A Century At Langley

Page 1

Joseph R. Chambers

The Storied Legacy and Soaring Future of NASA Langley Research Center Joseph R. Chambers

Fo re w o rd At NASA’s Langley Research Center, we are proud to carry forward a legacy of innovation and technical excellence. This pictorial history, our 100th Anniversary book, uses images to tell the story of Langley in vivid detail, from our inception in 1917 as Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory right up to the present day. The photos in this book chronicle our many achievements over that span of time, accomplishments that have helped to shape the world we live in today. Those victories — both great and small — were made possible through the hard work, resourcefulness and creativity of Langley’s people. Tens of thousands of them — engineers, scientists, technicians, support personnel and our partners — devoted themselves to the advancement of flight, and later, space exploration and the study of our home planet. Their skills and ability to work as a team allowed NASA to overcome obstacles and achieve amazing things. Whether they were helping to train the Mercury 7, testing the properties of a new material, or designing an Earthobserving instrument, they have all had an impact. The contributions of Langley’s men and women are staggering and I am humbled to follow in their footsteps. As you page through this book, you will see their names. Keep in mind that these are just some of the people who made our first 100 years possible. I know that NASA Langley’s spirit of collaboration and innovation will carry us forward into a second century full of discoveries. Thanks for spending time reflecting on this remarkable place and the people who have worked so diligently to build a soaring future for us all. Please enjoy the book. Sincerely,

David E. Bowles, Ph.D. Director NASA Langley Research Center Hampton, Virginia

(Left to right) Clayton Turner, Langley’s Deputy Director; David Bowles, Director, and Cathy Mangum, Associate Director, in the 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel.


Ta b l e o f C o n t e n t s



ASA Langley Research Center enjoys a worldwide reputation as a significant contributor to advancements in aerospace research and technology and atmospheric science. After starting a century ago as a little-known laboratory of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), with energetic but inexperienced personnel and visionary leaders, the laboratory developed and contributed major breakthroughs in facilities, technical concepts and expertise that have served the nation exceptionally well in peace and war. Langley first earned its reputation in the field of aerodynamics, then augmented that fame by developing expertise in structures and materials, instrumentation, and controls. The Center became known as a one-stop, multidisciplinary resource for the aviation community. The astounding advancement of atmospheric flight vehicles from dirigibles and fabric-covered biplanes to hypersonic air-breathing configurations was made possible with innovative contributions from the Langley staff. Langley’s transonic-flight-experienced staff and facilities formed the crucible for the national effort to meet President Kennedy’s challenge to place a human on the moon and return him safely to earth. Following the Apollo program, Langley managed the Viking project to successfully place two spacecraft on and two spacecraft in orbit around Mars. Langley continues to make critical contributions in planetary-entry technology and integrated space systems to this day. As national interests focused on the earth and our environment, Langley responded by developing leadership and capabilities in the fields of atmospheric science and the earth’s radiation budget. Radically new wind tunnels were developed for more precise and accurate measurements, and pioneering efforts in computational capabilities developed new analysis techniques for the aerospace community.


Many excellent books have been written on the history of Langley, presenting in-depth scientific and scholarly analyses of the Center’s technical achievements. A list of these publications and internet links to some can be found in the Further Reading section at the back of the book. This book provides an overview of 100 years of amazing accomplishments by the people of Langley through photographs, images and diagrams. The text has intentionally been minimized. The photograph selection process was extremely difficult given that the number of negatives in the Langley Photograph Archive now exceeds over 500,000. The contents were selected to show the outstanding dedication and technical brilliance of the individuals and groups that truly changed the world and to bring to light little known stories about Langley. The search for new material was extensive, including thorough reviews of: The Langley Historical Archive collection and the center’s photo archives–including the remarkable collection of the web-based NASA Langley Cultural Resources (CRGIS); work records of photographers who took Langley’s photographs from its birth to the current day; every issue of Langley’s inhouse newspapers from the first one issued in 1942; interviews of Langley retirees and inspections of their private photo collections; photo files of the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command History Office at Langley Air Force Base; materials of the Textual Reference Branch and the Still Pictures Branch of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility at College Park, Maryland; and published books and magazines. Hopefully, the reader will appreciate the difficulty of subjectively selecting the most appropriate pictures, and accept sincere apologies for any omissions.


........................................................................................................................................................ i

Introduction ....................................................................................................................................................... ii Chapter 1

Plot 16: A Difficult Time, 1915–1919 ........................................................................................ 1

Chapter 2

Birth and Breakthroughs, 1920-1929 ..................................................................................... 9

Chapter 3

Shaping the Airplane, 1930-1939 ......................................................................................... 27

Chapter 4

The War Years, 1940-1949 ..................................................................................................... 47

Chapter 5

NASA is Born, 1950-1959 ...................................................................................................... 67

Chapter 6

Glory Days, 1960-1969 ........................................................................................................... 87

Chapter 7

Space Exploration,1970-1979 ............................................................................................ 105

Chapter 8

Faster, Higher, Farther and Safer, 1980-1989 .................................................................... 123

Chapter 9

A New Direction, 1990-1999 ............................................................................................... 141

Chapter 10 A New Century, 2000-2009 ................................................................................................. 157 Chapter 11 Toward the Future, 2010-2017 ............................................................................................ 171 Chapter 12 Epilogue ................................................................................................................................ 189 Further Reading .......................................................................................................................................... 192 Acknowledgments ....................................................................................................................................... 193 About the Author ........................................................................................................................................ 194


This publication is dedicated to the tens of thousands of past, current and future employees of NACA and NASA Langley, in recognition of their contributions to America’s position of global leadership in aerospace technology and climate science.


Chapter 1

1915-1919 Plot 16:A Difficult Time

The U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps’ Division of Construction and Repair sent a contingent of surveyors to begin mapping Langley Field in 1916, led by civilian William Duncan (standing at far right).



Chapter 1: Plot 16: A Difficult Time

Chapter 1: Plot 16: A Difficult Time

The Original NACA Committee

Joseph S. Ames, Johns Hopkins University

Byron R. Newton, Assist. Secretary, Treasury

Rear Adm. Mark L. Bristol, United States Navy Director of Naval Aeronautics

Member 1915-39 Chairman Executive Committee 1919-37

Member 1915-18

Lt. Holden C. Richardson, Naval Instructor

Michael I. Pupin, Columbia University

Member 1915-17

Member 1915-22

Secretary 1915-16

Member 1915-16

Chairman 1927-39

Brig. Gen. George P. Scriven, Chief Signal Officer, War Dept.

William Durand, Stanford University

John F. Hayford, Northwestern University

Charles F. Marvin, Chief, Weather Bureau

Member 1915-17

Member 1915-33, 1941-45

Member 1915-23

Member 1915-34

Chairman 1915-16

Chairman 1916-18

Lt. Col. Samuel Reber, Signal Corps Aviation Section Member 1915-16

Samuel W. Straton, Director, Bureau of Standards Member 1915-31 Secretary 1916-23

Charles D. Walcott, Secretary, Smithsonian Institution Member 1915-27 Chairman Executive Committee1915-19 Chairman 1919-27

Portraits: Ames Collection, NASA Langley Historic Archives

Plot 16: A Difficult Time Formal ground-breaking for the nation’s first civil aeronautical research laboratory occurred without fanfare on July 17, 1917, marking the birth date of the Field Station of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA).

The nation’s military forces only had 25 aircraft when World War I started in 1914.


The lab’s story began in 1913, when prominent scientists and military leaders became outspoken over the very evident loss of U.S. leadership in heavier-than-air flying machines after the historic flights of the Wright Brothers. The nation’s military forces only had 25 aircraft when World War I started in 1914, in contrast to most European nations, which had larger inventories by more than two orders of magnitude. In response to the aggressive advocates, Congress created a 12-member NACA committee with a rider to the Naval Appropriations Act on March 3, 1915. The committee served without compensation, and was charged to “supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight with a view to their practical solution” with a working budget of $5,000. Although the initial funding of the organization did not provide for a research laboratory, the possibility for supporting a future requirement for such a facility was recognized.

Army Brigadier General George P. Scriven was the first chairman of the NACA and in fiscal year 1917, the NACA received $82,515.70 and of that, $68,957.35 went toward construction of the lab. The NACA did not have funds to procure land for its future laboratory, and relied on the War Department to acquire the property, which would be used as a joint civilmilitary field for aeronautical experimentation. Following an examination of 15 tracts of land, the Army informed the NACA that 1,650 acres near Hampton, Virginia, was its choice. Although the Army assessment team had taken great pains to disguise its members during visits to the potential sites, local Hampton businessmen discovered the interest and proceeded to acquire and sell the property to the government for $290,000 on December 4, 1916, and the deal was sealed by a deed dated December 30, 1916. An additional $5,645.31 was later added by the government in 1917 for the sale of land on Plum Tree Island north of Langley Field. The Army Signal Corps’ Aviation Experimental Station and Proving Ground was named Langley Field in honor of Samuel P. Langley, aviation pioneer and third secretary of the Smithsonian Institution.

Famed architect Albert Kahn designed the layout and buildings for Langley Field with the NACA buildings planned for plot 16 on his map. Construction at Langley Field became a nightmare for all participants. A combination of difficult, muddy terrain; an unskilled labor force; the U.S. entrance into World War I; a deadly epidemic of influenza; and strained relations between the Army and the NACA resulted in severe construction delays. The Army decided to transfer its aeronautical experimental work to McCook Field near Dayton, Ohio, where operations commenced in December 1917. Only the training of Army pilots, aerial photographers, and observers remained at Langley Field with the NACA. The Navy moved its aviation work to Norfolk, Virginia. The NACA hired John Victory in June 1915, as the first fulltime employee, who served as secretary to the main committee. John DeKlyn, the NACA’s first technical assistant, was sent from the Washington office in December 1917 to oversee laboratory construction.

Map of properties procured by the government in the deed of transfer dated December 30, 1916.

NASA Langley Historic Archives


Chapter 1: Plot 16: A Difficult Time

Chapter 1: Plot 16: A Difficult Time

Courtesy of Air Combat Command History Office

Airmen loading camera equipment onto a Curtiss Jenny. The Army Signal Corps used Langley Field for training in aerial photography.

Courtesy Walter H. Reiser, Jr.

The laboratory building designed by Donn and Deming Architects of Washington, D.C..


Langley Field entrance at King Street and the bridge over the Back River to Hampton in 1918.

Construction efforts at Langley Field became a nightmare for all participants. A combination of difficult, muddy terrain; an unskilled labor force; a deadly epidemic of influenza; and strained relations between the Army and the NACA resulted in a severe delay in construction of the Army buildings and the NACA laboratory.

The NACA requested congressional approval to relocate its laboratory to Bolling Field, near Washington, D.C. Congress, however, did not accept the request in view of the expenditures already consumed by the project at Langley.

Dr. Samuel P. Langley noted astronomer, physicist, inventor, and aviation pioneer died in 1906 having never seen the airfield that bears his name.

After a visit to the troubled laboratory site at Langley Field in July 1919, Victory concurred with DeKlyn that, after three years of chaotic and unsatisfactory conditions, Langley Field was not a desirable place to carry on its research. Victory reported his findings to the main committee, and in its annual report of 1919, the NACA requested congressional approval to relocate its laboratory to Bolling Field, near Washington, D.C. Congress, however, did not accept the request in view of the expenditures already consumed by the project at Langley. Given no relief from Washington, the local NACA workers and contractors faced the situation with grit and determination. As the laborers completed the laboratory building and first wind tunnel, expertise arrived from academia to begin research flight testing of biplanes. In November 1919, George W. Lewis became executive officer of the NACA. Lewis’ decisions and influence would assure the future prominence of the new laboratory and its activities. The birth of Langley was near!

Ames Collection of the Langley Historical Archives

The first atmospheric wind tunnel building was completed in July 1919.

NASA Langley Historical Archives

The Army displayed several different World War I era aircraft and weapons at the traffic circle near the King Street entrance. This Thomas Morse Scout and a 1,600-lb bomb were exhibited in the early 1920s, the display was destroyed by a storm later in the decade.

John F. Victory was the first employee of the NACA, hired as a clerk on June 23, 1915. In 1945 he became executive secretary and served until the NACA was incorporated into NASA. He was a powerful figure who had an influential impact on the history of the NACA and its programs, despite the fact that he was not an engineer or scientist.

Dr. George W. Lewis became the executive officer of the NACA in 1919. In 1924, he became director of aeronautical research and served in that position until he resigned in 1947.







Chapter 1: Plot 16: A Difficult Time

Chapter 1: Plot 16: A Difficult Time

Famous architect Alfred Kahn of Detroit, Michigan, was contracted by the Army to design the layout of Langley Field and its buildings. In 1917, the Army informally agreed to the NACA’s use of Plot 16 for construction of its laboratory. In addition to being uncomfortably close to the flood-prone Back River (bottom of map), the acreage did not permit the construction of housing for the NACA staff and workers.

Used by permission of Albert Kahn Papers, Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. and the Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan.


Plot 16, which was allocated to NACA by the Army. The laboratory and the building housing Wind Tunnel No. 1 are shown.


Chapter 1: Plot 16: A Difficult Time

Early Flight Research

Edward P. Warner Warner, an engineering graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was hired in 1919 by the NACA as the chief physicist of the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory (LMAL). He immediately launched some of the earliest research projects in aerodynamics, which included the design of the first Langley wind tunnel and flight tests to obtain data for correlation with results from other wind tunnels. Warner left Langley in late 1920 when he was reassigned briefly to represent the NACA at its European Office in Paris, which had opened in June 1919 to collect and disseminate aeronautical happenings in Britain, France, and Italy. He then returned to teach at MIT, and later became the assistant secretary of the Navy for aeronautics. Warner became editor of the influential Aviation magazine and was appointed a member of the NACA committee.


Warner and Norton initiated the first flight research efforts at the LMAL by borrowing two Curtiss Jennies from the Air Service. The flight tests began on March 2, 1919, and continued through the summer to assess airplane characteristics in flight and compare flight data to wind-tunnel predictions. The two airplanes suffered overheated engines during the summer. The airplane in the background has its fuselage side panels forward of the lower wing removed to aid in engine cooling. The study was completed before the LMAL was dedicated in 1920.

Lab Construction

Frederick H. Norton Norton, a physics graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), was hired in 1918 as the first technical employee at Langley. He became Ed Warner’s assistant and partner in technical projects. After Warner’s departure in 1920, Norton replaced him as the chief physicist. He authored more than 35 highly acclaimed NACA technical reports. His special interest was the development of recording instruments for accurate measurements of aircraft in flight. After leaving Langley in 1923, he changed his field of interest completely and received many international honors as head of the Ceramics Division at MIT.


Construction underway at Langley Field in early 1918 looking toward the Back River. The NACA laboratory is almost finished at the center of the picture, and construction of Wind Tunnel 1 has not started. Photos courtesy Massachusetts Institute of Technology Museum, Technique 1917.


Chapter 2

1920-1929 Birth and Breakthroughs

The completed pressure shell for the Langley Variable Density Tunnel on a railroad car at the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. prior to shipping by barge down the James River to Langley Field. LRC-1991-B701_P-16125


Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

Official Dedication Friday, June 11, 1920

An August 1920 view of Langley Field shows the LMAL administrative building, Wind Tunnel Number 1(left), headquarters of the Air Service (middle) and the Army airship hangar (upper right).

The LMAL dedication featured an aerial display including airships like the Navy C-7. In the 1920s, many proclaimed that dirigibles — not airplanes — were the future of aviation.

Air Combat Command History Office


Birth and Breakthroughs Reid became Langley’s second Engineer-inCharge in 1926 at the age of 29, and served in that position for 34 years.

On Friday, June 11, 1920, the NACA held the formal dedication of its field station, named the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory (LMAL). On display for the invited attendees were the administration building, an atmospheric wind tunnel, a dynamometer lab, and a small warehouse. The ceremony included fly-bys of dirigibles and aircraft, highlighted by a 25-plane flight led by Brigadier General William “Billy” Mitchell, who ironically would later take a position against the NACA. Colonel William Hensley, the commanding officer of Langley Field, did not attend the ceremonies.

would far exceed their expectations. At the end of the previous decade, the NACA main committee role had been extremely broad, ranging from the resolution of patent infringements in aeronautics to regulations for air commerce. The committee settled on becoming the preeminent aerodynamics research organization. Langley management was challenged to staff the new laboratory at a time when aeronautical engineering graduates were relatively scarce. The Washington-based main committee began an intense recruiting effort for domestic and foreign talent in aerodynamics.

A poor relationship between John Victory and John DeKlyn resulted in the resignation of DeKlyn in early 1920. Leigh Griffith, who oversaw aircraft engine research, became Langley’s first Engineer-in-Charge in 1922. Griffith, a mechanical engineer, was educated at the California Institute of Technology. Unfortunately, management disputes continued, and Griffith retired under duress in 1925. He was replaced by Henry J. E. Reid, who was directing Langley’s program for instrumentation research and development. Reid, who became Langley’s second Engineer-in-Charge in 1926 at the age of 29, served as head of Langley for 34 years until he retired from NASA in 1960.

One recruit was Max M. Munk, a student of the world-renowned aerodynamicist Ludwig Prandtl in Germany. In 1921, Munk was hired as a technical assistant in the NACA’s Washington office, where he advocated for a new type of wind tunnel, which would give the NACA – and the LMAL – a premier position in aeronautics research. Munk’s concept was to obtain windtunnel results more comparable to full-scale airplane flight data by compressing the air in a wind tunnel to 20 atmospheres. This approach resulted in a test that more accurately duplicated a parameter known as Reynolds number, which mathematically defines the physical attributes of airflow around an aircraft in flight. The executive committee approved the construction of the proposed pressurized wind tunnel in March 1921.

The energetic young staff of the LMAL looked forward to gaining a place amongst world leaders in aeronautical technology. They

The completed LMAL administration building on June 11, 1920.


The LMAL administration and wind tunnel buildings were designed by architects Donn and Deming. An early version of the NACA wings marks the entrance way.



The formal invitation to the LMAL dedication ceremony.

The Newport News TimesHerald story of the dedication.

Ames Collection, Langley Historic Archives



Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

W ind Tunnel Number 1

Leigh M. Griffith

Griffith was named the Senior Staff Engineer of Langley in 1920. His early expertise and research was in the field of engine performance. In 1922 the NACA Executive Committee named him as the Engineer-in-Charge. In 1925 he and John Victory escalated private disputes to the point that Griffith resigned.




Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory staff in April 1921 at the south end of the Laboratory Building. In the front row: (fourth from left) test pilot Tom Carroll and (ninth from left) master patternmaker Percy Keffer. At the left end of the back row is Henry J. E. Reid, Fred Norton (fifth from left) chief of the Aerodynamics Division, and Leigh Griffith (seventh from left) then chief of the Power Plants Division.

After several trials, a cowl known as number 10 was found to reduce the drag of a full-scale fuselage by a factor of 3. The results were confirmed by flight tests of complete aircraft and immediately caught the attention of industry.

