NACA, recognition of seriousness of reduced transonic and supersonic lateral-directional stability had been slow. When, in August 1953, NACA engineers submitted thoughts for a tentative research plan for an F-100A that the Agency would receive, attention focused on longitudinal pitch-up, assessing its handling qual­ities (particularly its suitability as a gun platform, something seemingly more appropriately done by the Air Force Flight Test Center or the Air Proving Ground at Eglin), and the correlation of flight and wind tun­nel measurements.[86] Even after the experience of the X-1A, F-100A, and X-3, even after all the fixes and training, it is disturbing how inertial coupling stilled claimed the unwary.[87] Over time, the combination of refined design, advances in stability augmentation (and eventually the advent of computer-controlled fly-by-wire flight) would largely render

inertial coupling a curiosity. But for pilots of a certain age—those who remember aircraft such as the X-3, F-100, F-101, F-102, and F-104— the expression "inertial coupling,” like "pitch-up,” will always serve to remind that what is an analytical curiosity in the engineer’s laboratory is a harsh reality in the pilot’s cockpit.

Implementing the Delta Planform

While swept wing adaptation in Europe, Russia, and America followed a generally similar pattern, the delta wing underwent markedly differ­ent international development. Generally, European designers initially emulated the Lippisch approach, resulting in designs with relatively thick wing sections (exemplified by the Avro Vulcan bomber and the "tailed” Gloster Javelin interceptor) that inhibited their ability to operate beyond the transonic. Only after the practical demonstration of Convair’s emerging family of thin-wing delta designs—the XF-92A research air­craft, the F-102 interceptor, the XF2Y-1 experimental naval fighter, the B-58 supersonic bomber, and the F-106 interceptor—did they conceptu­alize more "supersonic friendly” designs, typified by the Swedish Saab J35 Draken ("Dragon”), the British Fairey F. D.2 research airplane, the French Dassault Mirage I (progenitor of the Mirage fighter and bomber family). By the late 1950s, British and French aerodynamicists had so completely "closed” any "delta gap” that might have existed between Europe and America that they were already conceptualizing development of a Mach 2 supersonic transatlantic transport using a shapely "ogee” reflexive delta planform, a study effort that would, a decade later, spawn the Anglo-French Concorde.[88] Not so taken with the pure delta, Soviet designers joined American-like thin delta wings to the low-placed hori­zontal tail, generating advanced MiG and Sukhoi fighters and intercep­tors. These "tailed deltas” (particularly the MiG-21) possessed far better transonic and supersonic turning performance than could be attained by a conventional delta with its high induced drag onset at the increas­ing angles of attack characteristic of hard-maneuvering. (An American equivalent was the Douglas Company’s superlative A4D-1 Skyhawk,
a light attack bomber with maneuvering performance better than most fighters.)

Implementing the Delta PlanformAlthough it is commonly accepted that American delta aircraft owe their inspiration to the work of Lippisch—Convair’s delta aircraft repeatedly being cited as the products of his influence—in fact, they do not.[89] Unlike, say, the swept wing F-86 and B-47, which directly reflected German aerodynamic thought and example, America’s delta wing air­craft reflected indigenous, not foreign, research and inspiration. By the time that Lippisch first met with Allied technical intelligence experts, American aerodynamicists were already advancing along a very differ­ent path than the one he had followed. Jones had already enunciated his thin, sharply swept delta theory and undertaken his first tunnel tests of it. In June 1946—a full year after the German collapse—Convair engi­neers developing the experimental delta XP-92 interceptor had their chance to meet with Lippisch at Wright Field. By then, however, they had already independently decided upon a thin delta planform. "We had heard about Dr. Lippisch’s work and this gave us some moral support,” Convair designer Adolph Burstein recalled, adding: "but not much else. . . . We did not go along with many of his ideas, such as a very thick airfoil.”[90] Burstein and his colleagues arrived at their delta shape by beginning with a 45-degree swept wing, gradually increasing its sweepback angle, and then "filling in” the ever-closing trailing edges, until they arrived at the classic 60-degree triangular delta planform the company incorporated on all its subsequent delta aircraft. With a 6.5 thickness-chord ratio— less than half that of Lippisch’s DM-1—it was an altogether different – looking airplane.[91] Nor was Convair alone in going its own way; Douglas naval aircraft designer Edward Heinemann acknowledged that "At the close of World War II the work with delta planforms accomplished by

Подпись: Lippisch DM-1 glider in the Langley Full Scale Tunnel, 1946. The thick-wing section is readily apparent, as is the oversize vertical fin, both of which rendered the concept unsuitable for transonic flight. NASA.
Implementing the Delta Planform

