UPDATE #41 - November 14, 1998
Tuesday, November 17, 1998, 11 AM Pacific Time: Rich Coppenbarger, aerospace engineer Rich develops systems (hardware and software) to assist air traffic controllers in managing aircraft as they fly through the nation's airspace. Read Rich Coppenbarger's autobiography prior to joining this chat. http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/team/coppenbarger.html Registration information at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/chats/#chatting WOMEN OF NASA PRESENTS! Women of NASA Project WON presents the new Women of NASA Forums beginning Monday, November 16. You may dialogue with NASA women at a time convenient to you. Much like QuestChats, you must pre-register to participate but you may submit question(s) at any time during the week. You pose your questions to a chat room (now forum) to a private reading room. The most appropriate questions will be selected from that queue and placed into the "public forum" where they will be answered by the featured NASA woman. Monday, November 16 - Friday, November 20 Featuring: Kim Hubbard: Kim works in the Computational Sciences Division of the Information Sciences Directorate at NASA Ames Research Center. She is related to STO in that her current work supports the International Space Station infrastructure. That division supports major scientific/engineering projects in aeronautics, telerobotics, artificial intelligence, and space systems. As she says, "I'm fortunate to have the opportunity to work on projects where I can learn about state-of-the-art technologies." See her profile at: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/women/bios/kh.html Take advantage of this opportunity to send thoughtful, interesting questions to a NASA expert according to your schedule. Then let us know what you think of this new method of interacting with NASA's people.
THE WRIGHT FLYER STATUS REPORT Wright Flyer Online Status Reports appear on the site at: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/wright/news/ Wright Flyer back on the Ground The Los Angeles American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Wright Flyer Project Team flew up to NASA Ames Research Center on Saturday, November 7, 1998 and together with Ames Staff members they removed their model from the sting. The Wright Flyer model will be attached to a strong metal pole called a sting in the wind tunnel. The balance which will measure the forces on the airplane will be attached at the end of the sting to the flyer. The balance will sit in a strong metal box which fits between two metal flanges. In September the team had put the flyer up on the sting to test that all these connections fit properly. (See Jack Cherne's journal at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/wright/team/fjournals/cherne/index.html After having the weight of the flyer resting on the sting it was difficult to loosen the bolts. Special precautions were taken to insure that the fragile model would not drop from the sting to the forklift. The lowest position of the sting was a few inches higher that the highes position of the forklift. But with the experienced crew these concerns were surmounted and now the Wright Flyer model is sitting safely on the ground waiting to be moved to the wind tunnel. This move is planned for December 11, 1998 and a special Webcast is planned. Stay tuned for details. POSTER CONTEST! Help us advertise the wind tunnel test of the 1903 Wright Flyer! For more info go to: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/wright/events/contest/poster.html WRIGHT FLYER WIND TUNNEL DATA LESSONS We are in the final stages of writing up our wind tunnel data lesson plans for the 1903 Wright Flyer Wind Tunnel Test. Watch for news of these lessons in future updates. Your class will be able to use the near real time test data with these lesson plans! COLABORATIVE PROJECTS Last week I shared some of the discussion from the Right Flying Collaborative. This is from the Wind Tunnel List. "We have been considering the construction of a wind tunnel with the science club, and we've decided to go ahead with the project this spring. I stumbled upon this discussion group, and it certainly appears to be appropriate for our efforts! We look forward to working with everyone on board." This is typical of the introductory notes that were sent. The next batch are less newsy and more to the subject. If this looks like the sort of email you would like to exchange with other students you should consider joining a collaborative project. These projects will be run again next spring probably beginning February 1. Keep reading your updates for further news. The ELEMENTARY / MIDDLE SCHOOL - Right Flying (glider building) on-line collaborative activity is now in its third week http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/events/collaborative/elem-mid.html To follow the discussion send an email message to firstname.lastname@example.org leave the subject blank and in the message body write subscribe debate-aero The HIGH SCHOOL / JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL - Free Flight Analysis: http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/events/collaborative/video.html an "in-flight" movie" online collaborative project for grades 8-12 is now online. To join the discussion list for this project send an email to Scott at email@example.com In your message include information about who you are and why you are interested in participating. HIGH SCHOOL / JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL - Wind tunnel building activities are online at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/events/collaborative/wind_tunnel.html To join the discussion list for this project send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org In your message tell us who you are and why you are interested. For more information go to http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/events/collaborative/index.html
[Editor's Note: Rich Coppenbarger is working to develop systems that help air traffic controllers in managing aircraft as they fly through the national air space. Read Rich's bio at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/team/coppenbarger.html ]
INVESTIGATING MICROBURST WIND SHEAR
by Rich Coppenbarger
When I first started working at NASA Ames, I was working on accident investigation, specifically accidents due to weather conditions. Whenever there was an accident or incident due to turbulence or other wind-related weather phenomenon we would get the black box data recordings and try to figure out what happened to that airplane. We often looked at data that involved turbulent conditions occurring at high altitude called Clear Air Turbulence (CAT), which is impossible to see or predict ahead of time. If the turbulence is severe enough the airplane may get thrown around or lose altitude very rapidly. You may have seen or read about this in the news where airplanes may suddenly loose up to 10,000 feet of altitude. Because typical airliners are flying at 30,000 feet they can afford to lose the altitude, but the planes often experience very strong aerodynamic forces. Passengers who are not strapped in can be thrown about the airplane and there have even been fatalities due to CAT. That is why some airlines are now insisting that passengers wear their seatbelts throughout the flight, not just during take-off and landing. My main research interest while doing accident investigation was something called microburst wind shear. Low-altitude wind shear is caused by downward flowing air, usually as a result of thunderstorm activity. This type of weather phenomenon, often called a downburst, is caused by the same type of conditions that cause tornadoes and occur often in the Midwest. Although downbursts rarely cause damage to homes, they are very dangerous to aircraft that are landing. Downbursts are dangerous because they often mislead pilots into making the wrong decisions. A lot of the intuitive things a pilot knows to do are wrong when they encounter a microburst. When first entering a downburst, the airplane experiences a head wind which causes the pilot to naturally pull back on the engines. This head wind is followed by a sudden down draft, followed by a tail wind. This means that the pilot must now throttle forward on the engines, but the engines are already at a low power setting due to the pilot's first instinct to throttle back. Occasionally this leaves the aircraft without enough power to climb out of the downburst. A tragic example was in 1985 when an aircraft landing at Dallas-Fort Worth airport during a thunder storm hit a downburst causing it to loose altitude very rapidly and crash, killing people on the aircraft and on the ground. Since the 1970's there have been about 20 accidents due to wind shear downbursts. What we were trying to do in our program was to understand wind shear phenomena a little more. From blackbox flight data, we were trying to understand what the wind profile of a downburst looked like so that we could develop flight procedures that would help a pilot identify and respond to a wind shear encounter. The goal was to get pilots to recognize this phenomenon and take the appropriate action before the aircraft gets into a dangerous situation. As a result of the enormous amount of research by NASA and other agencies, wind shear related accidents are now much less common than they used to be.
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