Munk’s tunnel, known as the Variable Density Tunnel (VDT), was a 5-foot diameter wind tunnel within a cylindrical steel pressure vessel 34.5 feet long and had hemispherical ends. The tunnel was housed in a building next to Wind Tunnel Number 1. Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Co. fabricated the pressure tank and it was delivered down the James River by a barge and began operations in October 1922. Langley’s first program on aerodynamic airfoil (wing crosssectional shape) characteristics in the VDT began in 1923 with a series of systematic variations in geometry. Tests continued through the 1930s, providing airplane designers with unprecedented data for airfoil selection. Many of the airfoils are still used today. The world-wide recognition of the VDT paved the way for a second major aerodynamic facility known as the Propeller Research Tunnel (PRT). Prior to the mid-1920s, the aerodynamic performance of propellers had been analyzed and predicted based on theory and small-scale model tests. However, this approach had serious inadequacies because of the small size of model propellers. The NACA constructed the PRT for full-scale testing of propellers, fuselages, landing gear, and tail surfaces. Initially powered by diesel submarine engines from the Navy, the facility became operational in July 1927. Fred Weick, a former Navy employee and a propeller expert, became the first head of the PRT, and quickly attacked a major problem of airplane performance–the drag caused by exposed engine cylinders on radial engines. At an aircraft manufacturers conference at Langley, several requests were made for an

investigation of the engine cowling and cooling problem. Weick and his team evaluated various engine cowl shapes to reduce drag, while having a minimum impact on engine cooling. After several trials, a cowl known as number 10 was found to reduce the drag of a full-scale fuselage by a factor of three. The results were confirmed by flight tests of complete aircraft and immediately caught the attention of industry, which applied the concept with very positive results. In recognition of the value of this contribution, the NACA won its first Collier Trophy, awarded annually for the greatest achievement in American aviation, in 1929.


Staff members stand next to the entrance cone of Wind Tunnel Number 1.

The PRT also contributed pioneering information on the optimum engine location on the wings of multi-engine aircraft, and the unexpected large impact of exposed landing gear on drag. The research on landing gear led to widespread recognition of the performance advantages of retractable gear. Other wind tunnels were put into operation at the LMAL during this decade, including an11-Inch High Speed Tunnel with a speed near the speed of sound (Mach 1) achieved by using compressed air from the VDT – first suggested by George Lewis. Experiments in the facility produced some of the first high-speed aerodynamic data obtained by the NACA.


The exit section of the Wind Tunnel Number 1.

The LMAL accelerated airplane flight research that had begun under Edward Warner and Fred Norton. Activities included aerodynamic and handling quality experiments with the two JN-4H Jennies, acquisition of additional airplanes for research and transportation, and development of more refined flight instrumentation and flight test procedures. 

Exterior of the building housing Wind Tunnel Number 1. LRC-1921-B701_P-00008



Test section, balance, and control room for Wind Tunnel Number 1 during tests of a Curtiss Jenny model.


Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

Flight Research

Variable Density Tunnel

(From left) Eastman Jacobs, “Shorty” Defoe, Malvern Powell, and Harold Turner in March 1929 at the Variable Density Tunnel.

Dr. Max Munk inspects the VDT in 1922 after its installation.

LRC-1922-B701_P-00307 LRC-1932-B701_P-06452

A Boeing PW-9 in May 1932. It served in flight and wind-tunnel tests in the Full Scale Tunnel.


Langley began its first experimental program on the aerodynamic characteristics of airfoils in the VDT during 1923. The testing continued through the 1920s and 1930s, providing airplane designers with unprecedented data for selection of airfoils to be used in wing designs. Many of the airfoils are still used today.

(From left) Harold J. ”Cannonball” Turner, long-time safety engineer of Langley and Art Gardner stand by the VDT pressure vessel before it is moved to Building 60A (now building 582).


The VDT was a wooden, closed-throat, annular-return tunnel in a pressurized tank (upper sketch) with a top speed of 51 miles per hour. In 1927, a fire damaged the tunnel and it was rebuilt as an open-throat tunnel. The new configuration was not successful, and the tunnel was returned to its closed-throat configuration in 1930.




A 6-ft span wing model with stabilizing tail surfaces was inverted and lowered on three small wires below a Jenny. Lift and drag were measured by tension in the wires and the angle of rearward drift.


Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

Langley Pilots

Flight Research

Famous Langley test pilot Bill McAvoy (below) later transferred to the Ames Laboratory. Paul King (left and in detail), is in a fur-lined flying suit with oxygen face piece in preparation for a high-altitude flight.


Langley has been fortunate to have had outstanding test pilots. Initially pilots for NACA research were military personnel stationed at Langley. The first NACA test pilot was Lt. Edmund T. “Eddie” Allen. Tom Carroll (right), was the first civilian NACA test pilot.

Tom Carroll


NACA research airplanes in 1921: (left to right) A Navy Vought VE-7, and three Army Air Service Curtiss JN-4H Jennies on loan. Two of the Jennies were used in tests in 1919.

Lear ning from Europe




(Right) This Langley instrument predicted the dynamic stability of airplanes in flight. A manual input with the upper components caused the “pizza cutter” on the revolving drum to indicate the aircraft stability. It was cited in a 1923 issue of Mechanical Engineering magazine as an example of Langley innovation. LRC-1923-B701_P-00427

Bill McAvoy


Langley operated several foreign aircraft in the early 1920s: (top left) a French SPAD VII, (top right) British SE-5A, and (above) a German Fokker D-VII.

Paul King LRC-1921-B701_P-00085




Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

First Passenger Aircraft LANGLEY'S DIRECTORS

Agile Pilot Averts Disaster During Dynamic Test (Right) For a flight test to learn about aerodynamic response of an airplane to rapid rolling motions, a mechanic pours 150 pounds of sand in one of two wooden boxes on a Jenny. The lower view shows the receptacle trap door opened by a cockpit-mounted trip wire. After the sudden release of the sand on one side, the unbalanced airplane was allowed to roll up to a vertical bank while the pilot maintained neutral controls and on-board instrumentation recorded the angular velocity of the aircraft. When ready to descend, the pilot would dump the sand from the other side.

Dr. H. J. E. Reid Dr. Reid joined Langley in 1921 after graduating from Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a degree in electrical engineering. His first assignment was briefly as a junior engineer at Wind Tunnel Number 1. He was subsequently placed in charge of the Instrumentation Division designing and improving basic instruments for flight research. He was appointed the second Engineer-in-Charge of Langley. In 1930, Dr. Reid teamed with one of his staff members to invent the NACA V-G Recorder, which records critical data on aircraft speed and loads during operations.


A critical lesson was learned with the tests during the winter: the boxes were initially filled with sand without regard to moisture content, and when pilot Tom Carroll attempted to release the sand from the second box, the sand had frozen and would not drop. Realizing that he could not land the Jenny in the unbalanced state, Carroll proceeded to climb out on the wing, leaving the airplane pilotless while he dug the frozen sand out with a screw driver. He then brought the airplane to land safely. From that point, all tests were conducted with sand that had been pre-heated and dried.


(Left) A coffin-like sand container strapped beneath the outer wings of a Jenny airplane.


In 1922, NACA obtained its first passenger transportation airplane, a de Havilland DH-9, on loan from the Army. The standard twoseat, open-cockpit was modified at Langley with an enclosed rear cockpit for two passengers. Flight logs reveal trips to Dahlgren, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.

Superchargers LRC-1925-B701_P-00947

(Below) Tom Carroll (left), pilot, and Ray Sharp, chief clerk, by the DH-9 “cabin cruiser.” Note the first known use of the NACA winged insignia on the fuselage behind Sharp.


Fred Weick Weick was one of the nation’s aviation pioneers — airmail pilot, research engineer, and aircraft designer. He joined the NACA in 1925 and became head of the Propeller Research Tunnel, directing award-winning research.

(Above) Tom Carroll and an unidentified passenger (rear seat) are shown preparing for a flight.



George Lewis at NACA Headquarters paved the way for Langley to conduct high-priority evaluations of superchargers for both the Army and the Navy. The Army loaned the de Havilland DH-4B shown here with a Roots supercharger installed for a project in May 1929, and the Navy loaned a Davis-Douglas DT-2 airplane, both airplanes being equipped with Liberty engines. The flight projects succeeded beyond expectations and stimulated supercharger developments that were critical in World War II. LRC-1923-B701_P-00506



Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

Noted Visitors

Shops and Technicians

LRC-1922-B701_P-00182 LRC-1928-B701_P-02377

Famous pilot and actress Ruth Elder visited in May 1928 accompanied by (left to right) Tom Carroll, H. J. E. Reid, and Ray Sharp in the Propeller Research Tunnel.


As a member of the NACA committee, Charles Lindbergh arrives for the 10th Annual Aircraft Engineering Conference at Langley in 1935. Many Langley staff members cited Lindbergh’s solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927 as an inspiration for their career choice.

World-famous Dr. Ludwig Prandtl of the University of Gottingen, Germany, conducted a six-month tour of aeronautical research laboratories in Russia, Japan, and the United States. He considered Langley “a magnificent laboratory doing first-class work with facilities that exceed any in Europe.” Several of his studies were published as formal reports by the NACA. (L-R) John W. Crowley (LMAL), H. J. E. Reid (LMAL), Dr. Prandtl, and George Lewis.

On November 5, 1928, Porter Adams, National Aeronautical Association president, and Amelia Earhart visited LMAL. In August, she had completed a record flight to became the first woman to fly solo across the North American continent and back. After a luncheon, Earhart made remarks on aviation progress. (Front row, left to right) E. A. Meyers, Elton Miller, Amelia Earhart, H. J. E. Reid, and Lt. Col. Jacob Wuest, Langley Executive Officer. Second row, Carlton Kemper, Ray Sharp, Thomas Carroll, unknown, and Fred Weick.



The first floor of the administration building in 1922 included the instrument shop in which H. J. E. Reid and Pearl Young started their NACA careers. In the photograph is Howard Morris.



Pictured in April 1921 are F. E. Hunsecker (left) and R. E. Mixon measuring the wing ordinates of a Jenny.

(Above) Young in the Langley instrumentation lab. Young upon her return to NASA Lewis Research Center in 1959. LRC-1921-B701_P-00054

NASA Glenn 1959-C-51405

Pearl Young, Physicist and Editor

Pearl I. Young was the first professional woman at NACA. She was hired in 1922 as a physicist and assigned to the Instrument Research Division. The section designed, constructed, calibrated, and repaired all instrumentation carried on Langley research aircraft. By 1929, Young had noted that the young engineers had poor technical writing skills and that a system was required to establish procedures to improve the quality of publications. Reid appointed her as Langley’s first chief technical editor. With several other employees, Pearl Young left Langley in January 1943 to work at the new NACA Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory at Cleveland, Ohio. She established and trained the technical editing staff and then resigned to teach physics as an assistant professor at the Pennsylvania State College from 1947 to 1957. She then returned to the NACA in Cleveland where she was the Technical Literature Analyst and wrote on subjects involving astrophysics.


The second floor of the administration building included a carpenter shop. A new wing for a Thomas-Morse MB-3 airplane for pressure distribution studies is being built. Percy Keffer, head pattern maker, is in the back.


Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

Propeller Research Tunnel


Sheet metal workers of the Flight Operations Section fabricating cowling shapes.


A Wright Whirlwind J-5 radial engine in the nose of a representative cabin fuselage in the PRT for cowling shapes tests. The cowling shape shown here, number 10, reduced drag by a factor of three. LRC-1927-B701_P-01739

This is the 8-bladed, 27-foot diameter drive fan of the PRT. At the time of its initial operations, it was the largest wind tunnel in the world.

(Below) To validate the PRT cowling studies results, the NACA borrowed an Army Curtiss Hawk AT-5A and conducted flight tests. The airplane's speed increased 16 percent.

(Left) The NACA was awarded the Collier Trophy in 1929 for the cowling studies.


(Above) Elton Miller, chief of the Aerodynamics Division, in the Propeller Research Tunnel (PRT) entrance cone during tests of an Army Air Service Sperry Messenger M-1in 1927. (Right) The two diesel submarine engines to power the Propeller Research Tunnel arrive in 1926.

NASA LHA LRC-1926-B701_P-01321




Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs


(Above) The NACA buildings on Plot 16 in April 1928. The Propeller Research Tunnel is at the upper right.

(Left) NACA flight research hangars at Langley in March 1924. The hangars had been built in 1922, and were demolished when a new hangar was built in 1932. The NACA aircraft in the picture are L-R: Curtiss JN-6H, Fokker D-VII, Thomas Morse MB-3, de Havilland DH-9 “cabin cruiser� transport, and Sperry Messenger.



The interior of the Propeller Research Tunnel before the drive fan was installed.



Chapter 2: Birth and Breakthroughs

The Noble Order of the Green Cow

Collection of Robert T. Jones, NASA Ames A76-1405

Some engineers built their own aircraft in their garages and basements. Eastman Jacobs built this airplane in the late 1920s with a small open cockpit and a 110-hp engine in 18 months for $500, then learned how to fly by himself, without instruction. He once flew back across Hampton Roads from Norfolk without realizing that he was in the eye of the Great Hurricane of 1933.

Another tradition that started at Langley in the 1920s was inter-organizational sports that included football, baseball, golf, basketball, and skeet shooting. The NACA Langley baseball team of 1927 is shown with sponsors John Crowley and Tom Carroll (standing, center).

The cultural climate of NACA Langley began in the early 1920s, including a dedicated approach to science and technology. The young staff introduced a fraternity-like atmosphere of entertainment, dances, picnics, and hobbies. The Noble Order of the Green Cow, the initial Activities Association, originated with a junior engineer whose alma mater had an organization with a similar name. The first dance sponsored by the organization was on the occasion of the opening of the LMAL Service Building in 1926. The dance was a huge success, and the organization rapidly grew in membership, reaching several hundred who got together about once a month for a memorable dance, where two men dressed in a cow costume would make an appearance.


Fred Weick Collection in NASA LHA LRC-1928-B701_P_F001-02322

The administration building housed the Langley cafeteria on the second floor, with a seating capacity of 96 in 1928.


Fred Weick designed and built the W-1 in his garage in Hampton. In good weather, he could work on the entire airplane. Otherwise, he had to remove the wing and tail to work in the garage. His design was flown at Langley by NACA test pilots and was tested in the Full Scale Tunnel.

Chapter 3

1930-1939 Shaping the Airplane

Early versions of the Army’s P-26 Peashooter fighter had a reputation as accidentprone because its high landing speed sometimes resulted in rollovers during landing, which proved dangerous because of its open cockpit. The wing trailing-edge split flaps developed during testing in the Full Scale Tunnel in 1934 significantly reduced landing speed of the famous fighter.



Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane


New Tunnel Facilities


Air Combat Command History Office

John Stack designed the 11-Inch High-Speed Tunnel that used compressed air released after tests in the Variable Density Tunnel. It could reach speeds near Mach 1. The wooden box contains the tunnel balance and test model.

The NACA facilities in October 1930, with the nearly completed Full Scale Tunnel (white building) at the top center.

NACA facilities on Plot 16 in March 1936. Left to right above are the Technical Services Building, the 24-Inch High-Speed Tunnel with the Variable Density Tunnel behind it, and at right with tall windows, the 5-Foot Vertical Tunnel and the 7 by 10-Foot Atmospheric Wind Tunnel in the same building. John Stack, Eastman Jacobs, Ira Abbott, and W. F. Lindsey focused on high-speed phenomena encountered at the outer tips of propellers on high-power airplanes. In October 1934, a new 24-Inch High-Speed Tunnel (right) they designed went into operation to obtain data at more realistic conditions near Mach 1 than the 11-Inch High Speed Tunnel. The vertical tunnel was driven by compressed air from the Variable Density Tunnel. A Schlieren photographic system showed shock waves at high speeds.

Shaping the Airplane Extraordinary advances were accomplished despite the challenges of the Great Depression.


The 1930s were a remarkable decade of progress at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory (LMAL), characterized by the construction of research facilities, advances in aeronautics, and the establishment of relationships with industry, academia, and the military. The technical culture within the laboratory established effective procedures and an invigorating environment within the young research community. A systematic, focused approach to research procedures evolved that resulted in effective and timely results that were quickly disseminated with high-quality technical reports and briefings to the civil and military users of the technology. The laboratory introduced world-class capabilities including: the world’s largest subsonic wind tunnel; a high-speed towing facility; an 8-ft High-Speed Tunnel; several small high-speed wind tunnels; a new hangar; a new laboratory for engine research; free-flight model tunnels; tunnels for studies of low-

drag laminar-flow airfoils; and refrigerated wind tunnels for studies of icing. These extraordinary advances were accomplished despite the challenges of the Great Depression and political, technical, and environmental issues. The NACA was frequently attacked by naysayers, who regarded the organization as useless or duplicative within the aeronautics community. The critics were well known and influential, including President Herbert Hoover, Army General Billy Mitchell, ex-NACA researcher Max Munk, and writer Frank Tichenor of Aero Digest magazine who, in a scathing article, lamented “Why the NACA?” The situation reached a critical point on December 9, 1932, when President Hoover signed an executive order transferring the NACA to the Office of the Secretary of Commerce, and assigning the


LMAL to the Bureau of Standards. The NACA was successfully defended by former Langley staff member Edward Warner, editor of Aviation magazine; Charles Lindbergh; Congressman Clifton Woodrum, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations; as well as George Lewis and John Victory. The executive order was nullified by the U.S. House of Representatives on January 19, 1933. The House position was that the decision should be left to President Franklin Roosevelt, who would inherit the situation. Two positions were taken by Lewis and Victory to fend off further attacks. Lewis was adamant that the NACA was crucial for national defense. On his part, Victory increased his invitations for congressmen and other executives to visit the LMAL for tours. Visitors came away impressed with Langley as a research laboratory.

In 1936, John J. Ide of the NACA’s Paris office had briefed NACA headquarters on an alarming, accelerated expansion of aeronautical research in England, France, Italy, and Germany. Charles Lindbergh also reported to the NACA from his home in England on those developments. George Lewis accepted an invitation to visit Germany, and brought back very grave news regarding the acceleration of German capabilities. A Special Committee on Relation of NACA to National Defense in Time of War was formed by the NACA in 1936. Following recommendations, the NACA established a second research laboratory at Moffett Field in California, expanded facilities at Langley and established an engine research laboratory in Cleveland, Ohio. Engineer-in-Charge Reid was called upon to supply leadership for the new laboratories that could also plan their facilities and to transfer personnel from the LMAL to staff them.

The critics were well known and influential, including President Herbert Hoover.


Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

The 7 by 10-Foot Atmospheric Wind Tunnel


In 1931, Langley replaced its first wind tunnel with the 7 by 10-Foot Atmospheric Wind Tunnel (AWT), housed in the same building. This test of a Clark-Y airfoil wing (above) was to study stability of the model.

Virginia Tucker Tucker was hired in 1935 as a “computer.” With a degree in mathematics, she started her career as a high school math teacher in 1930 at Hertford, North Carolina. Using slide rules, charts, and expertise in mathematics, Tucker and other computers performed laborious calculations that enabled timely publishing of data for aircraft designers. Starting with five women in the Langley 19-Foot Pressure Tunnel, the organization grew to several hundred throughout Langley, led by Tucker. She is shown here in 1946. She left Langley in 1947 and joined the Northrop Corp. in Hawthorne, California, where she worked as an aerodynamicist conducting research on boundary layers. Tucker passed away on January 19, 1985, at the age of 75. Photo Courtesy of University of North Carolina at Greensboro


AWT by T A Harris

Five women comprised the first group of computers in 1935, and by the 1940s the number had grown to over 400.