Dr. Lippisch in Germany became generally known and appreciated,” but that "Extensive wind tunnel tests showed there was no special merit to an equilateral triangle planform—especially those designed with thicker airfoils.”[92]

The chronology of American delta development, and the technical choices and paths followed by American engineers, supports both state­ments. At war’s end, advancing ground forces at Prien, Austria, had dis­covered a thick-wing wooden delta glider, the DM-1, which Lippisch had intended as a low-speed testbed for a proposed supersonic fighter, the P 13. At Army Air Forces’ request, it was shipped back to America in January 1946 for comprehensive testing in the Full-Scale Tunnel at the NACA’s Langley Aeronautical Laboratory. Had the tests gone well,
the possibility existed as that, as the Germans had intended, it might be flown as a glider. But the tunnel tests quickly disabused delta enthu­siasts of these hopes. As the AAF’s Langley liaison officer subsequently reported, the "Initial test results were very disappointing; the lift coef­ficient was low, the drag was high, the directional stability was unsatis­factory, and the craft was considered unsafe for flight tests.”[93]

Implementing the Delta PlanformAfterward, Langley engineers undertook a comprehensive study of the DM-1 configuration, not in the spirit of emulation but rather attempt­ing to find a way to fix it. After giving its wings sharp leading edges, seal­ing all slots and gaps around control surfaces, and removing the thick vertical fin and replacing it with a thin one (relocating the pilot under a streamlined bubble canopy), they had markedly improved its perfor­mance, doubling its lift coefficient, from 0.6 to over 1.2. But it remained an unsatisfactory design, proof enough that the Lippisch concept of del­tas was hardly one that could serve—or did serve—as a veritable template (as has been so often alleged) for the supersonic American, Swedish, and French delta fighters and bombers that flew over the next decade.[94] Subsequently, NACA engineers looked to far thinner and more streamlined configurations that, if not yet as extreme as Robert T. Jones’s original daggerlike concept, were even more amenable to the rigors of transonic and supersonic flight than the generously rounded contours of Lippisch’s thick wings and awkward pilot-enclosing vertical fins. By the beginning of 1947, they were already examining the technical requirements of slender, low aspect ratio delta configurations

Подпись: The Convair XF-92A, the world's first delta jet airplane, at the NACA High-Speed Flight Research Station, now the Dryden Flight Research Center, in 1953. NASA.

to meet emerging military specifications for a Mach 1.5, 60,000-foot bomber interceptor.[95]

First Flight Experiences

Out of this mutually reinforcing climate of thought emerged the world’s first delta jet airplane, the Convair XF-92A, first flown in September 1948. This technology explorer (for despite its "fighter” designation, it was always intended for research purposes) demonstrated the poten­tial of the delta wing and encouraged Convair and Air Force authorities to pursue a delta planform for a future interceptor design. Originally, that design had been the "XP-92,” an impractical barrel-shaped rocket – boosted ramjet with the pilot sitting in a conical nose within the ramjet’s
circular inlet, similar to Rene Leduc’s straight wing air-launched French ramjet designs of the same period. Following its cancellation, work on the XF-92A continued, supporting the Air Force’s "1954 Interceptor” ini­tiative, which Convair hoped to win with, essentially, a bigger and more powerful version of the XF-92A. Aside from greater power, the intercep­tor would have to have a nose radar and thus "cheek” inlets rather than the simple Pitot nose inlet of the smaller testbed. The "1954 Interceptor” eventually became two: the "interim” Mach 1+ F-102 Delta Dagger and the "ultimate” Mach 2+ F-106 Delta Dart.

First Flight ExperiencesThe XF-92A contributed markedly to delta understanding but was far from a trouble-free design. Deltas evinced a variety of quirks and per­formance deficiencies, some of which they shared with their swept wing brethren. Deltas manifested the same tendency to persistent combined lat­eral-directional Dutch roll motions, as well as pitch-up, from Mach num­ber effects as they entered further into the transonic regime. The extreme sweep of their wings accentuated spanwise flow tendencies, making wing fences almost mandatory in all cases. Their high angle-of-attack ("hi AoA”) landing approaches highlighted potentially serious control deficiencies, for, unlike a conventional fighter, the delta lacked separate elevators and aile­rons. It relied instead on elevons—combined elevator-ailerons—for pitch and roll control. Thus, with the stick pulled back on final approach, the nose would rise, and if the plane encountered a sudden gust that induced a rolling motion, the pilot might lack sufficient remaining reserve "travel” from the deflected elevon to correct for the rolling motion. Further com­plicating landing approaches and turn performance was the delta’s inher­ently high-induced drag as it turned or was at higher angles of attack. Deltas needed lots of power. The high-induced drag of the delta led to a rapid bleeding off of airspeed during turns and thus inhibited its holding altitude during turning maneuvers. Tests with the little XF-92A in 1953 by NACA research pilot Scott Crossfield indicated that as much as 3,000 feet of altitude could be lost trying to maintain constant speed in a turn­ing maneuver—and this was after it had been modified to incorporate an afterburner for greater power. "Every time I took off in that plane I held my brief until I reached sufficient altitude to use the ejection seat,” Crossfield recollected later. "The pilot never really flew that airplane, he corralled it.”[96]

All together, the NACA completed 25 flights in the XF-92A before a land­ing gear collapse brought its research career to an end.

