NACA-NASA’s Contribution to General Aviation
By Weneth D. Painter
General Aviation has always been an essential element of American aeronautics. The NACA and NASA have contributed greatly to its efficiency, safety, and reliability via research across many technical disciplines. The mutually beneficial bonds linking research in civil and military aeronautics have resulted in such developments as the supercritical wing, electronic flight controls, turbofan propulsion, composite structures, and advanced displays and instrumentation systems.
HOUGH COMMONLY ASSOCIATED IN THE PUBLIC MIND with small private aircraft seen buzzing around local airports and air parks, the term "General Aviation” (hereafter GA) is primarily a definition of aircraft utilization rather than a classification per se of aircraft physical characteristics or performance. GA encompasses flying machines ranging from light personal aircraft to Mach 0.9+ business jets, comprising those elements of U. S. civil aviation which are neither certified nor supplemental air carriers: kit planes and other home-built aircraft, personal pleasure aircraft, commuter airlines, corporate air transports, aircraft manufacturers, unscheduled air taxi operations, and fixed-base operators and operations.
Overall, NACA-NASA’s research has profoundly influenced all of this, contributing notably to the safety and efficiency of GA worldwide. Since the creation of the NACA in 1915, and continuing after establishment of NASA in 1958, Agency engineers have extensively investigated design concepts for GA, GA aircraft themselves, and the operating environment and related areas of inquiry affecting the GA community. In particular, they have made great contributions by documenting the results of various wind tunnel and flight tests of GA aircraft. These results have strengthened both industrial practice within the GA industry itself and the educational training of America’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics workforce, helping buttress and advance America’s stature as an aerospace nation. This study discusses the advancements
in GA through a review of selected applications of flight disciplines and aerospace technology.