The annual engineering conferences that had begun in 1926 continued to flourish until 1938, with the 1934 conference now regarded as the largest gathering of influential aviation leaders. In 1935, Langley began to recruit women with mathematics degrees to be “computers.” A computer was a subprofessional position classification. The computers took raw wind-tunnel or theoretical data, inserted the data into equations, and solved the equations to produce usable engineering data. Hundreds of such calculations were typically required for a single wind-tunnel test. Computers worked first in pools and then in research branches alongside the engineers. Five women comprised the first group of computers in 1935, and by the 1940s the number had grown to over 400. Langley’s relations with the military continued to evolve during the 1930s. With the threat of war, military research and development activities would become dominant at Langley at the end of the era. 


The Full Scale Tunnel was dedicated on May 27, 1931, during the sixth Aircraft Engineering Conference with a Navy Vought O3U-1 Corsair II in the test section. Below, an engineer at the Toledo scales measured air loads, above him a “pilot” in the cockpit controlled engine power, and a tunnel speed controller was stationed at a console near the far wall. When research began, the airflow was unacceptably turbulent within the test section. The shape of the entrance cone was modified and the tunnel resumed operations three months later.


Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane


Ice Tunnel Eastman Jacobs

Eastman Jacobs and Ira Abbott designed an icing wind tunnel with low turbulence. It was approved with the intent of converting the facility to laminar flow research. The tunnel walls were insulated with kapok from life preservers, and refrigeration was supplied by an open tank of ethylene glycol cooled by ice blocks. Lewis Rodert conducted a preliminary study of ice prevention and removal with engine exhaust heat. After a few icing tests, the refrigeration equipment was removed, turbulence-reducing screens and honeycombs were installed, and work on laminar flow began. On June 15, 1938, the first test of a laminar flow airfoil resulted in drag levels about half of the lowest values ever recorded for a comparable airfoil. The laminar flow airfoils revolutionized World War II aircraft designs such as the P-51 Mustang and the P-63 King Cobra. The tunnel was subsequently renamed the Two-Dimensional Low-Turbulence Tunnel (building 583).

Jacobs’ airfoil research helped to forge Langley’s reputation as an aeronautics world leader. His team’s report on 78 airfoil sections is regarded by many as one of the most important NACA reports of the era. Jacobs was recognized with the Wright Brothers Award in 1933 and the Sylvanus Albert Reed Award in 1937. Jacobs gained a following of women enamored by his handsome looks, especially his striking beard. He came to the LMAL in 1925, but had no beard until 1935, when an artist attempted to sketch him, but could not capture the lines of his chin. In exasperation, the female artist ran her pencil violently back and forth over the drawing, obliterating the chin with a series of thick parallel lines. She exclaimed “There! It looks better like that, anyway!” Jacobs agreed, grew a beard and retained it through his days at Langley.

This Curtiss-Bleecker SX-5-1 helicopter was designed by Maitland Bleecker, a former LMAL researcher who resigned after 2 years to take a job with industry. Rotor power was supplied by a central-mounted engine. Each rotor blade had a control surface. The vehicle was tested at Langley from 1929 to 1933 and was found to have unacceptable vibratory problems. NASM-9A00948

LRC-1945-B701_P-43999 LRC-1939-B701_P-17184

Tow Tank


Starr Truscott

A model being tested in the Tow Tank was towed through water at constant speeds suspended from an overhead carriage. The tank was 2,020 feet long, 24 feet wide, and 12 feet deep. It was filled with 4 million gallons of salt water from the Back River. In 1936, its length was extended to 2,960 feet.

This Pitcairn PAA-1 autogiro in 1933. It was flown for evaluations of an experimental cantilevered 3-bladed rotor.

Truscott was an internationally recognized leader in aircraft hydrodynamics. He was a descendant of the Starr family that included Belle Starr, the infamous bandit of the Old West and was also a cousin of Eastman Jacobs and Pearl Young. He graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in naval architecture. In 1913, he designed the massive lock caissons for the Panama Canal, as well as the first bridge over the canal. He assisted in the design of the giant dirigibles Shenandoah, Akron, and Macon. He is credited with introducing the idea of carrying fighter airplanes on dirigibles. He joined the NACA in Washington in 1926 and was transferred to Langley in October 1929, where he designed the first high-speed seaplane towing basin. His associates regarded the basin, floated in the mud without pilings, as one of his outstanding contributions. He was head of the Langley Towing Basin until his death at the age of 60 in 1946. LRC-1946-B701_P_F-005-47528




This Pitcairn PCA-2 autogiro was purchased by the NACA in 1931 for research on rotary-wing aircraft and evaluations of the landing characteristics. It was tested in the Full Scale Tunnel.

Airship Testing NACA airship research began in 1922 and peaked in the 1930s. Langley researchers studied the Navy’s Akron and Los Angeles with flight tests and wind-tunnel tests. Floyd Thompson and Smith DeFrance researched airships extensively. Many in aviation suggested a bright future for airships, but over a third of the world’s 161 airships were destroyed in accidents. These photos show the Akron airship and the Lakehurst, New Jersey hangar in the Full Scale Tunnel. LRC-1935-B701_P-F001-11163



Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

Friend or Spy?

Boeing XB-15 Bomber


In 1938, the NACA installed instruments in the Army Boeing XB-15 bomber for loads data and Langley pilots assessed its handling qualities. With a 149-foot wing span and a length of 87.5 feet, it was massive. Bunks were installed for crew rotation because it had a 5,000-mile range, which would require 33 hours of flight time. Only a single XB-15 was built.

15-Foot Free-Spinning Tunnel Model Making


(Above) A ¼-scale model of the Army’s Boeing XB-15 airplane in the Full Scale Tunnel in January 1936. In his autobiography Fred Weick received a top-secret briefing in 1935 by the Army about upcoming secret tests of a large model of the XB-15 in the Full Scale Tunnel. In a few months Weick was invited to have lunch with a distinguished female visitor from Nazi Germany in the United States to sell aircraft to airlines. Unofficially, the word was that she was a spy and should be treated with caution. After lunch at the Langley Officer’s Club, the party observed two freight cars on nearby railroad tracks. The German guest declared “Oh, there is the model of the four-engine Boeing bomber going to the Full Scale Tunnel for tests!” Weick remembered her last name as Sturtevant, and no evidence exists that the German woman was German movie star and pilot, Antonie Strassmann, although the circumstances and timing of the event are remarkable.


Models used for tests in the spin tunnel were scaled in geometric dimensions and shape, and in weight distribution within the airframe. LRC-1935-B701_P-11200

A model in the 15-Foot Free-Spinning Tunnel. Charles Zimmerman (right) controls the tunnel speed and times the spin revolutions while Fred Imlay (left) takes motion-picture records.

(Right) Antonie Strassmann, visited on November 26, 1935. She had immigrated to the United States and was a business contact for German aviation companies. She initiated many contracts for the German firms with U. S. companies. (Left to right) Carlton Kemper, LMAL; James C. Edgerton, Bureau of Air Commerce; Miss Strassmann; and Ray Sharp, LMAL. LRC-1935-B701_11464



Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

1934 NACA Conference

Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

Attendees at the NACA 9th annual Aircraft Engineers Research Conference in May 1934 under a Boeing P-26A in the Full Scale Tunnel. This gathering of aeronautic leaders was arguably the most notable of the NACA conferences.

26. Honorable Eugene L. Vidal Aeronautics Branch, Dept. of Commerce, Member, NACA

Attendees included:

29. T. P. Wright Curtiss Aeroplane & Motor Co.

1. Temple N. Joyce North American Aviation Inc. 2.

Howard Hughes Fairchild Aviation Corporation


F. A. Louden Bureau of Aeronautics, U.S. Navy

4. John K. “Jack” Northrop The Northrop Corporation 5.

Hon. Edward P. Warner Member, NACA


Charles Lawrence Wright Whirlwind


Clarence G. Taylor Taylor Aircraft Company


Capt. Arthur B. Cook Bureau of Aeronautics, U. S. Navy


Watson Davis Science Service

10. Charles J. McCarthy Chance Vought Corporation 11. Brig. Gen. Oscar Westover U.S. Army 12. Grover Loening Grover Loening Aircraft Company 13. Reuben H. Fleet Consolidated Aircraft Corporation 14. Henry Berliner Engineering and Research Corporation 15. Col. Charles A. Lindbergh Pan Am, Member, NACA 16. Charles G. Abbot, Smithsonian Institution, Member, NACA 17. G. L. “Albert” Mooney Bellanca Aircraft Corporation 18. Dr. Orville Wright, Member, NACA 19. Edward H. Chamberlin Assistant Secretary, NACA 20. Prof. J. S. Newell Massachusetts Institute of Technology 21. Sherman M. Fairchild Fairchild Aviation Corp. 22. Lt. Cmdr. Walter S. Diehl Bureau of Aeronautics, U. S. Navy 23. James F. Ray Autogiro Company of America 24. Dr. Joseph S. Ames Johns Hopkins, Chairman, NACA 25. Rear Admiral Earnest J. King U.S. Navy, Member, NACA



27. Harold F. Pitcairn Autogiro Company of America 28. Elmer A. Sperry, Jr. Sperry Products

30. Dr. Hugh L. Dryden Bureau of Standards 31. Leroy R. Grumman Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation 32. I. Macklin Ladden Consolidated Aircraft Corporation 33. Alexander P. de Seversky Seversky Aircraft Corporation 34. John F. Victory Secretary, NACA 35. Giuseppe M. Bellanca, Bellanca Aircraft Corporation 36. George W. Lewis Director of Aeronautical Research, NACA 37. Dr. Theodore Theodorsen NACA LMAL 38. Charles Ward Hall Hall-Aluminum Aircraft Corporation 39. Dr. Jerome C. Hunsaker Massachusetts Institute of Technology 40. Major J. H. “Jimmy” Doolittle Shell Petroleum Corporation 41. Vincent Burnelli Uppercu-Bernelli Corporation 42. Albert F. Zahm Library of Congress 43. Thomas Carroll Management and Research Inc. 44. Igor Sikorsky Sikorsky Aviation Corporation 45. Prof. Alexander Klemin American Society of Aeronautical Engineers 46. Luis DeFlorez Air Associates, Inc.

On the Catwalk 47. Kenneth Bullivant NACA LMAL 48. Philip Donely NACA LMAL

49. John F. “Jack” Parsons NACA LMAL 50. James White NACA LMAL 51. Melvin Gough NACA LMAL 52. Eastman N. Jacobs NACA LMAL 53. Eugene Lundquist NACA LMAL 54. H. Julian Allen NACA LMAL 55. Fred Weick NACA LMAL


Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

Icing, Storms and Spin Recovery

1933 Hurricane

Theodore Theodorsen Langley’s Theodore Theodorsen contributed valuable analysis of the effectiveness of using engine exhaust heat to prevent and remove ice from airfoils. An applied mathematician and theorist, he conducted extensive studies in icing, flutter, vibrations, and theoretical aerodynamics.

Smith DeFrance

Air Combat Command History Office

The Chesapeake-Potomac hurricane reached Category 3 before weakening to Category 1 and came ashore on August 23, 1933, causing 30 deaths and $461 million in damage (equivalent 2011 dollars). The center of circulation passed directly over Norfolk, and the storm surge of 9.8 feet remains a record today. Nine of the 11 NACA buildings were flooded with salt water. Most of Langley Field was flooded with several feet of water. Langley managers pitched in for clean-up. (From left) Walter Reiser, chief of the Maintenance Division; Ernest Johnson, chief of Administrative and Technical Services; H. J. E. Reid, Engineer-inCharge; Ray Sharp, and Elton W. Miller, chief of Aerodynamics.

DeFrance was a World War I Army fighter pilot with two aerial victories. He came to work at Langley in 1922 as an engineer at Wind Tunnel Number 1 and transferred to the Flight Test Division, flying research airplanes in 1923-1924. On August 20, 1924, DeFrance was piloting a JN6H near Langley Field with a junior engineer, Stevens Bromley, as a back-seat observer when the airplane crashed in the Back River. Bromley was killed, and DeFrance suffered severe head and face injuries in which he lost his left eye. He spent several months recovering from the accident, and returned to Langley to design the Langley Full Scale Tunnel along with Clint Dearborn, Abe Silverstein and Russell Robinson. DeFrance served as head of the tunnel and went on lead the 8-Foot High Speed Tunnel, the Propeller Research Tunnel and the 19-Foot Pressure Tunnel. He led the planning of the NACA Ames Aeronautical Laboratory at Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, California, and became its Engineer-in-Charge when it was opened in 1940 and served for 25 years in that capacity.



Lewis A. Rodert led the NACA efforts in icing research from 1936 to 1945. He participated in a Langley study of the potential impact of icing on flight characteristics of a United Airlines DC-3 Mainliner. Sponge rubber pieces were glued to the leading edge of the wing, simulating ice formations. Study results demonstrated how a small layer of ice could have a large impact on lift, drag, and stalling.


Langley conducted early surveys of thunderstorms in a Lockheed XC-35 twin-engine airplane, which was the second American aircraft with a pressurized cabin, enabling crew and researchers to work without oxygen masks. Pilot Herbert Hoover intentionally flew the XC-35 into thunderstorms to gather data.


Charles Zimmerman Zimmerman joined the LMAL in 1929 and advanced to chief of the Stability and Control Section in the 1930s. At the time, for spin studies, models were hand-launched from the ceiling of the huge Army dirigible hangar. Zimmerman had visited a British Royal Aircraft Establishment 15-Foot Vertical Spin Tunnel and was assigned to develop a similar tunnel for Langley, which became operational in 1935.



Spin tests were conducted with a Boeing F4B-2 biplane, which had a spin-recovery parachute at the top of the tail to terminate an unrecoverable spin.

Rodert’s icing research assessed using engine exhaust heat for de-icing. A wing model with its leading edge heated from the engine exhaust on a Martin XBM-1. The XBM-1 flew into cold air, turned on a water spray in front of the wing to form ice, and a camera recorded how quickly the ice melted away with engine exhaust. In July 1940, Rodert and his associates transferred to Ames, where the cold Sierra Mountain air mixing with the warm, moist air rising off San Francisco Bay made excellent icing conditions. He received the Collier Trophy for 1946 in recognition of his icing research.

LRC-1960-B701_P-05296 LRC-1932-B701_07024



Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

Free Flight Tunnel

LRC-1949-B701_P-64712 and NASA

The NACA 12-Foot Free-Flight Tunnel began operation in 1939. The tunnel produced information for radical, unconventional configurations. Now known as the Langley 12-Foot Low Speed Tunnel (building 644), it has operated for almost 80 years.

NASA LRC-1952-B701_P-74801

Kitty O’Brien Joyner O’Brien Joyner graduated from the University of Virginia’s Electrical Engineering Program in 1939 after winning a lawsuit allowing her to attend the all-male engineering classes. She was hired as a junior civil engineering aide in 1939 and advanced quickly to manage wind tunnel electrical systems, including supersonic wind tunnels. In 1962, she was of head of the Facilities Cost Estimating Branch. While at Langley, she met and married fellow researcher Upshur “Uppy” Joyner. Kitty and Uppy Joyner retired in 1971 and both died in 1993.

Two-Dimensional Low-Turbulence Tunnel

High-Speed Props



Fred Weick’s W-1 was assembled in his garage and included the world’s first tricycle landing gear with steerable nose wheel, a simplified lateralcontrol system, and high-lift devices for reducing landing speed. The Bureau of Air Commerce was so impressed that it purchased the aircraft and requested wind tunnel and flight tests. The W-1 was tested in the Full Scale Tunnel in March 1934 and an improved design was built. Neither aircraft went into production, but the steerable tricycle landing gear has since been used extensively.


The Two-Dimensional Low-Turbulence Tunnel was a proof-of-concept for a more capable, pressurized low-turbulence tunnel. The pressurized tunnel, known as the Two-Dimensional Low-Turbulence Pressure Tunnel, was designed by Eastman Jacobs, Ira Abbott, and Albert von Doenhoff. It became operational in spring 1941. The Two-Dimensional Low-Turbulence Tunnel is at the upper right, and the TwoDimensional Low-Turbulence Pressure Tunnel (known as the LTPT) is in front of the older tunnel. The Variable Density Tunnel is left of the LTPT. Once located in the East Area, the two low turbulence tunnels have been demolished.


Models of some of the propeller blades considered for the 8-Foot High-Speed Tunnel, which maintained efficiency up to 500 miles per hour.


Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

Float Planes

8-Foot High Speed Tunnel


The Army and Navy had floatplanes in the 1930s. Langley flight researchers provided data on landing loads and pressure distributions on floats and hulls. Floyd Thompson led studies on pontoon pressure distributions on this Navy Curtiss TS-1, (left) which was the first air-cooled, radial-engine military fighter. He also conducted hull-pressure measurements for a twin-engine Curtiss H-16 seaplane, (above) shown on a beaching dolly on the Langley Field seaplane ramp constructed by the Army along with two hangars to accommodate its seaplanes.


(Below) In 1939, Langley personnel visited Naval Air Station Norfolk to conduct tests of the Navy Sikorsky XPBS-1 flying boat. The NACA tests included measurements of pressure distributions on the hull during operations, performance, and handling qualities.


The 8-Foot High Speed Tunnel originally had cast-aluminum alloy propeller blades. During a night shift run by John Becker, the aluminum blades failed. Wooden propeller blades were determined to be less susceptible to failure and new Sitka spruce blades were constructed by the woodworking shop under Percy Keffer. Wooden blades replaced the original aluminum blades in the 8-Foot and Full Scale Tunnel in mid1938. The Full Scale Tunnel’s wooden blades operated with only minor repair and maintenance for 71 years, until the facility was closed in 2009. A set of the blades are displayed at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.


George Lewis authorized a high-speed wind tunnel in 1933. Russell Robinson and Manley Hood designed the tunnel and construction of the 8-Foot High Speed Tunnel was funded by the Public Works Administration (PWA). The igloo structure was built with foot-thick concrete walls. (Above) is the 8-Foot High Speed Tunnel with the iglooshaped test section.


(Above) Pressure gauges placed on the lower hull are inspected by a Langley researcher.


The 8-Foot High Speed control room in 1946. Manometer boards (right and left) measure model pressures. The structural framework was part of the balance system to measure model lift and drag.




Line drawing of the interior of the 8-Foot High Speed Tunnel


Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

19-Foot Pressure Tunnel

(Left) The 19-Foot Pressure Tunnel was used to test a variety of complete aircraft configurations including the Navy seaplane shown in this photo of 1939.

(Below) With a closed-throat test section that could be pressurized up to 2.7 atmospheres and a maximum speed of 330 mph, the Langley 19-Foot Pressure Tunnel was designed to provide more realistic aerodynamic test conditions for high speed propeller research. Instead, the 19-Foot Tunnel was used for studies of lift, stability, and control. Later it was converted to the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel (building 648) and is still in use.

The original Plot 16


Air Combat Command History Office

Langley Field on September 29, 1939. Lower left is Plot 16, with the Administration building, the Technical Services building, Atmospheric Wind Tunnel, Variable Density Tunnel, Two-Dimensional Low-Turbulence Tunnel, and the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory. At lower right are the Propeller Research Tunnel, 8-Foot High-Speed Tunnel, Full Scale Tunnel, 15-Foot Free-Spinning Tunnel, 12-Foot Free-Flight Tunnel, 19-Foot Pressure Tunnel, and Tow Tank. The hangar is upper right.