First Flight ExperiencesTests of the XF-92A foreshadowed similar challenges with the next Convair delta, the prototype YF-102 interceptor. The YF-102 is infamous for having suffered from such high transonic drag rise that it could not accelerate through the speed of sound, a discovery that led, as Air Force test pilot Lt. Col. Frank K. "Pete” Everest recalled, to "surprise and con­cern. . . . The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics had claimed all along that the airplane would not go supersonic, and now their predic­tions came true.”[97] (How the YF-102 was transformed from embarrass­ing failure to operational success, thanks to Richard Whitcomb’s "area rule” theory and its practical application to the F-102 design, is covered elsewhere in this volume in a case study on Whitcomb’s contributions to aeronautics, by historian Jeremy Kinney.) But more than reshaping of its fuselage was required before the F-102 became a success. Instead, its wing underwent fundamental aerodynamic redesign reflecting the second stage in American delta development and its third stage overall.

Reshaping the Delta: Deriving Conical Camber

Having preceded the explication of the swept wing in Jones’s original research, the roots of the delta’s redesign now lay, somewhat ironically, in his expanding upon the slender swept wing research he had first begun at Langley. After the war, Jones had left Virginia’s Tidewater region for the equally pleasant Bay area environment of Sunnyvale, CA, and there had continued his swept wing studies. By 1947, he had evolved a sharply swept symmetrical airfoil planform he considered suitable for a supersonic jet transport. Such a planform, with the leading edges of the wings within the shock cone formed around the vehicle and thus in a region of subsonic flow, could perhaps have a lift-to-drag (L/D) ratio as high as 10, though at the price of much higher landing speeds.[98] Tests of a small model in the Ames 1-foot by 3-foot supersonic tun­nel and a larger one in the Ames 40-foot by 80-foot tunnel encouraged Jones and inspired fellow Ames researchers Charles F. Hall and John C. Heitmeyer to build upon his work. Hall and Heitmeyer considered the behavior of the combined wing-body, with the wing twisted and
given camber (curvature) to evenly distribute the flight loads, deriv­ing a sharply swept and tapered wing configuration that demonstrated an L/D of 8.9 during tunnel tests to Mach 1.53.[99] In the refinement of its planform, it called to mind the shape (though, of course, not the airfoil section) of Whitcomb’s later supercritical transonic transport wing conceptualizations.[100]

Reshaping the Delta: Deriving Conical CamberHall and Heitmeyer next broadened their research to examine slen­der deltas likewise featuring aerodynamic twist and camber. In 2 years, 1951-1952, they coauthored a dozen reports, culminating in the issu­ance of a seminal study by Hall in the spring of 1953 that summarized the lift, drag, pitching moment, and load distribution data on a variety of thin delta wings of varying aspect ratios operating from Mach 0.25 (touchdown velocity) to Mach 1.9. Out of this came the concept of lead­ing edge "conical camber”: twisting and rounding the leading edge of a delta wing to minimize performance-robbing drag generated by the wing’s own lifting force. The modified delta had minimal camber at the wing root and maximum camber at the tip, the lineal development of the camber along the leading edge effectively representing the surface of a steadily expanding cone nestled under the leading edge of the wing.[101]

Hall’s conical camber, like Whitcomb’s area rule, came just in time to save the F-102 program. Both were necessary to make it a success: Whitcomb’s area rule to get it through the sound barrier, and Hall’s to give it acceptable transonic and supersonic flying qualities. If over­shadowed by Whitcomb’s achievement—which resulted in the young Langley aerodynamicist receiving the Robert J. Collier Trophy, American aviation’s most prestigious award, in 1954—Hall’s conical camber con­cept was nevertheless a critical one. Comparative flight-testing of the YF-102 at the NACA High-Speed Flight Station at Edwards from late
1954 to mid-1955 with and without conical camber indicated that con­ical camber gave it lower drag and increased its maximum lift-to-drag ratio by approximately 20 percent over a test Mach number range of 0.6 to 1.17, at altitudes of 25,000, 40,000, and 50,000 feet. Transonic sta­bility of the cambered versus symmetrical YF-102 more than doubled, and "no severe pitch-up tendencies were exhibited, except when accel­erating or decelerating through the trim-change region.”[102]

