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UPDATE #52 - February 19, 1999

PART 1: Upcoming Chat
PART 2: Project News
PART 3: Why Do We Test Models in Wind Tunnels?
PART 4: Subscribing & Unsubscribing: How to do it


QuestChats require pre-registration. Unless otherwise noted, registration
is at:  http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/chats

Tuesday, February 23, 1999, 11 AM Pacific Time: Pete Zell,
facility manager, NFAC

Pete is the facility manager for the National Full-Scale
Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC). He is responsible for making sure
that a customer's requirements are being met for testing
activities, and monitoring the day to day operations of the facility.
Additionally, he manages a staff of people who work on test
operations and the facility engineering tasks required for
testing. His staff also tests instrumentation, software, and
data acquisition systems.

Read Pete Zell's profile prior to joining this chat.

Wednesday, February 24, 1999, 10:30 AM Pacific Time: Orville & Wilbur
Wright, Inventors of the first powered airplane

Yes, you read it right... The Wright Brothers had so much
fun chatting with you last December, that they're ready to answer your
challenging questions once again! Two aeronautics experts will
act the roles of Orville and Wilbur Wright for this special chat. Just how
well Orville & Wilbur answer your questions will be based on the questions
you ask them!

Read Orville & Wilbur Wright background information prior to joining this
chat. http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/wright/background/

Thursday, February 25, 1999, 10:30 AM Pacific Standard Time:
Paul Langston, television production specialist

Paul is responsible for developing concepts for NASA television shows that
he and his team produce for NASA. He is also responsible for making video
tapes which tell stories about certain NASA concepts, or developing
footage for the news about some research NASA is doing. With his video
editing skills and sophisticated equipment, Paul is able to create
broadcast quality tapes about NASA.

Read Paul Langston's profile prior to joining this chat.


February Recyclable Model Contest

Hate to waste? Put your recyclables to good use!

Design your model of the 1903 Wright Flyer out of recycled materials. Be
creative and earth friendly!!

For details go to

- - - - - - -

Teacher Forum on Wind Tunnel Data Lessons

We are planning to set up a forum for teachers with questions about the
Wind Tunnel Data Lessons, 
http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/wright/teachers/. This would be similar
to a bulletin board. You can post questions and we'll get
back to you by posting the answers.Check for this link next week.

- - - - - - -

1903 Wright Flyer Model Status

Lift In was successful!

Last Friday the AIAA and NASA Staff ran an test of the engine on 1903
Wright Flyer Model. They ran the engine up to 1800 rpms, and everything
went well.

The sting was mounted in the wind tunnel.

The 1903 Wright Flyer Model was lifted into the 40x80 wind tunnel at 10:00
a.m. on Friday November 19, 1999 and mounted on the sting.

[Editor's Note: Fred Culick is a Professor of Jet Propulsion at California Institute of Technology, and an aerodynamicist for the AIAA WrightFlyer Project. Read his biography at http://quest.arc.nasa.gov/aero/wright/team/culick.html ]


by Fred Culick

February 11, 1999

Before we fly a type of airplane that nobody has flown before we want to
know as much as possible about how it will fly. We want to know many
things. How it will move when we move the controls? How will it act when
it is struck by strong gusts of wind? How fast will it go? And--most
importantly--will it be safe to fly? When the Wright Brothers invented
their airplane, there were no books they could read to learn how to build
a good airplane--not even a BAD airplane! There was little previous
knowledge, they had to experiment and learn how to make things work. They
taught themselves how to fly. They really didn't know whether their
airplane was bad, pretty good, or very good--they knew it worked, better
than anybody else's, and they proved that by flying demonstrations. And
other people bought it!

It was a great invention, the first really big invention of the twentieth
century. It began all flying everywhere. It led to airlines, to warplanes,
airplanes that you and I can fly, and eventually to the Space Shuttle.
What a marvelous achievement! It's a hugely important part of our history,
not just of science, engineering and technology, but of our society, how
we travel, take holidays, meet people, work...the invention of the
airplane changed the lives of people in ways bigger than any other
invention until computers and the Internet!

So it is very important, as part of our heritage, to understand what the
Wright Brothers did, how they did it (lots of perseverance, hard work and
clever ideas!), and finally how their airplane worked. That's what we have
been doing in the AIAA Wright 'Flyer' Project. We learned all about the
Wright Brothers' work, we know how to build a copy of their airplane,
and now with the tests in NASA's wind tunnel at the Ames Research Center
we are going to learn exactly how good (or bad!) the airplane was. The
results of these tests will give us the answers to the questions I asked
above--and many more.

All airplane companies do wind tunnel tests of their new airplanes for
exactly the same reasons. They can learn, before they  actually risk
flying the airplane, whether it will fly the way they want it to. And
there's another interesting and important thing we can do. Using the
information we get from wind tunnel tests, we can build simulators that
pilots can sit in and learn how to fly the airplane before they actually
fly it. A simulator is really a big (and very expensive!) video game with
all the controls of the actual airplane and a screen that shows exactly
what you would see if you were sitting in the cockpit and actually flying.

So after our wind tunnel tests, we will know how the Wright 1903 'Flyer'
flies--everything there is to know about it. But what about that model I
built and tested at Caltech? Didn't we learn a lot from those test
results? Yes--almost everything we need to know. And we learned a lot also
from the 1/8 scale model I mentioned. However, besides the important
historical reasons for testing our full-size airplane, there are technical
reasons for our tests in March. I'll mention two.

First, the 'Flyer' has two large propellers that produce their own wind.
That wind blows over the vertical rear tail and affects the way the
airplane flies. Also, ahead of the propellers, two streams of wind
blow over the wing before going through the propellers. Those streams also
affect the way the airplane flies. We don't know anything about those
effects. My 1/6 scale model had two propellers and an electric motor but,
although everything worked perfectly, I didn't have enough time to do
tests. So this is something we must learn in March and that is why the
first series of tests will be done with the propellers turned by a
very powerful electric motor.

Second, the 'Flyer' has wings that are twisted or warped by the pilot to
control the wing tips up or down, to 'bank' the airplane and make it turn.
That method of control was invented by the Wrights. Now airplanes have
'ailerons,' a French word meaning small wings. To build our flying version
we need to know better how the wing warping works to affect the flight of
the airplane, especially with the propellers turning at full speed. We
learned some of that from the tests of my 1/6 scale model, but
we want to learn if the full-size airplane behaves in exactly the same

The Wright Brothers' 'Flyer' was a very difficult and dangerous airplane
to fly. Wilbur and Orville were successful partly because they had a lot
of practice with gliders that were similar to their 1903 'Flyer.' You can
think of their gliders almost as their kind of simulator! But we won't
have lots of practice and we don't want to fly an unsafe airplane. We want
to know what small changes we can make so it will be safer to fly. I
believe that you won't be able to notice the modifications we make in our
flying version of the 'Flyer' (unless you look very carefully!).


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