Chapter 3: Shaping the Airplane

Wright ’s Visit Orville Wright visited Langley in April 1939 during a trip to the Wright Memorial in Kitty Hawk. He stopped in Washington for a dinner with President Roosevelt, then put his car on a steamship to Old Point Comfort. He spent a day at Langley. The tour group included (left to right): front row- aviation writer and editor Earl N. Findley, Walter Reiser, Elton Miller, Orville Wright, Starr Truscott, Addison Rothrock, Eastman Jacobs, and George Lewis. Back rowJohn Crowley, Ernest Johnson, Carlton Kemper, H. J. E. Reid, Smith DeFrance, and Theodore Theodorsen.

John Ide


NACA Main Committee

In 1919, the NACA established an office in Paris, France, to provide information on aviation progress in Europe. In 1921, John Ide, a Navy Reserve lieutenant, was appointed to the office. He provided extensive technical information, even riding as a passenger in advanced European aircraft designs. In the late 1930s, he kept the NACA informed of alarming advances in aeronautical technology in Hitler’s Germany. In 1940, the Navy called him to active duty. In 1943, he was appointed the tactical air intelligence officer in Europe, where he later helped to survey the aeronautical capabilities of defeated Nazi Germany. He left the Navy in 1945, but remained in Europe as a NACA representative until his retirement in 1950. In January 1931 he is shown with (left to right) Carlton Kemper, Ray Sharp, Starr Truscott, H. J. E. Reid, John Ide, and George Lewis.

The NACA committee at the 1934 conference (first row, left to right) Charles Lindbergh, Arthur Cook, Charles Abbot, Joseph Ames, Orville Wright, Edward Warner, Ernest King, and Eugene Vidal. Standing are George Lewis, H. J. E. Reid, and John Victory. LRC-1934-B701_P-09847

The entire Langley staff sat for this group picture on May 15, 1930.




Chapter 4

1940-1949 T h e W a r Ye a r s

Test pilots in front of a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt. (Left to right) Melvin Gough, Herbert Hoover, John P. “Jack� Reeder, Steve Cavallo, and Bill Gray, Jr. were the primary test pilots for Langley during World War II.



Chapter 4: The War Years

Chapter 4: The War Years

Westward Expansion

Langley on the Radio

A V isit from FDR

On November 7, 1939, NACA was granted additional land two miles northwest of its original site. This image shows the West Area in July 1940, with the Structures laboratory (building 1148) in the center of the picture.



On the anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ flight in 1944, the NBC Army Hour radio program broadcast live from the LMAL. (Above) Hartley A. Soulé, chief of the Stability Division, and “Red” Neihouse, head of the Spin Tunnel, present during a test. John Victory is in the background. The Langley Structures Research Laboratory, designed by Joseph Kotanchik and Norris Dow, became operational on October 18, 1940.


(Left) Mel Gough, head of the Flight Research Division, and Captain Peterson, Army Hour announcer, discuss Langley research contributions for the P-51 and A-26 airplanes.


On July 29, 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt visited Langley accompanied by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox and Secretary of Commerce Harry Hopkins.


The War Years The staff worked 48-hour weeks with very limited vacations.


During World War II, support for the U.S. military dominated research efforts at Langley. New wind tunnels, laboratories, shops, and support buildings were erected at a rapid pace in the West Area. The staff worked 48-hour weeks with very limited vacations. They experienced gas rationing, increased security and blackout procedures, and the break-up of research teams by the draft, voluntary military duty, and transfers to new NACA laboratories. New Year’s Day, January 1, 1943, was declared a work day. Effective on that date, a five percent “victory tax” was deducted from employee’s gross earnings with the stipulation that rebates would be made in 1944 if “certain conditions were fulfilled by the employees in 1943.” In 1942, the personal driving allotment was cut from 90 to 30 miles per month, but in 1943 the allowance was raised back to 90 miles.

When America entered the war in 1941, government worker deferments were difficult to obtain. In 1944, the Joint ArmyNavy NACA Plan was approved, and NACA men called for induction were given a letter for the induction station in Richmond. The employee joined the Air Corps Enlisted Reserves (ACER), spent 24 hours undergoing physical exams and completing forms and returned home to support the war effort at Langley. At the end of the war, the men were granted an honorable discharge. An aggressive recruiting program was instituted for women as “computers” and shop workers. Hundreds of teenage boys too young for the draft were hired as part-time messengers, model makers, and shop assistants. By the end of the war, women were over one third of Langley’s work force. In 1943, Langley began recruiting African-American women

with college degrees to work as “computers” under the leadership of Virginia Tucker. Tucker’s original all-white computer organization was in the East Area. The African-American group was assigned to the West Area. Initially a segregated section, the West Area Computers had an office in a warehouse, which also housed the accounting group, insurance office, personnel office, cost office and security. The African-American computers did the same work as their white counterparts, while coping with segregation, which was the law in the South, including Virginia. The exceptional dedication, contributions and challenges of these women would not be widely known to later generations until 2016, when author Margot Lee Shetterly’s book “Hidden Figures” was published. The social activities sponsored by the Noble Order of the Green Cow were absorbed in 1946 by the LMAL Activities Association.

In 1942, an in-house Langley newspaper, the LMAL Bulletin, began. It was renamed the Air Scoop in 1944. It featured news of marriages, births, sporting event results, and tongue-in-cheek humor. In 1938, Langley had 426 employees; by 1945, there were over 3,000. Adequate housing was a problem. New housing developments were built: Copeland Park and Cavalier Court near Fox Hill Road in 1943; Newsome Park for AfricanAmericans; Essex Courts for single men in Newport News; and Anne Wythe Hall for single women in the Wythe district. President Harry Truman provided a big boost to employee morale in July 1945 when he approved a bill to increase government employee pay by an average of 15.8 percent, time and one-half overtime pay, and a 10-percent addition for night work. The

In 1938, Langley had 426 employees; by 1945, there were over 3,000.


Chapter 4: The War Years

Chapter 4: The War Years

The Navy Says Thanks


The West Side

MAP KEY 1. Water Tower LRC-1943-B701_P-35045

In November 1943, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox visited Langley with Rear Admiral John S. McCain, Jerome Hunsaker, George Lewis, and John F. Victory. Knox spoke to about 1,500 employees, citing the many Langley contributions to naval aircraft. In attendance are (1) Francis Rogallo, (2) Jack Paulson, (3) John Campbell, (4) Don Baals, and (5) John Becker. Standing near Becker are recently hired West Computers: (6) Pearl Bassette, (7) Minnie McGraw, (8) Miriam Mann, and (9) Ophelia Taylor. The women were among the first 11 graduates from the Engineering Science Management War Training course at Hampton Institute, now Hampton University. All of the graduates were hired by the NACA.

20-Foot Spin Tunnel

increase was the first civil service raise since 1923. In 1942, a shuttle service was introduced to mitigate the problem during rationing of employees using their own vehicles to travel between the East and West areas. The transportation service continued into the NASA years. In the early 1940s, on-site University of Virginia Extension classes started. Taught by Langley specialists, the educational program expanded to include other universities.

2. 16-Foot High Speed Tunnel

3. West Substation

4. West Model Shop

5. Stability Tunnel 6. Structures Research Laboratory

7. West Heating Plant

8. Power Plant

12. Warehouse

10. Impact Basin

14. Sewage Plant

9. Cooling Tower 11. Model Supersonic Tunnel

13. West Shop

The West Area in September 1942.

The 16-Foot High Speed Tunnel The 16-Foot High Speed Tunnel (building 1146), designed by David Biermann and Lindsey Turner, became operational on December 5, 1941. It investigated cowlings and cooling for full-size engines and propellers. The tunnel was demolished in 2011.

The title Engineer-in-Charge was changed to Director on June 24, 1947, and Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory (LMAL) was shortened to the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory (LAL) on May 26, 1948.


In 1941, a new 20-Foot Spin Tunnel (building 645) opened. With modifications and advances in data instrumentation and acquisition, the tunnel continues to operate today.


The advanced state of German aeronautics had a profound impact on NACA research in high-speed aerodynamics, hypersonic technologies, rocket science, and space technology. It also led to the National Unitary Wind Tunnel Act of 1949 that provided funds for three new supersonic wind tunnels. ď‚Ł



Chapter 4: The War Years

Chapter 4: The War Years

Jack Reeder

World War II Aircraft

Bob Gilruth R_LRC-1943-B701_P-34176 LRC-1945-B701_P-F005-43099

(Above) In 1944, Jack Reeder became the first NACA pilot to train to fly helicopters. His training was conducted in the Sikorsky Army YR-4B. He participated in the formulation of specialized flying quality requirements for rotorcraft. Reeder flew Sikorsky helicopter demonstrations at Langley airshows.


America’s first military jet fighter, the Bell YP-59A Airacomet is shown here in the Full Scale Tunnel in 1944. Its high-speed performance was very disappointing when compared with German aircraft.

Jack Reeder and his Oil-Soaked Corsair Pilot Jack Reeder (left) had a harrowing experience during a Navy F4U-1 Corsair test flight when the engine experienced a major oil leak, coating the canopy and forward fuselage. Reeder opened the cockpit for visibility, and noted that the oil-covered wing prevented him from bailing out. During his emergency landing at Langley Field without forward visibility, he used his peripheral vision and the tails of B-24s parked alongside the runway for cues. (Above and above right) The photographs indicate how the thick oil coating covered the aircraft.


Robert “Bob” Gilruth began his career at Langley in 1937 in the Flight Research Maneuvers Section. He was assigned to a flying and handling qualities project to derive quantitative terms for good or bad flying characteristics. Gilruth directed tests on over 20 different airplanes, including fighters, trainers, and airliners. His ground-breaking research led to definitive criteria for satisfactory handling qualities. He published a summary of the research in 1941, which became a seminal manual for aircraft designers and operators.


(Left) One of the most famous U.S. fighter airplanes of WWII, the North American P-51 Mustang, was evaluated and used as a NACA testbed. The P-51 was the first to use the laminarflow airfoil concept developed by Eastman Jacobs. This image shows the fourth XP-51 prototype at Langley in December 1941.

All-Movable Tail


A Lockheed YP-38 at the Full Scale Tunnel on Christmas Eve 1941 where, even at low subsonic speeds, it was possible to predict the locations of the onset of compressibility effects.



(Left) The first flyable Japanese Mitsubishi Zero captured by the U.S. was shot down during a raid in 1942 on Alaska’s Aleutian archipelago. It was salvaged by the Navy, painted in U.S. colors and flown for mock dog fights to develop tactics. In March 1943, the Navy requested that Langley instrument the airplane for pilot evaluations at the Anacostia Naval Air Station. While at Langley, Chief of Aerodynamics Elton Miller was granted permission to test the airplane in the Full Scale Tunnel. The Zero then departed for Anacostia where Langley’s Hewitt Phillips witnessed the simulated combat flights. He wrote two NACA reports summarizing the results.

(Above) During high-speed dives, excessive pilot force was often required to recover, sometimes beyond the strength of the pilot. Bob Gilruth proposed an allmoveable tail that required very low control force. By the end of the war, hydraulic-powered controls were developed to deflect the all-movable tail surface. It was a key factor in the success of the Bell X-1 in breaking the sound barrier. The photo shows the all-moving horizontal tail of the XP-42.

(Right) The Curtiss CW-24B Ascender featured a tailfirst canard, a rear-mounted engine, a swept-back wing, and outboard vertical tails. This 1942 test identified dangerous characteristics at high angles of attack, which were verified during prototype flight.

LRC-1943-B701_P-32129 LRC-1942-B701_P-30162



Chapter 4: The War Years

Chapter 4: The War Years

Wartime Camouflage

Drag Clean-up




Ditching a B-24 in the James River to Help Save Lives The B-24 ditching characteristics were studied in Tow Tank 2. The Army requested a ditching experiment with a full-scale B-24 in the James River. The yellow test airplane “Ellie Mae” was modified with additional steel reinforcement and other safety precautions for a two-man crew. The NACA supplied on-board instrumentation and an interpretation of results. The Army crew was pilot Major Julian Harvey and co-pilot Colonel Carl Greene. The spectacular ditching test was conducted on September 20, 1944. The B-24 approached the ditching from Newport News, parallel to the James

River Bridge. At an airspeed of 100 miles per hour, the airplane hit the water tail first, skipped, the tail hit the water again, and the nose smacked down and plowed under the water in a massive sheet of spray. A rescue boat picked up the two crewmen and placed buoys under the wings. The airplane incurred massive exterior damage during the 3-g deceleration, including a large crack in the fuselage under the leading-edge of the wing, the lower vertical tails bent upward and the two port-side propellers ripped off. The results were found to substantiate the earlier Langley model tests.



The Full Scale Tunnel developed a pragmatic approach to drag clean-up. The airplane was tested as received. Then the propeller, aerials and protuberances were removed, and all cracks, crevices, and control surface hinges were taped. The drag in this condition established the minimum that could be expected. The drag contributed by individual components was determined by tests with tape removed. In addition to improving the test aircraft, the lessons learned could be applied to future designs. This image shows a Navy Vought F4U-1 Corsair during clean-up tests in November 1942.

German submarine attacks on U.S. shipping peaked in 1942, and blackout procedures were put in place. The Army Air Forces camouflaged buildings with olive drab paint. Camouflaged NACA buildings (from left to right) the Full Scale Tunnel, 20-Foot Spin Tunnel, 12-Foot FreeFlight Tunnel, 15-Foot Free-Spinning Tunnel, 19-Foot Pressure Tunnel, and Tow Tank.


Tunnel Support



(Above) A model maker constructing a balsa model for spin tunnel tests.

(Left) A technician determines the moment of inertia of a spin model in the 20-Foot Spin Tunnel. LRC-1942-B701_P-30523



Loftin Collection in LHA

Charles Zimmerman became interested in pancake-shaped wings for extremely short takeoffand-landing performance. Free-flight model tests verified the concept. Zimmerman left Langley in 1937 to join the Chance Vought Corporation, where he pursued the development of the V-173. Affectionately known as the “Flying Pancake” and “Zimmer Skimmer,” the wood-and-fabric testbed was flown by Charles Lindbergh and several Navy pilots. In 1941, Chance Vought was awarded a Navy contract for the XF5U-1, an advanced fighter version. Development problems with the large propellers delayed the advanced XF5U-1 until the end of the war, and the project was canceled.


Chapter 4: The War Years

Chapter 4: The War Years

11-Inch Hypersonic Tunnel

Women in the Workforce



L-74768 GPN-2000-001932

An aggressive recruiting program was instituted at Langley, especially for women as mathematicians and shop workers. Hundreds of teenage boys too young for the draft were hired as part-time messengers, model makers, and shop assistants. By the end of the war, women were over one third of Langley’s work force.

When the Allies captured the German facilities at Peenemunde, they discovered a 1.2-foot wind tunnel that could attain Mach 5 intermittently and a 3.3-foot continuous-flow Mach 10 tunnel. As a result, John Becker and Charles McLellan designed an 11-Inch Hypersonic Tunnel in the shop area of the Propeller Research Tunnel. The 11-Inch tunnel was later moved to the West Area, where it was a work horse for research on the X-15 research aircraft. This photo shows John Becker with the tunnel in 1949.

Dorothy Vaughan and the Computers


Beverly Golemba


Frances Powell in the West Area Machine Shop.

Melvin Butler, head of the personnel division, recruited African-American women to be computers. Dorothy Vaughan, hired in November 1943, was assigned to the AfricanAmerican West Area Computers, led by Margery Hannah, a white woman. In 1947, the all-white East Area computer pool was disbanded, and Virginia Tucker, who headed both the East and West Computers, left Langley. Dorothy Vaughan became acting head of West Area computing in 1949 and formal head in 1951. With the birth of NASA in 1958, segregated Langley facilities were abolished. Vaughan and many of the former computers joined the new Analysis and Computation Division, a racially and gender-integrated group on the frontier of electronic computing. She specialized in electronic computers when they were introduced, became an expert FORTRAN programmer, and contributed to the Scout Launch Vehicle Program. She retired from NASA in 1978 and died at 98 in 2008. Dorothy Vaughan (left), Lessie Hunter (center) and Vivian Adair are shown here at a NASA Honor Awards ceremony.




Chapter 4: The War Years

Chapter 4: The War Years

“Lightning Calculators”

Helicopter Rotor Testing

Japanese Imitations




The 9 by 9-Inch Tunnel

Air Scoop July 19, 1946

In March 1947, two new electronic Bell Telephone Lab calculators were put into operation in the Computing Section. The computers were described as “lightning calculators” that produced solutions to complex problems in 1/16th the time required by mathematicians.




The Japanese Imperial Army’s chief of aviation missions toured Langley in July 1937. In 1946, pictures of the Japanese wind-tunnel complex at Tachikawa, outside of Tokyo, were sent to the Langley Air Scoop newspaper by Paul Taylor, who had worked in the Langley Training Unit. Photos A and B show the test section of the Japanese Full Scale Tunnel. Photos C and D show the Full Scale Tunnel exterior and the Physical Research Building remains. Photos E and F show the 8-Foot High Speed Tunnel remains and fan blade remains. In 1985, Langley’s Joe Chambers toured Tachikawa at the invitation of the Japanese staff. He found that the Japanese spin tunnel had been rebuilt, and was adorned with photographs of models being tested in the Langley Spin Tunnel.

In October 1944, Engineer-in-Charge Dr. H. J. E. Reid left to serve with the top-secret Alsos Mission that followed Allied troops as they took German territory. Alsos teams successfully located a substantial number of German research records and equipment and German research personnel were taken into custody. Reid was stationed in Paris and inspected German research facilities and development projects, especially jet engines. Interestingly, the team discovered that the German aerodynamicists had not understood the P-51 Mustang’s laminar-flow airfoil, despite having captured aircraft for analysis. LRC-1946-B701_P-50193

NASA LAL-89652

The Helicopter Apparatus and Rotor Test Facility became operational in 1946. The 39-foot-tall facility included a safety net that encircled the location of the test article. In 1982, the facility was decommissioned and ultimately became the site of Langley’s Child Development Center.

A 9 by 9-Inch Supersonic Wind Tunnel designed by Eastman Jacobs, Macon Ellis, Clinton Brown, and Arthur Krantrowitz began operating in the west area in 1942. One of the tunnel’s most important studies was to verify swept wing advantages theorized by R. T. Jones. This image shows researcher James Mueller with swept- and delta-wing models.


Dr. Reid’s Secret Mission to War-Torn Germany

Reid returned to Langley in March 1945. In January 1948, he received the Medal of Freedom for his contributions to Alsos. In the same week, he was also awarded the Medal of Merit for his service during the war as an NACA laboratory director. This photo shows Reid receiving the medal from Lt. Gen. Ellwood “Pete” Quesada, first commanding general of the Tactical Air Command.




Chapter 4: The War Years

Chapter 4: The War Years

A Supersonic Tunnel

Laminar-Flow Airfoils

W ing-Flow Method


The 4 by 4-foot Supersonic Tunnel was operational on May 20, 1948, and tested the F-102 and F-105; the B-58 bomber; and the X-2 rocket-powered research airplane. These photos show the control panel area, and a model of the X-2 research aircraft. The tunnel was dismantled in 1977.