Reshaping the Delta: Deriving Conical CamberWith the advent of conical camber, the age of the practical transonic – supersonic delta wing had arrived. By mid-decade, the F-102’s aero­dynamic deficiencies had been cured, and it was well on its way to ser­vice use.[103] Convair designers were refining the delta planform to generate the F-102’s successor, the superlative F-106, and a four-engine Mach 2+ bomber, the delta wing B-58 Hustler. Overseas, Britain’s Fairey Company had under test a delta of its own, the F. D.2, which would shortly estab­lish an international speed record, while, in France, Dassault engineers were conceptualizing a design that would spawn the Mirage family and be responsible, in 1967, for one of the most remarkable aerial victories of all time. Jones’s supersonic delta vision from over a decade previously had become reality, thanks in part to Whitcomb’s interference studies (which Jones himself would expand at Ames) and Hall’s conceptualiza­tion of conical camber.

Extending the Delta into the Hypersonic and Orbital Frontier

The next stage in delta development took it from the realm of the tran­sonic and supersonic into the hypersonic, again thanks to a healthy rivalry and differing technical perspective between those two great research centers, Ames and Langley. The area was hypersonics: flight at speeds higher than Mach 5, an area of intense inquiry in the mid – 1950s following upon the success of the supersonic Round One research

aircraft. Already a Round Two hypersonic test vehicle, the soon-to-emerge North American X-15 was underway. But what of high-hypersonics, the hypersonics of flight at Mach 10 to orbital velocity?

Extending the Delta into the Hypersonic and Orbital FrontierHypersonics constituted a natural application for the low aspect ratio delta planform. Before the Second World War, Austrian engineer Eugen Sanger and his mathematician wife, Irene Sanger-Bredt, had concep­tualized the Silbervogel ("Silver Bird”), a flat-bottom, half ogive body shape as a potential Earth-girdling hypersonic boost-glider. It had, for its time, a remarkable advanced aerodynamic profile, introducing the flat bottom and ogival configuration that did, in fact, come to charac­terize hypersonic aerothermodynamic design. But in one respect it did not: Sanger-Bredt’s "antipodal aircraft” had a conventional wing (though of low aspect planform and with supersonic wedge airfoils). Although it proved very influential on the course of postwar hypersonics, by the mid-1950s, as high-speed aerodynamic thinking advanced beyond the supersonic and into the hypersonic realm, attention increasingly turned toward the sharply swept delta planform.

In 1951, Ames researchers H. Julian Allen and Alfred Eggers, Jr., had postulated the blunt-body reentry theory that led to the advent of the practical reentry shape used subsequently both for missile warheads and the first human presence in space.[104] (Their work, and the emer­gence of the hypersonics field generally, are discussed in greater detail in T. A. Heppenheimer’s accompanying essay on transatmospherics.) While blunt-body theory enabled safely transiting the atmosphere, it did not furnish the flexibility of a large landing "footprint”; indeed, in practice, blunt-body reentry was limited to "throwaway” reentry shapes and pro­grams such as Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo that necessitated a large and cumbersome investment in oceanic recovery of returning space­craft. Some sort of lifting vehicle that could fly at hypersonic velocities would have far greater flexibility.

Related to the problem of hypersonic flight was the challenge of increasing lift-to-drag ratios at high supersonic speeds. Eggers, work­ing with Ames researcher Clarence A. Syvertson, now turned away from blunt-body theory to examine thin, slender deltas. The two rec­ognized that "the components of the aircraft should be individually
and collectively arranged to impart the maximum downward and the minimum forward momentum to the surrounding air.”[105] Out of this emerged the hypersonic "flattop” delta, a high-wing concept having the wing perched above the body (in this case, surmounting the classic half-ogive hypersonic shape), incongruously much like a general aviation light airplane such as a Cessna 152. At mid-span, its tips would angle sharply downward, capturing the momentum of flow imparted laterally outward from the body and deflecting it into downward momentum, thus greatly increasing lift. The tips as well furnished directional stability. This flattop concept, which Eggers and Syvertson enunciated in 1956, spawned an Ames concept for a hypersonic "beyond X-15” Round Three research vehicle that could be air-launched from a modified Convair B-36 bomber for ini­tial trials to Mach 6 and, once proven, could then be launched vertically as the second stage of a two-stage system capable of reach­ing Mach 10 and transiting the United States. The Ames vehicle, with an overall length of 70 feet and a span of just 25 feet, represented a bold concept that seemed likely to spawn the anticipated Round Three hypersonic boost-glider.[106]

