General Aviation Aircraft
Six historically significant airplanes are displayed below. General aviation airplanes have historically served the public's needs for personal and business travel, as well as for sport and recreational aviation. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), later to be called the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), contributed to the design of post World War ll general aviation through airfoil design research, low-drag engine cowling research, and aerodynamic drag clean-up experiments. NASA's applied research developments in fields such as natural laminar flow technology allowed general aviation airplanes to reduce drag and improve efficiency.
Today, NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) have partnered with the general aviation industry and universities to create a consortium called Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments (AGATE). AGATE's goals include improvements to general aviation from propeller to tail, taking advantage of emerging technologies in satellite navigation, flat panel displays, digital communications, microcomputers, and state-of-the-art integrated design and manufacturing. AGATE is working on technologies for aircraft, user training and the development of an infrastructure that will make general aviation an affordable and reliable mode of transportation. The program plans to provide the foundation for industry leadership in technologies for improved utility, safety, affordability, performance, and environmental compatibility in general aviation aircraft.
In 1970, William Lear designed the Learjet 35, which
then became a synonym for the term "business jet." It is a light, twin-turbofan
powered business jet that is flown in more than 23 countries around the
world. The Learjet 35 carries six passengers and cruises at 348 knots
(400 mph) over a range of 1,288 km (800 miles). Current versions such
as the Learjet 31 can cruise at altitudes of 15,458 m (51,000 feet) to
avoid airline traffic and can carry up to eight passengers. Learjet used
NASA's transonic swept-wing research results in its design effort.
The Piper Aircraft Company was founded in 1937. In
1938 the company introduced the Piper Cub. The Cub is one of the world's
most recognized airplanes. Over 40,000 have been built. The 75 HP Cub
was followed by the Super Cub, which was powered by a 115 HP engine. In
addition to being a very popular recreational plane, the Cub has also
performed duties with the U.S. military. Airfoil designs created by NACA
were used for the wing.
The Lancair IV is a high-performance, four-place
composite material kit (home-built) airplane. It can cruise at over 217
knots (250 mph) and is powered by a 300 HP engine. Lancair International
has developed a pressurized version, a first in sports aviation, capable
of cruising at over 261 knots (300 mph) and altitudes of 7,620 m (25,000
feet). The aircraft is powered by a turbo-charged 350 HP engine. The aircraft
uses a modified version of NASA's low-drag natural laminar flow airfoil
In 1948, Cessna designed the 170 as a low-cost, four-place,
general aviation airplane powered by a 145 HP engine. NACA's airfoil designs
and wind tunnel test results were used to design the wing and tail. In
1956, this airplane evolved from a tailwheel design into its current tricycle-landing
gear configuration. The typical 172 is powered by a 150 HP engine and
cruises at 109 knots (125 mph). It has been one of the most produced general
aviation aircraft, with over 37,000 built. Production was suspended in
1986, but is being revived by Cessna for a 1997 roll-out.