LRC-1946-B701_P-46802 LRC-1939-B701_P-47512

NASA , LRC-1949-B701_P-62910

Bob Gilruth devised an approach to obtain transonic data by mounting a small semi-span model on an aircraft wing that experienced transonic flow during a dive. The wing-flow method measured data with instrumentation in the carrier aircraft’s wing. Results showed for the first time continuous data for lift and drag from Mach 1 up to about Mach 1.3.

Spruce Goose

In 1945, the NACA published Report No. 824, “Summary of Airfoil Data” by Ira Abbott, Albert von Doenhoff, and Louis Stivers, Jr. on the NACA 6-series low-drag laminarflow airfoils. It is regarded as one of the most significant contributions of Langley, and is still in use today.

The Bump

Joseph Chambers

A side view of a P-51D Mustang fighter, showing the shape of its laminar-flow airfoil.

The report ... (Summary of Airfoil Data, 1945) ... is regarded as one of the most significant all-time contributions of Langley in the field of aerodynamics.

LRC-1943-B701_P-33083 LRC-1949-B701_P_F003-60740

Henry J. Kaiser proposed converting some of his shipyards to the production of giant cargo-carrying seaplanes. Approved in 1942, he enlisted Howard Hughes and his staff to design an eight-engine flying boat built mostly of wood (birch) and nicknamed the “Spruce Goose” (a name Hughes hated). Its 321-foot wingspan is longer than that of today’s aircraft. Hughes had read NACA reports showing optimum seaplane hull shapes. The full-scale airplane only flew on November 2, 1947, and is now on display at the Evergreen Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. (Above) A model of the Spruce Goose in the Langley Tow Tank undergoing tests.

The success of the wing-flow technique spurred researchers to consider using larger models mounted to an airfoil shape spanning a wind tunnel test section. A technique called the “bump” method was used in the 7 by 10-Foot High-Speed Tunnel. However, the bump method was limited, providing only an indication of transonic data. This photo shows a semi-span model mounted to a bump in the 7 by 10-foot High-Speed Tunnel in 1949.

The work in the Two-Dimensional LowTurbulence Pressure Tunnel developed a second generation of laminar-flow airfoils. This photo shows a 1945 airfoil display. R_LRC-1945-B701_P-42897



Chapter 4: The War Years

Chapter 4: The War Years

X-Plane Testing

Rocket Testing at Wallops In 1945, the Pilotless Aircraft Research Station was established at Wallops Island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The site conducted numerous rocket-powered flights to learn more about transonic and supersonic flight. This photo shows project engineer Sidney Alexander adjusting a RM-2 model in October 1945. The launcher was a simple guardrail with no moving parts, set at a fixed launching angle of 75 degrees.


Test pilot Bob Champine flew the Douglas D-558-1, a single-engine, jet-powered X-plane that took off from the ground designed by Douglas for the Navy and NACA. Three aircraft were built. The second aircraft experienced a fatal accident when its engine compressor disintegrated during takeoff, killing NACA pilot Howard Lilly. Champine flew the third D-5581, which completed 78 flights with a maximum speed of Mach 0.99. This photo shows Champine with the airplane in 1949.


Swept-W ing Concept

High-Speed Research and Breaking the Sound Barrier In 1945, the Army funded two rocket-powered airplanes, built by Bell Aircraft and designated X-1. Air Force Captain Charles “Chuck” Yeager piloted X-1-1 for the first transonic flight on October 14, 1947. The 1947 Collier Trophy was awarded to Lawrence Bell for the design and construction of the X-1, Chuck Yeager for being the first to fly faster than the speed of sound, and John Stack for pioneering research to determine the physical laws of supersonic flight.

NASA E49-005 LRC-1946-B701_P-48705

(Above), Langley test pilots Robert Champine (left) and Herbert Hoover flew the X-1. Hoover made 14 flights in the X-1-2, and on March 10, 1948, he became the first NACA pilot to fly faster than the speed of sound.

Robert “R. T.” Jones independently identified swept-back wings for significantly reducing drag at supersonic speeds. His swept-wing theories were doubted until experiments with in-flight drop-models and in the 9 by 9-inch Supersonic Tunnel validated results. On the day that his report was finally cleared for publication, word came from NACA Headquarters that the concept had been discovered in Germany, where swept-wing designs had been worked for several years. The concept was adapted for the F-86 fighter and the B-47 bomber.

(Left) The second X-1 is pictured on the ramp at the NACA High-Speed Flight Research Station with its Boeing B-29 launch ship.

LRC-1947-B701_P-54991 NASA E49-009




Chapter 4: The War Years

Chapter 4: The War Years

The Sixteenth Annual Inspection of 1947 was the last visit of Dr. Orville Wright (left, with hat) to Langley before his death in January 1948. Wright is chatting with Langley’s Walter Reiser.



The Apprentice School Percy Crain became the chief advocate and planner for the LMAL apprentice program. Charles Hulcher and Frank Penland implemented the program, which in December 1941 welcomed 14 employees into its first class, which graduated on February 14, 1943.

Historic Reception

Recreational Facility

Orville Wright’s Last V isit

On October 29, 1946, the Langley Conference Building was dedicated. The facility included a dining area with kitchen, a small bar, a gym, a raised stage, a meeting room and a picnic area. It was later named for Dr. H. J. E. Reid. Langley also acquired the nearby historic Cloverdale House as an annex to the Recreation Building for storage of materials. The house was removed in the mid-1950s. LRC-1949-B701-P-64717

Contributed by Jim Plant

Brain Busters LRC-1943-B701_P-31719

George Lewis Dies at 66


The Langley Model Airplane Club, nick-named the “Brain Busters,” participated in national competitive meets for free-flight models and gliders. This photo shows the 1947 group in Portsmouth, Virginia. (Front row from left) Billy Dove, Bruce Alwood, Jesse Shephard, Charles Folk, and Ben Cleveland. (Second row) Bill Poythress, Ralph Mosenter, John Worth, Paul Marchal, Frank Parmenter, and Joe Blanco. (Back row) Chuck Molisse, Joe Boyle, Jim Alwood, and Reid Hull. Dove became a specialist in spacecraft instrumentation and flight controls, Worth became a specialist in Langley’s outdoor-drop model technology, and Boyle became head of aerospace model development.


The death of Dr. George Lewis, on July 12, 1948, caused widespread grief at Langley. In September 1947, he had resigned because of failing health. After funeral services, his ashes were broadcast over Langley on March 30, 1949. According to his son, Leigh Lewis, the flight was made in the Langley Lockheed 12, piloted by Melvin Gough, chief of Flight Operations, with flight mechanic Wayne Hurlbut, Leigh Lewis, and Leigh Lewis’ brother-in-law, Henry Senack.


Mary Gainer Hurst

NACA Langley Administration Building visitors were greeted with 7 by 5-foot murals depicting early imagined flight to actual flight in 1919. Julius John “J. J.” Lankes, head of technical illustrating, began the artwork. Originally rendered in watercolors, the final panels were oil on canvas by Lee Wade with the assistance of Francis McVay and Harry DeVoto. The murals were removed from the rotunda in 1977 when the building was turned over to the Air Force. Two panels were borrowed for the film “Hidden Figures.” LRC-1947-B701_P-51675


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Chapter 4: The War Years





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10. 8-Foot High Speed Tunnel 11. East Substation 12. Full Scale Tunnel 13. 20-Foot Spin Tunnel 14. Free-Flight Tunnel 15. 15-Foot Free-Spinning Tunnel 16. Tank No. 1 17. Dynamic Model Shop 18. Tank No. 2 19. East Shop 20. 19-Foot Pressure Tunnel 21. Flight Research Laboratory

1. 7-Foot by 10-Foot Tunnels and Laboratory 2. Electrical Building 3. 110 To 22 kv Substation 4. Activities Center 5. Sewage Disposal Plant 6. Internal Aerodynamics 7. Aircraft Loads Calibration Laboratory














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1. Administration Building 2. Service Building 3. Maintenance Building 4. Two-Dimensional Low-Turbulence Tunnel 5. Atmospheric Wind Tunnel 6. Variable Density Tunnel & 24-Inch High Speed Tunnel 7. Two-Dimensional Low-Turbulence Pressure Tunnel 8. Utility Building 9. Gas Dynamics Research Equipment







27 28

8. Aircraft Loads Laboratory 9. 9-Inch Supersonic Tunnel 10. Gust Tunnel 11. Impact Basin 12. Heating Plant 13. Power Plant 14. Foundry 15. Old Heating Plant 16. Stability Wind Tunnel 17. West Model Shop 18. 16-Foot High Speed Tunnel 19. Water Tower 20. Structures Research Laboratory 21. West Area Cafeteria 22. West Shop 23. Warehouse 24. Lumber Storage Shed

25. West Machine Shop 26. Pilotless Aircraft Research Laboratory and Fabrication Shop 27. Helicopter Apparatus 28. Instrument Research Laboratory 29. Physical Research Laboratory 30. Free-Flight Apparatus 31. Flutter Tunnel 32. Supersonic Sphere 33. 4 Foot by 4-Foot Supersonic Tunnel 34. Frequency Converter Station 35. Pass House

Chapter 5

1950-1959 NASA is Born

With an Air Force F-106B at Langley are Project Mercury Astronauts (left to right) M. Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Walter Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Donald “Deke” Slayton.

NASA LRC-1971-B701_P-02971


Chapter 5: NASA is Born

Chapter 5: NASA is Born

A Hangar in the West Area

Slotted-Throat Tunnel

The West Area hangar (building 1244) under construction in 1950. It was one of the largest hangars in the world with one of the largest heated floors.


Stack Collection LHA and LRC-1953-B701_P-78521

(Above) On December 17, 1952, President Harry Truman presented the 1951 Collier Trophy to John Stack, assistant director of Langley, for the slotted-throat transonic tunnel. Stack wrote an article for the "Air Scoop" recognizing his associates and their contributions.



NASA is Born The research in high-speed, high-altitude flight resulted in a solid foundation for manned orbital flight.

Langley’s accomplishments in the 1950s were remarkable. The research in high-speed, high-altitude flight resulted in a solid foundation for manned orbital flight. During 1952, Langley began studies of unmanned and manned flight at altitudes up to 50 miles and speeds up to Mach 10. In July 1953, Clinton Brown, William O’Sullivan, and Charles Zimmerman completed preliminary studies of manned spaceflight and considerations of a test vehicle to investigate those issues. Their conclusions identified aerodynamic heating to be the most serious of many challenges. Subsequent research in all disciplines led to the design and development of advanced testing facilities, the X-15 rocket-powered research airplane, and Project Mercury. New supersonic and hypersonic wind tunnels, thermal research laboratories, simulators, and research aircraft combined with

advanced theoretical methods for an aggressive attack on missions unimagined when the laboratory was testing fabriccovered biplanes. During 1952, the in-house Air Scoop newspaper celebrated its 10th anniversary and evolved into a more professional publication. A new West Area cafeteria opened in October 1953 in what had been the Electrical Building. In 1954, broadcasts from Moscow radio announced plans to explore the moon with a remotely controlled “tank” and predicted trips by men to the moon in one or two years. The formation of a Soviet scientific team to design a satellite capable of circling the Earth in conjunction with the International Geophysical Year was also acknowledged. The boasting became a reality on October 7, 1957, when


Sputnik 1 was launched. For the American public, there was a pervasive feeling of technological mediocrity and immediate concerns over national defense. Concerns increased when, on November 3, 1957, the Soviets launched Sputnik 2, which carried a 500-kilogram payload  –  much heavier than the 2-kilogram Vanguard payload being considered for the first U.S. satellite. Sputnik 2 carried a dog, making it obvious that the Soviets were planning a manned orbital flight. With flight research expanding to the realm of space, many believed that a new flight research organization was needed. President Dwight Eisenhower signed an act of Congress on July 29, 1958, that created the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. A new organization was formed with the NACA laboratories as the foundation, and on October 1, 1958, Langley, Lewis, Ames, and the High Speed Flight Station became NASA centers. 

(Upper left) The original test section of the Langley 8-Foot High Speed Tunnel in 1936 and the slotted test section in 1956 (lower left). The slotted test section increased usable speeds from about Mach 0.7 to over 0.9.

“The greatest contribution to aeronautical research since the use of a wind tunnel by the Wright Brothers.” — President Harry Truman on the contributions of John Stack and the slotted throat tunnel during the Collier Trophy presentation, December 17, 1952.




Chapter 5: NASA is Born

Chapter 5: NASA is Born

Flying Platform

Rapid Growth in the West Area 1950

Flying Helicopters by Instruments

A series of “blind flying” tests using a Navy Sikorsky HO3S-1 helicopter were flown by Jack Reeder (pilot’s seat) and Jim Whitten (behind a curtain) in the rear seat. The tests demonstrated that helicopters could be flown by instruments.



NASA L-64791

Stability Tunnel

NASA LRC-1952-B701_P-75087

1. 7- by 10-foot Tunnels and Laboratory 2. Electrical Building 3. West Substation 4. Activities Building 5. Sewage Disposal Plant 6. Induction Aerodynamics Laboratory

In 1951, Charles Zimmerman conducted the first flight of a man-carrying jet platform at the Pilotless Aircraft Research Station at Wallops Island in Virginia. A platform was connected to a jet nozzle powered by compressed air. Paul Hill is shown as the test pilot, but nine individuals having no prior piloting experience successfully flew on their first attempts. Tests with a rotor underneath the platform were also successful, prompting the Army to sponsor a series of “platform flyers.”

7. Aircraft Loads Calibration Laboratory 8. Aircraft Loads Laboratory 9. 9-inch Supersonic Tunnel 10. Gust Tunnel 11. Impact Basin 12. New Heating Plant 13. Power Plant

14. Foundry 15. Old Heating Plant 16. Stability Wind Tunnel 17. West Model Shop 18. 16-Foot High Speed Tunnel 19. Water Tower 20. Structures Research Laboratory

21. West Area Cafeteria 22. West Shop 23. Warehouse 24. Lumber Storage Shed 25. West Machine Shop 26. Pilotless Aircraft Research Laboratory, Fabrication Shop 27. Instrument Research Lab.

28. 29. 30. 31. 32. 33. 34.

Physical Research Laboratory Free-Flight Apparatus Flutter Tunnel Supersonic Sphere 4-Foot by 4-Foot Supersonic Tunnel Frequency Converter Station Pass House

8-Foot Transonic Pressure Tunnel

Model Making


The Stability Tunnel had two interchangeable test sections. NASA LRC-1947-B701_P-86259

A technician places a canopy on a spin tunnel model of the North American T-28. The molds for the fiberglass components are on the work table. The use of strong composite materials, rather than fragile balsa wood, reduced tunnel down-time to repair damaged models. NASA LRC-1951-B701_P_F003-69567


(Left) One was a 6 by 6-foot section, in which for curved-flow tests, the vertical sidewalls were deflected with screw jacks into a curved shape.

(Above) Construction of the turning vanes at Newport News Shipbuilding in 1951.

(Above) The second test area was a 6-foot circular section with an upstream rotor to generate rolling airflow. Manuel “Jack” Queijo is shown observing a Douglas D-558-2 model in 1952 with rotor in front of the model. The stability tunnel was dismantled in 1958 and sent to Virginia Tech.

(Left) John Stack, Eugene Draley, Edward Wright, and Axel Mattson designed a pressurized transonic tunnel with components fabricated at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. The 8-Foot Transonic Pressure Tunnel was completed in the East Area in 1953 and became known as “Whitcomb’s Tunnel” after famed Langley aerodynamicist Richard "Dick" Whitcomb. It was the site of his supercritical wings and winglets work, as well as additional work on his area rule.

Newport News Shipbuilding



Chapter 5: NASA is Born

Chapter 5: NASA is Born

Test Pilot Hoover Dies

Submarine Testing

Langley Gas Dynamics Laboratory

NASA LRC-1948-B701_P-56638

On August 14, 1952, chief test pilot Herbert H. Hoover was killed in the crash of a B-45 “Tornado” bomber when an in-flight structural failure of the wings occurred. Both Hoover and his copilot John Harper ejected, and Harper landed safely near Burrowsville, Virginia, but Hoover struck the aircraft during bailout, and his parachute was found unopened. The exact cause of the accident was never determined, but the elevator pitch-control trim tab was found to be 16 degrees out of position in the airplane nose-up direction, suggesting a failure in the control system. Hoover was the second pilot to exceed the speed of sound in the X-1 program, and the first civilian pilot to do so. Hoover is remembered by a plaque on the Langley Memorial Monument.

Manometers LRC-1965-B701_P-05505

John Stack proposed a single large spherical pressure vessel that would distribute flow to a series of small hypersonic blow-down tunnels. Antonio Ferri – an Italian researcher who joined Langley after World War II, Macon Ellis and Clinton Brown designed the complex with a series of small-diameter, high-pressure bottles and a vacuum sphere downstream of the test sections. Speeds between Mach 1.5 and 8 were obtained. Known as the Langley Gas Dynamics Laboratory, it became operational in 1951. The tunnels investigated the X-15, Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Viking spacecraft, and the Space Shuttle.

William “Bill” Taub


In 1950, the USS Albacore was tested for the Navy for drag, control effectiveness, and stability. The Albacore dove too deeply in response to inputs and leaped out of the water like a porpoise when commanded to surface. Charles Zimmerman concluded that the submarine was unstable and tunnel results confirmed the conclusion. (Above) A technician is attaching wool tufts for flow-visualization studies.


Taub photographed key Langley technical events, meetings, visitors and social gatherings in the 1940s and 50s. Taub was selected to be NASA’s first senior photographer and was transferred to headquarters in Washington, D.C. He photographed every major agency event from the beginning of the Mercury and Gemini projects through the end of the Apollo program.

Dr. Igor Sikorsky (center), designer of the first successful U.S. helicopter, in January 1952 at the Langley hangar with Frederick Gustafson (left), and Charles Zimmerman. NASA LRC-1956-B701_P-95495

A vertical manometer board to measure pressures on models tested in the Langley 4-Foot by 4-Foot Supersonic Tunnel.

NASA HQ 431120 Air Scoop, January 18, 1952


Chapter 5: NASA is Born

Chapter 5: NASA is Born

Area Rule

Whitcomb displays models of the Republic F-105 (left) and the Grumman F11F-1 in December 1964.

X-Planes (Right) Whitcomb with further application of the area rule “shock bodies” on the wings of a supersonic transport model.


Inspired by a presentation by aerodynamicist Dr. Adolph Busemann at Langley, Richard Whitcomb developed his “area rule”, in which the drag of an airplane in transonic flight would be minimized if the cross-sectional area of the airplane length varied in a smooth fashion. Because the wing added cross-sectional area to the fuselage abruptly, the fuselage needed to be reduced in that region. If indenting the fuselage was not feasible, additional area was added to the nose and tail areas to comply with the rule. Convair was developing its first supersonic fighter, the F-102 Delta Dagger, but early tests indicated that the transonic drag would not permit supersonic flight. When the F-102 was flown in January 1954, the tunnel results were proven. Convair incorporated the area rule and the revised airplane easily achieved supersonic flight. The area rule subsequently guided the design of all high-performance aircraft.


Mary Jackson began at Langley in 1951 as a computer. She was later assigned to work at the 4-Foot by 4-Foot Supersonic Pressure Tunnel where she worked with Kazimierz “Kaz” Czarnecki, who encouraged her to become an engineer. To attend the university extension engineering classes held at the then all-white Hampton High School Jackson was required to petition the courts, which she did successfully. She became an engineer in the late 1950s. (First row,right) Mary Jackson. (Second row, fourth from left) Kaz Czarnecki.