Extending the Delta into the Hypersonic and Orbital FrontierBut the flattop delta was swiftly undone by a rival Round Three Langley concept that echoed more the earlier work of Sanger-Bredt. A 1957 study by Peter Korycinski and John Becker demonstrated that a flat-bottom (that is, low-wing) delta boost-glider would have bet­ter cooling characteristics (a vital concern at hypersonic velocities) and thus require less weight for thermal protection systems. Any lift-to-drag advantages of the Ames flattop high-wing concept were thus nullified. Round Three went forward, evolving into the abortive Air Force-NASA X-20 Dyna-Soar program, which employed the Langley

flat-bottom approach, not the high-wing flattop delta of Ames.[107] Ames and Langley contested a decade later, this time in rival lifting bodies, with the Ames half-cone flattop M-2 (the product of Allen, Eggers, Syvertson, George Edwards, and George Kenyon) competing against Langley’s HL-10 fattened flat-bottom delta (by Eugene S. Love). Again, it was the flat-bottom delta that proved superior, confirmed by tests in the mid-1970s with an even more refined flat-bottom Air Force-derived slender delta body shape, the Martin X-24B.[108]

Extending the Delta into the Hypersonic and Orbital FrontierWhen orbital cross range proved even of greater significance, Shuttle proponents from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Air Force in the 1970s looked away from flattop and lift­ing body approaches and more toward blended bodies, modified delta planforms, and exotic delta "wave riders.” Though NASA’s Spacecraft Design Division briefly considered a conventionally tailed, straight and swept wing Shuttle concepts, reflecting an influential study by Johnson’s Maxime Faget, it moved rapidly toward deltas after analysis indicated such designs had a tendency of hypersonic spins, suspect aero – thermal survivability, and too small a cross range during return from orbit. Between mid-1971 and the late summer of 1972, the Spacecraft Design Division evaluated no less than 37 separate delta configurations, ranging from simple triangular shapes echoing the early days of Jones to much more complex ogee shape reflecting the refinement of the delta as exemplified by the Anglo-French Concorde. Aside from continuous review by the Manned Spacecraft Center (MSC; subsequently the NASA Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center), these evaluations benefitted greatly from aerodynamic analysis by NASA’s Ames and Langley hypersonic

communities, the practical low lift-to-drag-ratio flight-test experience of researchers at the NASA Flight Research Center, and the rocketry and space flight expertise of the Marshall Space Flight Center, whose experts assessed each proposal from the standpoint of technical feasi­bility and launch vehicle practicality. This multi-Center review strongly endorsed development of a modified delta planform, in part because the delta had inherently better stability characteristics during the high angle-of-attack reentry profile that any returning Shuttle would have to experience. Two families emerged as finalists: The 036 series, with small payload bays and three engines, and the 040 family, of similar planform but with larger payload bays and four engines. Then, in late January 1972, MSC engineers evolved the 040C configuration: a three-engine design using new high-pressure engines. The 040C design became the baseline for subsequent Orbiter studies. While many questions remained over the final form that Shuttle’s launch system would take, with the 040C study, the shape of the orbiter, and its all-important wing, was essentially fixed. Again, the flat-bottom delta had carried the day.[109]



S THIS BOOK GOES TO PRESS, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has passed beyond the half cen­tury mark, its longevity a tribute to how essential successive Presidential administrations—and the American people whom they serve—have come to regard its scientific and technological expertise. In that half century, flight has advanced from supersonic to orbital veloc­ities, the jetliner has become the dominant means of intercontinental mobility, astronauts have landed on the Moon, and robotic spacecraft developed by the Agency have explored the remote corners of the solar system and even passed into interstellar space.

Born of a crisis—the chaotic aftermath of the Soviet Union’s space triumph with Sputnik—NASA rose magnificently to the challenge of the emergent space age. Within a decade of NASA’s establishment, teams of astronauts would be planning for the lunar landings, first accom­plished with Neil Armstrong’s "one small step” on July 20, 1969. Few events have been so emotionally charged, and none so publicly visible or fraught with import, as his cautious descent from the spindly lit­tle Lunar Module Eagle to leave his historic boot-print upon the dusty plain of Tranquillity Base.

In the wake of Apollo, NASA embarked on a series of space initia­tives that, if they might have lacked the emotional and attention-getting impact of Apollo, were nevertheless remarkable for their accomplish­ment and daring. The Space Shuttle, the International Space Station, the Hubble Space Telescope, and various planetary probes, landers, rov­ers, and flybys speak to the creativity of the Agency, the excellence of its technical personnel, and its dedication to space science and exploration.

