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UPDATE #41 - November 14, 1998

PART 1: Upcoming Chats
PART 2: Project News
PART 3: Investigating Microburst Wind Shear
PART 4: Subscribing & Unsubscribing: How to do it


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
Read Rich Coppenbarger's autobiography prior to joining this chat.
Registration information at

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:

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.


Wright Flyer Online Status Reports appear on the site at:

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

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.

Help us advertise the wind tunnel test of the 1903 Wright Flyer!
For more info go to:

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!

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
To follow the discussion send an email message to
listmanager@quest.arc.nasa.gov leave the subject blank and in the message
body write subscribe debate-aero

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 scolett@quest.arc.nasa.gov 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
To join the discussion list for this project send an email to
marc@quest.arc.nasa.gov In your message tell us who you are and why you
are interested.

For more information go to

[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 ]


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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