Mary Jackson

NACA research aircraft on display at the NACA High-Speed Flight Station in California show the diversity of technology being explored and flight tested in 1953. The flight tests were preceded by years of ground-based research activities at Langley, including windtunnel tests, theoretical studies, pilot evaluations, and solutions to unanticipated problems that arose during flight tests.

Bell X-5

Convair XF-92A

Douglas D-558-1


Northrop X-4

Bell X-1A



Douglas X-3



Chapter 5: NASA is Born

Chapter 5: NASA is Born

Aircraft Tires to Grooved Pavement

Pilotless Flight Technician Durwood Dereng measures the elevation of an RM-10 research model in February 1951 at Wallops. The Pilotless Aircraft Research Division evaluated the supersonic configuration for drag and heat-transfer characteristics.


Katherine G. Johnson Johnson began her 33-year career at Langley in 1953 with the West Computers. She stayed only a few weeks before being assigned to the Flight Research Division in the West Area hangar. She calculated data for wake-vortex accidents and aircraft flight tests. Her eager quest for engineering knowledge and participation in numerous projects led to widespread respect and admiration for her mathematical talents. Like many others at NASA, she supported the Center’s space work without being assigned directly to the Space Task Group. She calculated the trajectories, launch windows and emergency backup return flight paths for the Mercury flight of astronaut Alan Shepard. John Glenn specifically requested that she check the results that had been predicted by the then state-of-the-art electronic computers before his orbital flight. She later worked with digital computers and on the Space Shuttle program and planning for missions to Mars. Her notable career and personal life are featured in Margot Lee Shetterly’s book “Hidden Figures.”


This beautifully detailed 65- by 71inch mural showing the location and aerial views of the NACA installations was created by Langley’s David Willment. The mural was placed in the reception room of the NACA Headquarters building in Washington, D.C., in 1950.


NASA LRC-1950-B701_P-67805

Tom Yager

Tom Yager (left) and Walter Horne inspect a grooved runway.

NASA LRC-1964-B701_P-08251

The Langley Landing Loads Track (LLT) became operational in 1955. A catapult-launched carriage carried the test article down a simulated runway. A Navy-type arresting gear decelerated the carriage. Landing gear, including tires, skids, brakes, steering systems, air-cushion landing systems, cross-wind landing gear, and effects of various runway conditions were studied, including pavement grooving for improved traction.

Ditching Tests

Space Task Group

NASA LRC-1959-B701_P-02771

NASA LRC-1954-B701_P-84712

The emergence of swept-wing jet transports with intercontinental flights resulted in Langley research to determine optimum ditching procedures for over-water operations. Shown is a ditching test in Langley Tank 2 for the Boeing 707 in May 1954. The successful ditching of an Airbus A320 in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009, by pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger followed procedures formulated 55 years earlier by the tests at Langley.

In November 1958, Bob Gilruth was assigned as the head of the NASA Space Task Group (STG) with the mission of directing the nation’s first manned spaceflight program. Named Project Mercury by Abe Silverstein at NASA Headquarters, the program was tasked to orbit a manned spacecraft around the earth, investigate man’s ability to function in space, and recover the man and spacecraft safely. Originally 36 Langley personnel formed the group. By July 1959, the STG had grown to 350 people with offices spread throughout the Center, with Gilruth and his STG headquarters staff located in the old NACA Administration Building in the East Area.


Chapter 5: NASA is Born

Chapter 5: NASA is Born

U.S. Navy

VTOL Aircraft

Langley Helps Solve Unexplained Crashes in Lockheed’s L-188 Electra In 1959, two mysterious accidents of the Lockheed L-188 Electra civil transport occurred. In both accidents, large parts of the aircraft were found some distance away from other parts. Suspected was propeller-whirl flutter, a wobbling of flexibly mounted engine-propeller system and a bending and twisting wing motion. LRC-1967-B701_P-07419

John Campbell and Charles Zimmerman researched vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) airplanes that could hover, and takeoff and land similar to helicopters, then convert to conventional flight. Concepts included the vertical-attitude “tail sitter." (Above) Langley researchers invented and demonstrated the pivoted “tilt-wing” with a free-flying model in the Full Scale Tunnel in 1954.

NASA LRC-1954-B701_P-87177


Langley Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel

The newly commissioned Langley Transonic Dynamics Tunnel (TDT) was selected to test the Electra model. Tests ended when the model was damaged after providing data to explain the accidents. Although the Electra configuration was free from propeller-whirl flutter as designed, the test showed that if damage occurred to any one of three structures that attached the propeller gearbox to the wing, catastrophic whirl flutter could occur, tearing the wing from the fuselage. The model (right), is shown before and after its right wing separated during powered tests. Lockheed redesigned the attachment fixtures, all existing fixtures were modified and no further crashes of this type were experienced. Langley’s Lawrence Loftin stated that the value of the results from this single study alone was worth much more than the cost to convert the 19-Foot Pressure Tunnel into the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel.

NASA LRC-1960-B701_P-02560

(Top of page) The Electra Navy variant, the P-3 Orion was a state-of-the-art four-engine turboprop. (Right) Electra model in the TDT after its right wing separated during powered tests.


Chris Kraft and John Glenn Disagree Christopher C. Kraft, Jr.

Northrop Grumman Shipyard

(Above) Components built at the Newport News Shipyard for the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel. The S.S. America is seen in the background.

NASA LRC-1972-B701_P-00607

(Above) The National Unitary Wind Tunnel Act of 1949 funded three new supersonic wind tunnels. Two 4 by 4-feet test sections were designed, one for Mach 1.5 to 2.9 and the other for Mach 2.3 to 4.6. The tunnel (building 1251) contributed to the supersonic McDonnell F-4 Phantom II, the X-15, and the F-111.


Kraft was Langley’s project engineer on flight tests of the Navy’s Vought F8U-1 Crusader that uncovered unintentional pivoting of the movable wing, resulting in unexpected aircraft responses. Kraft identified the problem, and told the Navy that its new aircraft was potentially dangerous. His warnings were heeded and the F8U-1 fleet was grounded. A member of the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics, Marine Major John Glenn, doubted the conclusions. After examination of test results, and interviews with Navy pilots who flew the original and modified aircraft, Glenn was convinced. The F8U-1 was redesigned and used during the Vietnam War.

(Right) A model of the F-4 with researcher Sue Grafton. LRC-1970-B701_P-03313




Chapter 5: NASA is Born

Chapter 5: NASA is Born

X-15 Hypersonic Research Program


Flying to the Edge of Space LRC-1958-B701_P-00948

Researcher Joe Alford observes a dynamic drop test of a 1/20-scale model of the X-15 from a model of the B-52 mothership in the 300-mph 7 by 10-Foot Tunnel in 1958. Objective of the study was to determine launch characteristics of the X-15.

Shock waves show the complexity of flow around an X-15 model in the 4 by 4-Foot Supersonic Pressure Tunnel in 1962. LRC-1962-B701_P-02577


With data from the Langley 11-Inch Hypersonic Tunnel, an X-15 concept was developed to fly at Mach 6.3 at altitudes “outside the sensible atmosphere.” The challenges were many as John Becker’s team worked to mature the airplane. The aircraft skin could experience 1,200 degrees F, with uneven heating and wingtips potentially flexing upward of 12 to 14 inches. Vehicle control in the airlessness of space required rocket thrusters on the wingtips and tail. Conventional thin stabilizer surfaces were not effective at hypersonic speeds in atmospheric flight. A new, wedge-shaped stabilizer design pioneered by Charles McLellan solved that challenge. The Air Force had construction oversight, the Air Force and Navy split the construction costs, and the NACA was in charge of flight testing.


An X-15 model in test section of 11-Inch Hypersonic Tunnel in 1959.

North American Aviation was contracted to build the aircraft. Langley facilities tested X-15 models from subsonic through Mach 6.86 speed ranges. Langley research divisions contributed to spin recovery, structures, simulation, and instrumentation. The first flight of the X-15 took place on June 8, 1959. Three X-15 aircraft were flown by 12 pilots for a total of 199 missions over a 10-year period. NACA/NASA pilot Joseph A. Walker reached the maximum altitude of 354,200 feet on August 22, 1963, and Major William J. “Pete” Knight, Air Force, reached a maximum airspeed of Mach 6.70 (4,520 mph) on October 3, 1967. One of the key contributions made by the X-15 to the Space Shuttle program was the procedures for unpowered approaches and landings.


A fly-by of the B-52 launch aircraft after the landing of an X-15 at Dryden Flight Research Center in 1961.


Chapter 5: NASA is Born

Chapter 5: NASA is Born

The Original Seven Astronauts

Project Mercury

Mercury capsule in the Full Scale Tunnel in 1959 to assess low-speed performance and stability.

On April 1, 1959, Bob Gilruth, Charles Donlan, Warren North (Lewis test pilot), and flight surgeon Stanley White selected the seven Mercury astronauts, who were introduced to the public on April 9. The astronauts were assigned to the Space Task Group at Langley for training. With an Air Force F-106B at Langley are (left to right) M. Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Virgil “Gus” Grissom, Walter Schirra, Alan Shepard, and Donald “Deke” Slayton.

Mercury capsule vehicle design was led by Langley’s Maxime “Max” Faget of the Space Task Group. His proposed capsule design, shown in the artist’s sketch (left) included a g-absorbing couch, a circular heat shield, small jets for attitude control, and parachutes for landing. Faget presented his findings in March 1958 at a NACA conference. In the summer of 1958, the overall approach for Mercury was envisioned. An Atlas rocket would be the launch vehicle, a space capsule with a blunt heat shield would carry the astronaut, and it would be recovered at sea by rescue aircraft and ships. Faget and others also added a rocket system to enable the capsule to safely eject from a malfunctioning launch rocket.

NASA LRC-1959-B701_P-00336


NASA LRC-1959-B701_P-01497

NASA LRC-1971-B701_P-02971



Chapter 5: NASA is Born

Chapter 5: NASA is Born

Project Mercury

NASA LRC-1959-B701_P-02886 NASA LRC-1959-B701_P-04946

Technician Richard H. Pingley works on a Mercury couch in the West Model Shop.

Langley technicians in the West Shop fabricating capsules for the Little Joe project.

Mercury astronauts and Bob Gilruth examine the couch design. The Mercury space capsule seat design needed to minimize very high “g” loads on the astronauts during lift-off and re-entry. In April 1958, Max Faget and Caldwell Johnson developed a couch concept that would spread g loads. The West Model Shop and the Foundry devised a technique for individually fitted couches. Faget, William Bland, and Jack Heberlig received a patent in 1962 for the “survival couch.”

The objective

100 miles and successfully demonstrated the ablative heat shield, as well as the capsule’s ability to turn itself around without thrusters to reenter the atmosphere. Little Joe tested the escape rocket under the most severe conditions anticipated. On October 4, 1959, the configuration was successfully launched to about 40 miles and intentionally destroyed about 70 miles from Wallops.

of the Little Joe

Langley’s support for Project

project was to

Mercury included wind-

determine how

tunnel tests from subsonic to supersonic speeds,


Test pilots from NASA and the military prior to their evaluations of the Mercury couch design at the Navy’s Johnsville centrifuge facility. (Left to right) Pictured are Walter Daniel (USAF), Neil Armstrong (NASA), Bill Alford (NASA), Randall Chambers (Navy), and Stan Butchart (NASA), prior to testing the Mercury space capsule couch design.

rocket-launched models at Wallops, drop tests of fullscale Mercury-type capsules to observe motions and

well the escape rocket would function under the most severe aerodynamic loading conditions

landing loads, impact tests in the Langley Tow Tank,

Little Joe on the pad at Wallops.

transfer of expertise in

anticipated during a Mercury-Atlas

flight test techniques and


instrumentation, and piloted simulation.



A test article from the 20-Foot Spin Tunnel


“Big Joe” and “Little Joe” checked out Max Faget’s capsule concept. On September 9, 1959, the Air Force at Cape Canaveral launched a one-ton, full-scale instrumented mock-up of the Mercury capsule, known as Big Joe, mated to an Atlas rocket to test the ablative heatshield and the design stability. The capsule had been fabricated in sections – the lower section by the Lewis Research Center, and the upper section by Langley. The Big Joe-Atlas combination rose to about

Spin Tunnel tests evaluated dynamic stability and the effectiveness of recovery of the Mercury capsule parachute designs. NALRC-1960-B701_P-00104


Chapter 5: NASA is Born

NASA Begins This message from Hugh Dryden, Director of the NACA, and James Doolittle, Chairman of the NACA, to the NACA staff at all laboratories appeared in the Langley "Air Scoop" on Christmas Eve, 1957. President Eisenhower established NASA on July 29, 1958, and the agency became operational on October 1, 1958, absorbing the 46-yearold NACA with its three major research facilities and two flight test facilities, as well as its 8,000 employees. Langley became the NASA Langley Research Center.


This message was sent to all Langley employees by the Personnel Office.

(Left) NASA’s official seal, approved in 1958.

Official Seals On October 14, 1953, President Eisenhower approved an official seal for the NACA, which was a representation of the Wright Brothers first flight. In 1958, he approved the NASA seal. The change to a new agency and emblems resulted in oddities during the transition, such as this F-86D test airplane (below) at Langley, with NASA within the NACA wings on the tail band.


(Right) The NACA’s official seal was approved in 1953.



Chapter 6

1960-1969 Glory Days

This well-known photo of the original Mercury 7 astronauts was taken at Langley for Life magazine in building 580, near the original Wind Tunnel Number 1. Shown are (back row) Alan Shepard, Virgil "Gus" Grissom, Gordon Cooper, (front row) Walter "Wally" Schirra, Donald "Deke" Slayton, John Glenn, and Scott Carpenter.



Chapter 6: Glory Days

Chapter 6: Glory Days


Beulah “Boots” Barger began her career at Langley in 1944 as a seamstress. She fabricated protective coverings for two B-29 aircraft used for research during World War II that would not fit in a hangar. She also fabricated suits for test pilots, parachutes, drag devices, flotation collars for scientific payloads, safety harnesses, restraint systems, cushions for simulators, and most of the large parawings for Francis Rogallo. In addition, she fabricated the flotation skirt for the Mercury capsule.


In recognition of her contributions, the Mercury 7 presented her with a special autographed photograph. Barger retired in 1970. She is shown here with and her husband Loy – a Langley engineer – and Deputy Director Paul Holloway.

Glory Days


William O’Sullivan (right) proposed launching a balloon from a rocket to measure air density in the upper atmosphere during the International Geophysical Year. The balloon was made of mylar covered by a thin layer of aluminum. The 100-foot, 150-pound Echo I was successfully launched into a 1,000-mile-high orbit August 12, 1960. The “satelloon” maintained its orbit, while communications experiments and air density measurements were made. It fell to Earth in May 1968. Echo I is shown here during a static inflation test at a balloon hangar in Weeksville, North Carolina.

The addition of the Gemini Project and the creation of the Manned Spacecraft Center increased the demand for Langley support.

The Soviet launch of Sputnik needed a quick response from the United States, which launched Project Mercury to put Americans in space. The arrival of seven astronauts for training at Langley peaked interest in activities at the research center. The Newport News newspaper, the Daily Press, reported in great detail on Langley’s space activities. The first suborbital Mercury flight by Alan Shepard in his Freedom 7 spacecraft on May 5, 1961, was followed two months later by Gus Grissom’s suborbital flight in Liberty Bell 7 on July 21, 1961. On February 20, 1962, John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth with a three-orbit flight in Friendship 7. Subsequent flights by astronauts Carpenter, Schirra, and Cooper completed the six crewed flights of Project Mercury in 1963. On May 25, 1961, only three weeks after Alan Shepard became the first American in space, then President John Kennedy

announced in a speech to Congress his goal of sending astronauts to the moon before the end of the decade. An untried rendezvous technique was advocated for the mission to the moon. Following extensive advocacy by Langley’s John Houbolt, the lunar orbit rendezvous technique was selected. In December 1961, NASA announced a two-man spacecraft program known as Gemini to address training astronauts for the rendezvous mission. In September 1961, NASA announced that a new human spaceflight center would be located in Houston, Texas, and that personnel of the newly named Manned Spacecraft Center, formerly the Space Task Group, would be moved from Langley before mid-1962. The addition of the Gemini Project and the creation of the Manned Spacecraft Center increased the demand for Langley support for the space program. Work assignments and work schedules in shops and supporting labs were redirected to the




Chapter 6: Glory Days

Chapter 6: Glory Days

(From far left) Wally Schirra and Shorty Powers arriving at Darling Stadium in Hampton; John Glenn speaks to the crowd; Glenn and his wife Annie; Bob Gilruth receiving an award from Newport News Mayor O. J. Brittingham; and Wally Schirra speaking.

d D. Jones

Contributed by Fre

(Left) A MercuryRedstone 7, carrying Alan Shepard, America’s first person in space, clears the pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida, on May 5, 1961.


On St. Patrick’s Day in 1962, the Mercury astronauts and Manned Spacecraft Center management were honored with a parade. Organized by Thomas Chisman, general manager of radio and TV station WVEC, 40 convertibles left Langley following a 25mile route ending at Hampton’s Darling Stadium. John Glenn, fresh from his orbital flight, addressed the crowd of about 5,000. Wally Schirra spoke for the other Mercury astronauts. The event was bittersweet due to the imminent departure of the honorees to Texas.

critical needs of space projects. From 1960 to 1966, over 1,200 new employees were hired by Langley.

Langley provided Apollo support in wind tunnels and labs and with theoretical studies.

NASA LRC-1961-B701-P-04496

For Apollo, Langley provided support in wind tunnels and labs and with theoretical studies. Simulators were developed to train astronauts for landing and operations in the gravitational field of the moon. Langley managed the Lunar Orbiter Project, which provided detailed mapping of the moon’s surface.

On May 23, 1960, Dr. H. J. E. Reid resigned as director of Langley Research Center after 34 years. Shown are Reid and his wife, Mildred, with Floyd Thompson (left), at Reid’s retirement party in 1961. Dr. Reid passed away in July 1968.

Floyd L. Thompson

Despite tremendous demands by the space program, Langley’s aeronautical program continued studies of variable-sweep wings, supersonic civil transports, V/STOL aircraft, and parawing vehicles. Langley was also asked to participated in the selection process for military aircraft. In 1968, Langley Director Floyd Thompson retired and was replaced by Edgar Cortright from NASA Headquarters. Langley and the U.S. Army’s Material Command agreed to conduct mutual research in Langley facilities on aeronautical technology in rotorcraft, airfoils, V/STOL aircraft, materials, and structures. 

NASA GPN-2002-000044

John Glenn in the Mercury Procedures Trainer performing a mission simulation in November 1959. The trainer was in a room in the Full Scale Tunnel. The simulator allowed practice of normal and emergency system operations. The control panel operator is engineer Charles Olasky. The trainer was moved to the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston in 1962.