But there is another aspect to NASA, one that is too often hidden in an age when the Agency is popularly known as America’s space agency and when its most visible employees are the astronauts who courageously

rocket into space, continuing humanity’s quest into the unknown. That hidden aspect is aeronautics: lift-borne flight within the atmosphere, as distinct from the ballistic flight of astronautics, out into space. It is the first "A” in the Agency’s name and the oldest-rooted of the Agency’s technical competencies, dating to the formation, in 1915, of NASA’s lineal predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA). It was the NACA that largely restored America’s aeronautical primacy in the interwar years after 1918, deriving the airfoil profiles and configuration concepts that defined successive generations of ever-more-capable aircraft as America progressed from the subsonic piston era into the transonic and supersonic jet age. NASA, succeed­ing the NACA after the shock of Sputnik, took American aeronautics across the hypersonic frontier and onward into the era of composite structures, electronic flight controls, and energy-efficient flight.

This volume, the first of a two-volume set, traces contribu­tions by NASA and the post-Second World War NACA to the field of aeronautics. It was that work that enabled the exploitation of the turbojet and high-speed aerodynamic revolution that led to the gas – turbine-powered jet age that followed, within which we still live. The subjects covered in this first volume are an eclectic mix of sur­veys, case studies, and biographical examinations ranging across multiple disciplines and technical competencies residing within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. The topics are indic­ative of the range of Agency work and the capabilities of its staff. They include:

• The advent of the sharply swept-back wing, which enabled taking fullest advantage of the turbojet revolution and thereby launched the era of high-speed global mass mobility, becoming itself the iconic symbol of the jet age.

• The contributions and influence of Richard T. Whitcomb, a legendary NACA-NASA researcher who gave to aero­nautics some of the key methods of reducing drag and improving flight efficiencies in the challenging transonic region, between subsonic and supersonic flight.

• The work of the NACA and NASA in furthering the rotary wing revolution via research programs on a range of rotorcraft from autogiros through helicopters, conver – tiplanes, ducted fan, tilt wing, and tilt rotor craft.

• How NASA worked from the earliest days of the super­sonic revolution to mitigate the shock and disturb­ing effects of the sonic boom, developing creative test approaches to evaluate boom noise and overpressures, and then methods to alleviate boom formation and impingement, leading to novel aircraft shaping and methods that are today promising to revolutionize the design of transonic and supersonic civil and military aircraft.

• How the NACA and NASA, having mastered the tran­sonic and supersonic regions, took on the challenge of extending lift-borne flight into the hypersonic region and thence into space, using exotic "transatmospheric” vehicles such as the legendary X-15, various lifting bodies, and the Space Shuttle, and extending the fron­tiers of air-breathing propulsion with the Mach 9+ scramjet-powered X-43.

• The physical problems and challenges that forced NASA and other researchers to study and find pragmatic solu­tions for such thorny issues as aeroelasticity, oscillatory instabilities forcing development of increasingly sophis­ticated artificial stability systems, flight simulation for high-performance aerospace vehicles, and aerothermo – dynamic structural deformation and heating.

• NASA’s role in advancing and maturing computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and applying this new tool to aero­nautical research and aerospace vehicle design.

• The exploitation of materials science and development of high-temperature structures to enable design of prac­tical high-speed military and civil aircraft and spacecraft.

• The advent of computerized structural loads prediction, modeling, and simulation, which, like CFD, revolution­ized aerospace design practices, enhancing both safety and efficiency.

• NASA’s pioneering of electronic flight control ("fly-by­wire”), from rudimentary testbeds evolved from Apollo – era computer architectures and software, to increasingly sophisticated systems integrating aerodynamic and pro­pulsion controls.

• How the NACA and NASA advanced the gas turbine revolution, producing more efficient engine concepts and technology for application to new generations of military and civilian aircraft.

• How NASA has contributed to the quest for fuel-efficient and environmentally friendly aircraft technology, study­ing combustion processes, alternative fuels, and pollut­ant transfer into the upper atmosphere, searching for appropriate technological solutions, and resulting in less polluting, less wasteful, and more efficient aircraft designs.

• The Agency’s work in promoting global environmental good stewardship by applying its scientific and technical competencies to wind and solar energy, resulting in more efficient energy-producing wind turbines and high-altitude solar-powered long-endurance unpiloted aerial vehicles.

The record of NACA-NASA accomplishments in aeronautics dem­onstrates the value of consistent investment in aeronautical research as a means of maintaining the health and stability of America’s aerospace industrial base. That base has generated an American predominance in both civil and military aeronautics, but one that is far from assured as the Nation enters the second century of winged flight. It is hoped that these studies, offering a glimpse at the inner workings of the Agency and its personnel, will prove of value to the men and women of NASA, to those who benefit across the United States and overseas from their ded­icated work, and to students of aeronautics and members of the larger aerospace community. It is to the personnel of NASA, and the NACA before them, that this volume is dedicated, with affection and respect.

Dr. Richard P. Hallion

August 4, 2010

And Swing: Reshaping the Wing for the Jet and Rocket Age

Richard P. Hallion

The development of the swept and delta wing planform enabled practical attainment of the high speeds promised by the invention of the turbojet engine and the solid-and-liquid-fueled rocket. Refining the swept and delta planforms from theoretical constructs to practical reali­ties involved many challenges and problems requiring creative analysis and study by NACA and NASA researchers. Their insight and persever­ance led to the swept wing becoming the iconic symbol of the jet age.

HE PROGRESSIVE EVOLUTION OF AIRCRAFT DESIGN HAS WITNESSED continuous configuration changes, adaptations, and reinterpreta­tions. The canard wood-and-fabric biplane launched the powered flight revolution and gave way to the tractor biplane and monoplane, and both gave way to the all-metal monoplane of the interwar era. The tur­bojet engine set aside the piston engine as the primary motive power for long-range commercial and military aircraft, and it has been continually refined to generate the sophisticated bypass turbofans of the present era, some with afterburning as well. The increasing airspeed of aircraft drove its own transformation of configuration, measurable in the changed rela­tionship between aspect and fineness ratios. Across the primacy of the propeller-driven era, from the beginning of the 20th century to the end of the interwar era, wingspan generally far exceeded fuselage length. That changed early in the jet and rocket era. By the time military and test pilots from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) first probed the speed of sound with the Bell XS-1 and Douglas D-558-1 Skystreak, wingspan and fuselage length were roughly equal. Within a decade, as aircraft speed extended into the supersonic regime, the ratio of wingspan to fuselage length dramatically reversed, evidenced by aircraft such as the Douglas X-3, the Lockheed F-104 Starfighter, and the Anglo-French Concorde Supersonic Transport (SST). Nicknames handily captured the

transformation: the rakish X-3 was known informally as the "Stiletto” and the only slightly less sleek F-104 as the "Missile with a Man in It.”

And Swing: Reshaping the Wing for the Jet and Rocket AgeThere was as well another manifestation of profound design transfor­mation, one that gave to the airplane a new identity that swiftly became a global icon: the advent of the swept wing. If the biplane constituted the normative airplane of the first quarter century of flight and the straight wing cantilever monoplane that of the next quarter century, by the time of the golden anniversary of Kitty Hawk, the swept wing airplane had sup­planted both, its futuristic predominance embodied by the elegant North American F-86 Sabre that did battle in "MiG Alley,” high over North Korea’s blue-gray hills bordering the Yalu River. In the post-Korean era, as swept wing Boeing 707 and Douglas DC-8 jet airliners replaced what historian Peter Brooks termed the "DC-4 generation” of straight wing propeller-driven transports, the swept wing became the iconic embodiment of the entire jet age.[1] Today, 75 years since its enunciation at an international conference, the high-speed swept wing is the commonly accepted global highway sym­bol for airports, whether an intercontinental center such as Los Angeles, Frankfurt, or Heathrow; regional hubs such as Dallas, Copenhagen, or Charlotte; or any of the myriad general aviation and business aviation air­fields around the world, even those still primarily populated, ironically, by small, straight wing propeller-and-piston-driven airplanes.

The Tailless Imperative: The Early History of Swept and Delta Wings

The high-speed swept wing first appeared in the mid-1930s and, like most elements in aircraft design, was European by birth. But this did not mark the swept wing’s first appearance in the world’s skies. The swept wing dated to before the First World War, when John Dunne had developed a series of tailless flying wing biplanes using the swept planform as a means of ensuring inherent longitudinal stability, imparting "self-correcting” res­toration of any gust-induced pitching motions. Dunne’s aircraft, while freakish, did enjoy some commercial success. He sold manufacturing
rights to the Burgess Company in the United States, which subsequently produced two "Burgess-Dunne” seaplanes for the U. S. Navy. Lt. Holden C. Richardson, subsequently one of the first members of the NACA, had urged their purchase "so that the[ir] advantages and limitations can be thoroughly determined. . . as it appears to be only the beginning of an important development in aeronautical design.”[2]

And Swing: Reshaping the Wing for the Jet and Rocket AgeThat it was, though not in the fashion Richardson expected. The swept wing remained an international staple of tailless self-stabilizing design, typified in the interwar years by the various Westland Pterodactyl aircraft designed by Britain’s G. T.R. Hill, the tailless aircraft of Boris Ivanovich Cheranovskiy, Waldo Waterman’s Arrowplane, and a series of increas­ingly sophisticated sailplanes and powered aircraft designed by Germany’s Alexander Lippisch. However, it would not become the "mainstream” ele­ment of aircraft design its proponents hoped until applied to a very dif­ferent purpose: reducing transonic aerodynamic effects.[3] The transonic swept wing effectively increased a wing’s critical Mach number (the "drag divergence Mach number”), delaying the onset of transonic drag rise and enabling an airplane to fly at higher transonic and supersonic speeds for the same energy expenditure and drag penalty that a straight wing airplane would expend and experience at much lower subsonic speeds.