Thompson joined Langley in July 1926. He began in flight research, became head of the Flight Division in 1940 and progressed to assistant chief of research (1943), chief of research (1945), and associate director (1952). He became Langley’s third director in 1960. LRC-1954-B701_P-87603




Chapter 6: Glory Days

Chapter 6: Glory Days

Photographing the Moon

Scout Project Office

Project FIRE

Max Faget, William Stoney, Guy Thibodaux, Paul Hill, Abraham Leiss, and Andrew Swanson began development of a small, solid-fueled rocket. The Scout Project Office opened in March 1960 with the first launch on July 1, 1960. Scout was a four-stage solid-propellant system capable of launching a 385-pound satellite into a 500-mile orbit. There were 118 Scout launches under Langley management, with a 96-percent success rate. It launched experiments for France, United Kingdom, Netherlands, West Germany, Italy, and the European Space Research Organization, as well as 14 Explorer spacecraft. On January 1, 1991, Scout management was transferred to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Shown is a Scout launch in August 1965.


(Above) A fullscale model of the FIRE re-entry package in the 9 by 6-Foot Thermal Structures Tunnel.


Small light colored area within the crater above is Surveyor 1 on lunar surface photographed by Lunar Orbiter 3.

(Above left) Lunar Orbiter 1 photographed Earthrise from the moon, this image was called “the picture of the century.” LRC-1965-B701_P-07597

(Left) A FIRE model in the Unitary Tunnel.



Project FIRE (Flight Investigation Re-entry Environment) evaluated materials for the high temperatures of a lunar mission re-entry. The blunt-faced FIRE package carried three calorimeters to measure re-entry heat that was estimated at 20,000 degrees fahrenheit ­— about twice the temperature of the sun’s surface.


The 8-Foot High Temperature Tunnel conducted its first “hot” test in August 1965. The facility is a combustion-heated hypersonic blowdown-to-atmosphere tunnel that provides flight simulation for Mach numbers of 4, 5, and 7 and altitude ranges from 50,000 to 120,000 feet. Test conditions are provided for about 60 seconds.


(Left) A 25-mile-wide impact crater is seen in this image captured by Lunar Orbiter 3.

The 8-Foot High Temperature Tunnel

Three projects explored the moon prior to Apollo. Nine Ranger spacecraft took pictures of landing sites while crashing into the lunar surface. The second project, Surveyor, sent seven landers to provide lunar surface data. The third, Lunar Orbiter, photographed landing sites for map preparation. Lunar Orbiter development was led by Clifford Nelson. LO-1 orbited about 24 miles above the lunar surface. In two weeks, the spacecraft returned more data about the moon than had been gathered from the Earth in the previous 50 years.



Chapter 6: Glory Days

Chapter 6: Glory Days


Project Gemini


(Above) A Gemini model in the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel

A time sequence of a simulated docking maneuver of Gemini and an Agena target.


Gemini had four objectives 1) flights longer than a few days, 2) develop rendezvous and docking in space, 3) perfect re-entry and landing, and 4) learn more about the effects of long-duration spaceflight on the crew. The Rendezvous Docking Simulator was developed by Art Vogeley and built in Langley’s research aircraft hangar. Both Gemini and Apollo astronauts trained in the simulator.


Rogallo and his wife Gertrude in 1963.


A 50-foot parawing-capsule drop model in 1961 at Plum Tree Island.


A free-flight model test of a parawing-capsule in the Full Scale Tunnel in 1961.



The Rogallo Wing Francis Rogallo joined Langley in 1936, advancing to head of the 7 by 10-Foot Tunnels Branch. He and his wife had developed a flexible wing. Rogallo received patents for his flexible-wing design in 1951 and 1956. Langley tested the flexible wing for person-carrying parachutes, large gliders, and powered aircraft. A paraglider was considered for the Gemini recovery system, but failures during evaluation led to cancellation of the application. The sports world adapted the technology for hang gliding, paragliding, sport parachuting, and kite boarding. The couple’s portrait hangs in the Wright Brothers National Memorial at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina.


Lunar orbit rendezvous (LOR) met stiff opposition within technical and political ranks. LOR’s most vociferous supporter was Dr. John Houbolt. He convinced the naysayers within Langley, at the highest levels of NASA, Congress and industry that LOR was the only technique that would enable a moon landing before the end of the 1960s. Houbolt risked his reputation and career by aggressively promoting the concept. After significant controversy, including Congressional hearings, LOR was adopted for Apollo in 1962. Receiving the announcement of the selection, Houbolt's supervisor, Ed Garrick, congratulated him by commenting “I can safely say I'm shaking hands with the man who singlehandedly saved the government $20 billion.”


Neil Armstrong during a session at the Lunar Landing Research Facility on February 12, 1969. On July 20, 1969, at precisely 10:56 p.m. Daylight Savings Time, Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. By the end of the Apollo program in 1972, the facility had been used to train 24 astronauts for lunar landings.


Chapter 6: Glory Days

Chapter 6: Glory Days

Lunar Lander Facility


Thomas Byrdsong The 16-Foot Transonic Dynamics Tunnel studied unsteady ground-wind load effects and launch vehicle dynamics for Apollo. Here, engineer Thomas Byrdsong inspects a model of the Apollo Block II Saturn I during tests of its structural integrity in 1963. Hired in 1956, Byrdsong was one of the first African-American engineers at Langley. He retired in 1992 after a 36-year career that included testing in several Langley tunnels and participating in runway braking technology studies at the landing loads track. He passed away in October 2014.


A time-lapse image of a night test at the Lunar Landing Research Facility.

Hewitt Phillips Langley researcher Phillips developed a suspension system for a lunar lander simulator that would replicate the moon’s gravity. It was suspended beneath a large gantry, and small rockets and servo-mechanisms reproduced the motions that the pilot would experience.


(Above) The Langley Lunar Landing Research Facility started testing in 1967. It is 300 feet long, 250 feet high, and 100 feet wide. Donald Hewes, (left), head of the Spacecraft Research Branch, managed the facility. Piles of cinders simulated the lunar craters and terrain features.

LRC-1977-B701_P-02968 LRC-1969-B701_P-07140



Chapter 6: Glory Days

Chapter 6: Glory Days

Short Takeoff and Landing

HL-10 Lifting Body

U.S. Air Force


The Langley externally blown flap (EBF) concept for short-field operations was researched by John Campbell for many years. He was awarded a patent for the concept. With the advent of turbofan engines with relatively cool exhaust flows, the concept was of interest for short-field transports. Campbell (left) briefs Gerald Kayten of NASA Headquarters on an EBF transport free-flight model in the Full Scale Tunnel. Campbell’s concept was adopted many years later for the Air Force’s C-17 transport (above).

Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing


A full-scale model HL-10 in the Full Scale Tunnel.

Eugene Love led development of a “lifting body” Horizontal Lander HL-10 as an alternative to space capsules. Ten HL-10 models were evaluated in over 8,000 hours of tunnel testing. Northrop Corp. built a rocket-powered HL-10 research vehicle to be launched from a B-52 at Edwards Air Force Base. The HL-10 began flight testing on December 22, 1966, continued into 1970 and completed 37 research flights. HL-10 data contributed to the development of the space shuttle.

The HL-10 and the X-15 at NASA Dryden in 1966.


Eugene Love

Christine Darden LRC-1961-B701_P-01767

With expertise in rotorcraft technology and specialized facilities, Langley had a key role in the development and evaluation of V/STOL configurations. One early V/STOL concept of Marion McKinney was the “tilt wing,” in which a pivoted wing was rotated to the vertical for takeoff and incrementally rotated to the conventional position for cruise flight. The Boeing/Vertol VZ-2 shown above in the Langley Full Scale Tunnel in 1961 was an early test bed to explore the concept.

1966 ECN-1288

(Left) The tilt-wing Ling-Temco – Vought (LTV) XC-142A military transport shown in flight at Langley in 1969 was the recipient of pioneering Langley research.


In 1967, Christine Darden, a professor of mathematics at Virginia State University, was hired as a data analyst in the Re-entry Physics Branch. She initially performed mathematical calculations, but quickly progressed into computer programming. Her education and skills qualified her for advancement to an aerospace engineer in 1973, and she earned a Ph.D. in engineering. She became a noted expert in aircraft sonic-boom technology and published more than 50 technical publications in her 40year career. She is shown here in the control room of the Unitary Plan Tunnel in 1975.




Chapter 6: Glory Days

Chapter 6: Glory Days

Variable Wing Sweep

From VARC to Jefferson Lab


West Area 1967

B-1 Bomber U.S. Air Force

U.S. Navy


Military interest in multi-mission aircraft resulted in Navy and Air Force applications, including the F-14, B-1, and F-111.

(Left) Langley researchers were the first to develop a practical concept to optimize performance across a wide range of speeds by using wing panels that could be rotated in flight. This early model of a cooperative NASA-Navy concept helped verify the advantages of variable sweep. LRC-1963-B701_P-02002

F-111 U.S. Air Force LRC-1972-B701_P-03351

In-Flight Thrust Vectoring

A Kestrel in hovering flight.


In late 1961, the United States, West Germany, and the United Kingdom conducted field evaluations of the Kestrel in the United Kingdom. Pilot Jack Reeder persuaded officials to provide Langley with two Kestrels for follow-on V/STOL research. Studies included powered-lift and conventional flight. The most valuable contribution made by Langley was the rotatable engine nozzles that could be deflected in flight, known as vectoring in forward flight, which provided unprecedented maneuvering. Pilots who chased the Kestrel observed that the airplane appeared to “turn a square corner” and was a formidable opponent.


Supersonic Simulation



Lee Person (left) and Jack Reeder with the Kestrels in 1966. One Kestrel is at the Virginia Air & Space Center in Hampton and the other is at the Hampton Air Power Park.

Langley’s Supersonic Transport (SST) research included an in-flight simulation with the Boeing 367-80. The “Dash 80” was used as a low-speed in-flight simulator to obtain approach and landing data for certification requirements. Flown at Langley by pilots from NASA, Boeing, the FAA and airlines, the venerable Dash 80 used computer-based aerodynamics to replicate the responses of SST designs. Today, the airplane is at the Steven F. UdvarHazy Center adjacent to Dulles Airport.

In December 1962, Floyd Thompson announced the acquisition of surplus government land at Oyster Point in Newport News that would use a synchrocyclotron for simulating space radiation effects. The Virginia General Assembly authorized the University of Virginia, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, and the College of William & Mary to form the Virginia Associated Research Center (VARC), which would operate the NASA-built Space Radiation Effects Laboratory, develop research projects, and establish resident graduate programs. The Medical College of Virginia joined the group in 1966. Ownership was transferred to William & Mary in 1967. In 1984, VARC's staff and equipment were transferred to William & Mary. The Southeastern Universities Research Association and the U.S. Department of Energy took over the site for the Continuous Electron Beam Accelerator Facility. In 1996, it became the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility, better known as Jefferson Lab. The images above show the space radiation lab in 1965 (upper), and in 1972.

NASA L-1967-02-27)

Langley West Area is shown here in February 1967. The Langley flight hangar is at the top, the entrance to the center at the top right, and the 7- by 10-foot tunnel complex is at the bottom.


Chapter 6: Glory Days

Chapter 6: Glory Days

Sonic Boom

Civil Supersonic Transports


Boeing’s variable sweep super sonic transport (SST) design suffered from weight and stability problems. In October 1968, Boeing abandoned the design for a conventional fixed-wing. Langley modified its earlier variable-sweep SCAT-15 to a new version, the fixed-wing SCAT-15F. In addition to theoretical studies, the SCAT-15F was tested in Langley wind tunnels as a possible alternative to the Boeing Supersonic Transport (SST). The SST program continued to experience technical, economic, political, and ecological challenges and in March 1971, the program was canceled. (Above) A SCAT-15F model in the Full Scale Tunnel.

A SCAT-15F model in the Unitary Tunnel.

Boeing and Lockheed were selected by the FAA as finalists in the supersonic transport (SST) program. The original Boeing proposal was a variable-sweep design and the Lockheed proposal was a fixed delta-wing design. (Right) Future Langley Director Delma Freeman was project engineer for free-flight model tests of both SST configurations in the Full Scale Tunnel in 1966. Freeman is shown at right with the Lockheed fixed-wing design. The variable-sweep Boeing design with wings swept back is shown at far right. The FAA selected Boeing to develop the transport. LRC-1966-B701_P-02764





A SCAT-15F model in landing configuration in the 16Foot Transonic Tunnel. Note the fold-out canard added to improve low-speed, high-angle-of-attack behavior.

Langley’s efforts in supersonic transport technology addressed aerodynamic efficiency, low-speed landing and takeoff problems, aeroelastic issues, and handling qualities. One area continues to be a formidable challenge ­— minimizing the adverse environmental and subjective effects of sonic booms during flight over land. Langley researchers began over 40 years of concentrated research on sonic booms with wind tunnel tests in the early 1960s to determine effects of configuration variables on the propagation of shock waves. Very small models were necessarily used to obtain pressure measurements in the far field within the constraints of the tunnel test section. (Above) A 0.005-inch by 1-inch supersonic transport model used for tests in the Langley 4 by 4-Foot Supersonic Tunnel in 1971.



Chapter 6: Glory Days



Floyd Thompson LRC-1969-B701_P-04059

The Hampton Tour in 1969 added a London tour bus that was christened by Hampton Mayor Ann Kilgore, who used a symbolic blend of waters from the Chesapeake Bay and the Thames River. Tours of Langley were made three times a day during the summer months.

Walter Cronkite

Floyd Thompson retired in November 1968. He began his career at Langley in 1926 in the Flight Research Division. Here Thompson is inspecting a DeHavilland DH-4 biplane, which was borrowed from the Smithsonian Institution for Langley’s 50th anniversary in 1967.

Edgar M. Cortright LRC-1970-B701_P-06003

Edgar Cortright replaced Floyd Thompson as Langley’s fourth director on May 1, 1968. Cortright joined the NACA as a researcher in highspeed aerodynamics in 1948. While at Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, he headed several wind-tunnel organizations, including the 8 by 6-Foot Supersonic Wind Tunnel. When NASA was created, he became chief of Advanced Technology Programs and directed formulation of NASA’s Meteorological Satellite Programs. In 1960, he became assistant director for Lunar and Planetary Programs. He was appointed NASA’s deputy associate administrator for space science and applications in November 1963.

NASA 1968-L-08308

CBS newsman Walter Cronkite hops along the vertical wall of the Lunar Gravity Simulator in 1968.


Chapter 7

1970-1979 Space Exploration

A shuttle orbiter model in the 16-Foot Transonic Tunnel.


Chapter 7: Space Exploration

Chapter 7: Space Exploration

14 by 22-Foot Tunnel

Apollo 13

In 1967, Richard E. “Dick” Kuhn (right), became the chief advocate for a wind tunnel for vertical and short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) configurations. The 300-mph 7 by 10-Foot Tunnel was demolished and the V/STOL Tunnel was built at the site, and began operations in 1970. The tunnel is now the 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel (building 1212, left).



(Above) A powered short takeoff and landing transport model in 1971.


The severely damaged Service Module after separation April 17, 1970. The problem-plagued mission of Apollo 13 in April 1970 is forever etched in history, even becoming the subject of a popular motion picture. An explosion in the Service Module forced NASA to terminate the third lunar landing mission. (Right) A photograph of the moon’s surface taken by the crew of Apollo 13 from their Lunar Module “life boat” with the shut-down Command Module on the right. On the day that astronauts James Lovell, Fred Haise, and John Swigert returned to Earth, NASA Administrator Thomas Paine appointed Langley Director Edgar Cortright as chairman of the Apollo 13 Review Board to investigate the cause of the accident.

LRC-1971-B701_P-03972 NASA

Space Exploration The highly successful Viking mission sent two spacecraft to Mars – after many years of effort .

The nation concentrated on its ground-based problems during the 1970s. At Langley, reductions in force (RIFs) occurred twice, employment dropped by one-third, from the 1966 high of 4,485 to 3,005 in 1979. Langley’s research and development funding dropped $45 million in 1976 – the same year Viking landed on Mars. The highly successful Viking mission sent two spacecraft to Mars – after many years of effort by Langley and its partners in industry, academia and at other NASA centers. Langley became involved in space shuttle development to “put a truck into space, 50 times a year, for the next decade or more.” Langley contributed wind tunnel studies and development of hightemperature adhesives, thermal-control materials, and thermal protection for the shuttle. Langley established a Large Space Systems Technology (LSST) Office. Using composites, light durable metals and ingenious


construction techniques, the LSST group established plans and parameters for future space station concepts. Langley also initiated the Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF), a satellite that would expose 57 experiments to the environment of low earth orbit. The Vertical Takeoff and Landing Approach and Landing Technology (VALT) program performed the world’s first fully automatic decelerating approach and landing for a helicopter. A composite materials program with the U.S. Air Force began. The Terminal Configured Vehicle (TCV) program with Langley's 737 aircraft was initiated. TCV demonstrations were a factor in the international decision for the U.S. Microwave Landing System. Computational capabilities at Langley increased by quantum leaps during the decade. Advancements in instrumentation and electronics were also revolutionary. Langley researchers

perfected the use of laser velocimeters for studies of flow fields, and programmed interactive computer graphics systems with highly advanced capabilities.

Applied Science inaugurated an on-site master of engineering administration program. The courses could be taken during work hours on a degree or non-degree basis.

In 1970, Langley and the U.S. Army’s Material Command agreed to conduct mutual research in Langley facilities in selected areas, such as rotorcraft, airfoils, V/STOL aircraft, materials, and structures.

In late 1970, NASA agreed to further the use of the International System of Units. Science and physics were already using metric units. Those in aeronautics programs considered the metric system frustrating. To the relief of many, the new initiative was eventually rescinded.

The Langley Colloquium Series began in late 1971, created to promote communication between Langley and the scientific community. The first colloquium featured Dr. Wernher von Braun’s presentation on “The U.S. Space Program through the Seventies.” The Distinguished Research Associate (DRA) Program began in 1972. Retired employees who made distinguished contributions could qualify to continue research on-site. In 1975, the George Washington University School of Engineering and

After seven years as director of Langley Research Center, Edgar Cortright retired in 1975. He was replaced by Langley’s 5th director, Donald Hearth, who had been deputy director at NASA Goddard. He was an outspoken and strong advocate for Langley. In 1978, Hearth announced the Director’s Discretionary Fund to nurture research ideas that were high risk, innovative and could be conducted mostly in-house. 

Computational capabilities at Langley increased by quantum leaps during the decade.


Chapter 7: Space Exploration

Chapter 7: Space Exploration

Flight Simulators

Neil Armstrong Returns

Supercritical Wing


NASA LRC-1990-B701_P-10308

NASA LRC-1970-B701_P-01732

After his historic Apollo 11 mission, Neil Armstrong became deputy associate administrator of aeronautics at NASA Headquarters and visited in February 1970. Roy Harris discusses Langley’s SCAT-15F civil supersonic transport. Left to right: John Becker, Armstrong, Harris, and Richard Whitcomb.

Richard “Dick” Whitcomb’s supercritical wings were first applied to a Navy F-8 Crusader (above) and the first flight was at NASA Dryden in March 1971, with impressive results.

John Bird developed an air combat simulator with two cockpits, pilots, and displays known as the Langley Differential Maneuvering Simulator (DMS), which used two 40foot diameter projection spheres.

The Visitor Center

(Left) Whitcomb with the F-8 supercritical wing configuration in the 8-Foot Transonic Pressure Tunnel.


Donald P. Hearth


In 1978, Director Hearth announced the Director’s Discretionary Fund to nurture research ideas that were high in risk and innovative in approach, and that could be conducted mostly in-house. The funding mechanism, which is still in existence today, has been extremely successful. 1979-L-00618

NASA L- 88-09641

The Visitor Center (building 1202) with an 8,000-square-foot area displayed frequently changing exhibits about Langley’s activities. It opened to the public on June 3, 1971. A theater showed NASA films and hosted talks by researchers. No admission was charged and it was a stop on the Hampton Tour.