In 1935, leading aerodynamicists gathered in Rome for the Volta Congress on High Speeds in Aviation, held to coincide with the opening of Italy’s impressive new Guidonia laboratory complex. There, a young German fluid dynamicist, Adolf Busemann, unveiled the concept of using the swept wing as a means of attaining supersonic flight.[4] In his presentation, he
demonstrated the circulation pattern around a swept wing that, essen­tially, "fooled” it into "believing” it was flying at lower velocities. As well, he presented a sketch of an aircraft with such a "Pfielformiges Tragwerk” ("Arrow-Shaped Lifting Surface”), though one that had, by the standards of subsequent design, very modest sweep and very high aspect ratio.[5]

And Swing: Reshaping the Wing for the Jet and Rocket AgeTheodore von Karman recalled not quite two decades later that after­ward, at the conference banquet, "General [Arturo] Crocco, the orga­nizer of the congress and a man of far-reaching vision, went further while doodling on the back of the menu card, drawing a plane with swept – back wings and tail, and even swept propeller blades, laughingly calling it ‘Busemann’s airplane.’”[6] Evidence exists that Crocco took the concept beyond mere dinner conversation, for afterward, Guidonia researchers evaluated a design blending modestly swept wings with a "push-pull” twin-engine fuselage configuration. However, Guidonia soon returned to the more conventional, reflecting the Italian air ministry’s increas­ing emphasis upon building a large and powerful air arm incorporating already proven and dependable technology.[7]

Delegates from other nations present at Busemann’s briefing missed its significance altogether, perhaps because his gently swept configuration—in the era of the DC-2 and DC-3, which had pronounced leading edge taper— looked far less radical than the theory and purpose behind it implied. NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory researchers had already evaluated far more sharply swept planforms at Langley for a seminal wing taper study the laboratory issued the next year.[8] Thus, at first glance, Busemann’s design certainly did not look like a shape that would trans­form aviation from the firmly subsonic to the transonic, making possible the potential of the jet engine, and the jet age (with its jet set) that followed.

Therefore, for the United States and most other nations, over the next decade, the normative airplane remained one having straight (if tapered) wings and piston propulsion. For Germany, however, the future belonged to increasingly sharply swept and delta wings, and jet and rocket propulsion as well. Within 5 years of the Volta conference, with Europe engulfed in a new war, its engineers had already flown their first jet and rocket-powered aircraft, had expanded beyond Busemann’s initial conception to derive shapes more closely anticipating subsequent high-speed aircraft and missile designs, and were busily testing models of swept wing transonic airplanes and supersonic missiles. Lippisch’s swept wing sailplanes had presaged a new Messerschmitt rocket – propelled interceptor, the Me 163 Komet ("Comet”), and his broad, high aspect ratio deltas had given way to a rounded triangular planform that he envisioned as meeting the needs for transonic and supersonic flight. While many of these concepts by Lippisch and other German designers were impracticable, or unrelated to Germany’s more imme­diate military needs, others possessed significant military or research potential. Only flawed decisions by the Third Reich’s own leadership and the Allies’ overrunning of Germany would prevent them from being developed and employed before the collapse of the Hitler regime in May 1945.[9]

Birthing the American Delta and Swept Wing

The extent to which the swept wing permeated German aeronauti­cal thought understandably engendered tremendous postwar interest

Birthing the American Delta and Swept Wing

A sampling of various design concepts for Lippisch swept wing and delta aircraft. These orig­inal Lippisch sketches were incorporated in "German Aircraft: New and Projected Types,” a 1946 Allied technical intelligence summary. USAF.

in the benefits of swept planforms for transonic and supersonic flight within the American, European, and Soviet aeronautical communi­ties.[10] However, for America, uncovering German swept wing research and development furnished the confirmation of its value, not its discovery, for Robert T Jones, an aerodynamicist at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory, had independently discovered its benefits in 1944, a year before the Allies first entered Germany’s shattered and shut­tered research laboratories and design shops.[11]