After seven years as director of the Langley Research Center, Edgar M. Cortright retired from NASA in 1975. He was replaced in September 1975 by Langley’s fifth director, Donald P. Hearth, who had previously been deputy director at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. Hearth restructured Langley and was widely recognized as a strong advocate for research at Langley in the face of growing projects and so-called large “focused” programs.



(Above) The Learjet 28/29 was the first U.S. production jet aircraft to use winglets.

Whitcomb’s analysis of airflow over the wing tips resulted in theoretical and experimental studies of vertical wingtip surfaces known as winglets. The 8-Foot Transonic Pressure Tunnel began evaluations of his winglet concept in 1974.

(Below) A C-17 wingtip shows two of Whitcomb’s contributions –  supercritical airfoil shape and winglet.


Chapter 7: Space Exploration

Chapter 7: Space Exploration

Aerospace Park

Pioneer Mission

Aircraft Noise Reduction Laboratory

The Aircraft Noise Reduction Laboratory (building 1208) was dedicated by Ed Cortright in July 1974. The lab has anechoic and reverberation rooms for evaluation of applications of noise reduction materials, devices and techniques, and indoor- and outdoornoise simulation rooms.


In 1974, one of Langley’s Kestrel V/STOL aircraft was towed to Air Power Park, on Mercury Boulevard, in Hampton where is it on display with other artifacts, including a Little Joe rocket from Project Mercury.

SAM Onboard Apollo


William Kinard’s pioneering measurements of meteoroids and their effects on spacecraft began with a 1972 Meteoroids Detection Experiment on the Pioneer F mission to Jupiter as Pioneer F traversed the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

The Tomcat and the Eagle

NASA LRC-1980-B701_P-076663



The Stratospheric Aerosol Measurement (SAM) experiment, part of the Apollo-Soyuz mission in 1975, marked the beginning of space-based aerosol studies. SAM paved the way for generations of remote sensing instruments leading right up to SAGE III, which was mounted on the International Space Station in 2017.

Large Space Systems Technology

F-14 in the 16-Foot Transonic Tunnel.

A Large Space Systems Technology Program began in 1977 to evaluate concepts for structures for communication and remotesensing antennas, powergenerating satellites and space stations. A huge water tank, the Neutral Buoyancy Simulator (NBS) was built at NASA Marshall to simulate low-gravity conditions to evaluate construction techniques.

F-14 drop model on a helicopter. F-14 model in the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel.

F-14 Spin Tunnel model. NASA

(Left) Pressure-suited engineers in the NBS assemble a Langley designed structure. Langley provided testing and analysis of supersonic performance, propulsion integration, stability and control, spin characteristics and automatic spin prevention, flutter and aeroelastic behavior, and approach and landing characteristics for the Air Force F-15 Eagle and the Navy F-14 Tomcat.


F-15 model in the Langley Spin Tunnel.


NASA LRC-1979-B701_P-02755


Chapter 7: Space Exploration

Chapter 7: Space Exploration

Supersonic Cruise Aircraft Research

Terminal Configured Vehicle

Langley’s Terminal Configured Vehicle Program included nonstandard approach paths for noise abatement, increased rates of runway usage, traffic information display in the cockpit, optimal fuel-efficient flight paths, data links with air traffic controllers, high-speed runway turnoffs, and air operations optimization with the Microwave Landing System (MLS) to improve airport operations.

NASA LRC-1973-B701_P-06283

The 737’s original cockpit display. The multicenter Advanced Supersonic Technology (AST) program led by Langley included airframe and engine manufacturers and focused on cruise Mach numbers from 2.2 to 2.7. The name (AST) was changed to Supersonic Cruise Aircraft Research (SCAR) and Neil Driver (right) was NASA’s strongest advocate of the program. (Above) A SCAR civil supersonic transport in the Full Scale Tunnel. (Left) A transport model with upper-mounted engines to reduce noise. The aft research “glass cockpit” display.


An aft-flight deck was added to the Langley 737, where advanced displays and controls could be evaluated while safety pilots monitored the flight from the conventional forward cockpit.


Chapter 7: Space Exploration

Chapter 7: Space Exploration

Wake Vortex

Versatile Pilots

Impact Dynamics Research Facility

Langley research pilots in 1974. Front row left to right: Phil Brown, Perry Deal, Jim Patton, and Fred Gregory. Back row: Bob Champine, Roger Van Gunst, Lee Person, and Dick Yenni. Gregory was an Air Force pilot assigned to Langley. Selected for the Astronaut Program in 1978, he flew three shuttle missions, became NASA’s associate administrator for the office of safety and mission assurance, associate administrator for the Office of Space Flight, and the NASA deputy administrator. LRC-1974-B701_P-05340

Composite Materials NASA LRC-1973-B701_P-06782

A composite upper aft rudder flown on a McDonnell Douglas DC-10.


NASA LRC-1982-B701_P-11357

Under the Aircraft Energy Efficiency Program, composites and applications were studied by Boeing, Douglas Aircraft, and Lockheed Aircraft with technical oversight by Langley. The objective was to develop composite secondary aircraft components for weight reduction.


In 1972, NASA created a Wake Vortex Alleviation Program to develop technology that might reduce the strength of the strong vortices created by large aircraft, so that inadvertent encounters by smaller aircraft with the trailing vortices would be less hazardous. Langley’s Tank 2 was modified to measure the paths and velocities of the trailing vortices as the model passed through a smoke field. The Lunar Landing Research Facility was renamed the Impact Dynamics Research Facility and adapted for dynamics and loads studies of aircraft and helicopter impacts. Auxiliary rockets were used to impart a higher crash speed on this test article.


Chapter 7: Space Exploration


Chapter 7: Space Exploration

The Mars Viking project began on December 6, 1968, led by James “Jim� Martin. Langley managed the project and was responsible for the Lander; the Jet Propulsion Laboratory was responsible for the Orbiter and Deep Space Network and Space Flight Operations Control; and NASA Lewis was responsible for the launch vehicle.


The Viking program was commemorated with a special postage stamp designed by Robert T. McCall.

The Viking spacecraft with the enclosed lander.

NASA LRC-1975-B701_P-06109

A Viking Lander engineering model.

Viking I, August 20, 1975


NASA LRC-1981-B701_P-11681

The Viking Lander, which included stereo cameras, a weather station, an automated stereo analysis laboratory and a biology instrument that could detect life, is shown here in a Martin Marietta clean room.

NASA LRC-1973-B701_P-00531

Viking II, September 9, 1975

Part of the Viking aeroshell. LRC-1975-B701_P-07180


Chapter 7: Space Exploration

Chapter 7: Space Exploration

NASA Insignia

Steam Plant

The Viking Project

NASA LRC-1976-B701_P-01092

A Viking float was part of the 1976 New Year’s Day Rose Bowl Parade. The float carried a full-scale Viking lander model and a full-scale orbiter model. It won the Grand Marshal’s Trophy for the best float from a nonprofit organization. LRC-1980-B701_P-05990 LRC LV-00003

After a 10-month voyage, the Viking I orbiter returned Mars images, and the lander touched down on July 20, 1976, sending images from the Martian surface. This black and white photo was taken 350,000 miles out, showing the largest Martian volcanoes. (Below) On July 20, 1976, the seventh anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon, Viking lander 1 settled on the surface of Mars and sent this historic photo back to earth.

NASA LRC-1977-B701_P-07296

(Left to right) Col. John T. Chain, commander, 1st Fighter Wing; Mayor Ann Kilgore, City of Hampton; U. S. Rep. Paul S. Trible; and Langley Director Donald Hearth break ground for the Refuse-Fired Steam Plant (above). The facility provides 75 percent of the steam power at NASA Langley and disposes of 240 tons of refuse per day from NASA, the Air Force, Fort Eustis, Hampton and Poquoson.

NASA replaced the “meatball’ with a modernist NASA logotype. Acceptance of the logotype was far from universal within the agency. Called the “worm” it served as the insignia for the next 17 years. For many years, the Langley hangar displayed both.

National Air and Space Museum

On July 1, 1976, a ribbon-cutting for the new National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., occurred with a signal sent from the Viking I orbiter to a lander surface-sampler arm mounted on a pedestal. In attendance are (left to right) Chief Justice Warren Burger, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, President Gerald Ford, Museum Director and former astronaut Michael Collins, and Smithsonian Secretary S. Dillon Ripley.


Agricultural Tests In the late 1970s, Langley did airflow tests at Wallops Flight Facility to study the effectiveness of agriculture applications. The photo at left illustrates the strong vortex-induced flow behind an agricultural airplane as it is flown through colored smoke.

(Below) On September 3, 1976, the Viking Lander II touched down and sent back its first photo.



NASA LRC-1994-B701_P-04816


Chapter 7: Space Exploration

Chapter 7: Space Exploration

The Space Shuttle

A shuttle orbiter and 747 carrier aircraft model in the 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel.

A shuttle orbiter model in the 20-Inch Mach 6 Tunnel.

Eugene Love and Paul Holloway led the technical development of the Space Shuttle Program at Langley during the 1970s. Windtunnel occupancy at Langley quickly exceeded 60,000 hours.

A shuttle orbiter model in the 16-Foot Transonic Tunnel.


An array of Langley-built models tested in the 22-Inch Helium Tunnel.

A model of space shuttle being prepared for testing in the 16-Foot Transonic Tunnel.

Results influenced the selection of a delta wing, a single vertical tail, and a wing-body concept. Tunnel tests determined groundwind loads, flutter, and landing parachutes. Aerothermodynamic facilities contributed information on heat distribution during re-entry. Langley also contributed to the use of high-temperature adhesives, thermal-control materials and thermal protection for the shuttle.

A shuttle assembly in the structures lab. Background: Shuttle launch STS 132 in May 2014. STS 132-S-075



Chapter 7: Space Exploration

Student Co-Ops

Technology House

NASA LRC-1976-B701_P-07345

The Technology Utilization House was a three-bedroom structure built at Langley with energy-efficient building materials, appliances and systems, including solar-energy and partial domestic water reclamation systems. Florida State University professor Dr. Charles Swain and his family moved into the house in August 1977 for a year, paying rent and utility bills while data systems recorded energy savings. At the end of the stay, data indicated the total energy used for all purposes was about half the amount of a conventional all-electric home.

Directors’ Portraits

NASA LRC-1977-B701_P-04627

During the 1970s, Langley contributed to the education and on-the-job training experience for university students. Co-op students conducted hands-on projects under the guidance of mentors. Many students returned to Langley as employees after graduation.


The 100th payload launch of the Langley Scout launch vehicle was celebrated on July 27, 1979. (left to right) NASA Administrator Dr. Robert Frosch, Langley Director Don Hearth, and Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology Don Fuqua.

NASA LRC-1977-B701_P-03060

Robert Hunt of the Langley Photographic Group created portraits of past Langley directors, which he contributed to the center in the mid-1970s. Hunt is shown here with portraits of H. J. E. Reid and Floyd Thompson.



Chapter 8

1980-1989 Faster, Higher, Farther and Safer

The Vehicle Antenna Test Facility explores general communications for aircraft and spacecraft. A Boeing 737 model is shown during development of a collision avoidance system. LRC-1989-B701_P-01588


Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

Development of the F-16XL

General Dynamics (now Lockheed Martin) developed the F-16XL (later F-16E). Langley supported supersonic optimization in the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel, transonic enhancement in the 7by 10-Foot High-Speed Tunnel, flutter clearance in the 16-Foot Transonic Dynamics Tunnel, and high-angle-of-attack development in the Full Scale Tunnel, Spin Tunnel, Differential Maneuvering Simulator, and a helicopter drop model. Flight tests of two F-16XL demonstrators in 1982 validated the design.


An F-16E model in the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel.


Technician Jimmy Staples with a 1/6-scale F-16XL model in the Langley Full Scale Tunnel.


The F-16XL single-seater at Langley.

The Langley Full Scale Tunnel teamed with designer Elbert “Burt” Rutan to test his Varieze design in 1981. The canard (tail first) Varieze with winglets, advanced airfoils, and a pusher propeller showed exceptionally good stability and control, and was virtually stall-proof. The Varieze in the test section of the Full Scale Tunnel. Note the use of white wool tufts on the left wing and canard for flow visualization.


On December 6, 1983, Vice President George H.W. Bush visited the National Transonic Facility (NTF) for its opening with NASA Administrator James Beggs, Secretary of Defense Paul Thayer, Sen. Paul Trible, Congressman Herbert Bateman, and Chairman of McDonnell-Douglas, Sanford McDonnell.


(Left to right) Mike Goodyer, Bob Kilgore, and Eddie Polhamus developed the cryogenic technology for the NTF.


Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer Langley evaluated O-ring materials, analyzed eccentric loading of the shuttle at lift off, and analyzed crew escape concepts.


The first shuttle launch occurred on April 12, 1981, with the orbiter Columbia. Missing tiles were discovered on Columbia after the ferry flight from California to Florida, and Langley studied the thermal protection system to recommend solutions. The entire nation was shocked by the Challenger disaster in 1986. In support of Return to Flight, Langley evaluated O-ring materials, analyzed eccentric loading of the shuttle at lift off, and analyzed crew escape concepts. Langley led the National Aero-Space Plane (NASP) program for a revolutionary hypersonic single-stage-to-orbit vehicle. The National Transonic Facility (NTF) was dedicated in 1983 and used cryogenic technology for unprecedented accuracy. The gala dedication ceremony was attended by Vice President

George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara Bush.

primary structures such as wings and fuselages.

The Avionics Integration Research Laboratory (AIRLAB) and the Non-Destructive Evaluation (NDE) Lab opened. Upgrades and new applications for the Aircraft Landing Dynamics Facility and 8-Foot High Temperature Tunnel were also accomplished. A new Cray computer in the central computer complex dramatically increased computational capability.

Langley’s Atmospheric Sciences Division studied the Mt. St. Helens eruption plume, hurricane mapping, and monitored the planet with ERBE, HALOE, and SAM II. Langley-led studies of the critical ozone layer played a key role in the Montréal Protocol, an international treaty to protect the ozone layer.

The Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) was deployed in 1984 by the Space Shuttle Challenger to learn about the impact of the space environment on materials. The Aircraft Energy Efficiency (ACEE) program, and its follow-on activities, developed composite secondary aircraft components. Planning began for composite applications to

George Allison spent more than 250 days a year on the road with Langley’s traveling Aerospace Education Program, making presentations at schools and civic clubs.

Dr. Donald Hearth announced his retirement. His legacy included an aggressive defense of basic research, high-priority support for the space shuttle, the application of advanced composites, and advocacy for the location of the National Transonic Facility at Langley. Richard H. “Pete” Petersen succeeded Hearth as Langley’s sixth director on February 2, 1985.  LRC-1979-B701_P_F001-08565


Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

Storm Hazard Research

A Presence at Oshkosh LANGLEY’S DIRECTORS

Richard H. Petersen



Dr. Donald P. Hearth announced that he would leave Langley on February 1, 1985. His legacy included an aggressive defense of basic research, high-priority support for the space shuttle, the application of advanced composites, promotion of equal opportunity, provision of onsite child care, and advocacy for the location of the National Transonic Facility at Langley. LRC-1988-B701_P-11079

A storm hazards research team led by Norman Crabill intentionally flew aircraft into lightning storms to measure electrical characteristics, determine lightning-triggering mechanisms, and identify conducive atmospheric conditions. (Above) The F-106B (spots are lightning strikes points) had 714 direct hits. (Above right) Researcher Roger Winebarger is shown in rear seat during a strike exiting from the right wingtip. (Right) Lightning damage to the vertical fin cap.


Richard H. “Pete” Petersen succeeded Hearth as Langley’s sixth director on February 2, 1985. He named Paul F. Holloway as Langley’s Deputy Director the following day. Petersen had been Deputy Director of Langley. Petersen came to Langley from the NASA Ames Research Center, where he had served as Chief of the Aerodynamics Division. His specialty areas included theoretical and experimental aerodynamics for supersonic and hypersonic applications, aircraft noise, hydrogen-fueled aircraft, short take-off and landing aircraft, spacecraft studies, and facility planning.

Long Duration Exposure Facility


Langley began exhibiting at the Experimental Aircraft Association convention in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 1970, which had over 500,000 spectators and 900 reporters attending.


Model Making


Dr. Alvin Anderson Dr. Alvin Anderson was the first Equal Opportunity Officer, and became head of the Office of Research Grants and University Affairs. Dr. Harriet Jenkins, assistant administrator, Office of Equal Opportunity Programs, NASA Headquarters, presents the Equal Opportunity award to Langley.



A technician in the Composites and Models Development Shop completes a wooden pattern for a radio-controlled drop model of the X-29. The pattern was then used to construct a composite mold for the model.



The Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF), developed by William Kinard (above), was a 12-sided structure, 14-feet in diameter and 30-feet long and carried 57 experiments in space for a planned mission of one year. The free-flying facility was deployed on April 7, 1984. Its return was delayed by the Challenger accident in 1986. It was retrieved by Columbia in 1990.


Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

Natural Laminar Flow

Shuttle Tires and Heavy Rain Tests

LRC-1985-B701_P-13287 LRC-1988-B701_P-09868 LRC-1985-B701_P-10071

ALDF addressed the effects of heavy rain on aerodynamics of a wing section with simulated rain from overhead spray bars at rates up to 40 inches per hour.

Modified Cessna 210 in the Full Scale Tunnel to assess the ability of a smooth composite wing to maintain laminar flow. During flight, the wing coating remained white under laminar flow but lost color in turbulent flow.

Active Laminar Flow Control Slotted Test Section The Lockheed concept on the left wing had small lengthwise slots (0.003 inch), and a propylene glycol-methylether water mixture ejected for insect protection.


The Langley Aircraft Landing Dynamics Facility (ALDF) was upgraded to increase test speeds and test shuttle landing gear. The first test was of a shuttle main landing gear. The improved water jet pushed the test carriage from 0 to 250 mph in two seconds and 400 feet.

At Kennedy Space Center, the rough shuttle landing surface (upper photo) accelerated the wear of the very thin shuttle tire tread. Langley tests verified the acceptability of a smoother texture (lower photo) and the Kennedy runway was modified.

Perforated Test Section The Douglas concept on the right wing used perforations (0.0025-inch diameter) on the leading edge and the upper wing surface and a retractable shield under the leading edge to minimize insect-impact roughness during takeoff and landing.


Langley developed quick-attachment joint fittings to connect struts for the Assembly Concept for Construction of Erectable Space Structure (ACCESS) flown on Atlantis. Astronaut Sherwood Spring maneuvers an ACCESS tower four stories tall while standing on the Atlantis remote manipulator arm 200 miles above Earth.



NASA began flight tests of active suction through porous wing surfaces to remove turbulent air to maintain laminar airflow adjacent to the wing surface, which reduces drag and fuel consumption. Langley, Dryden, the Lockheed-Georgia Corp., and the Douglas Aircraft Co. participated. Industry partners each designed a wing glove using a different suction concept, which were installed on a Lockheed JetStar four-engine transport. Tests were flown in different weather and insect conditions at various locations in the U.S.



Thomas Yager, Robert Daugherty, and Sandy Stubbs (left to right) inspect tread wear at the tire spin-up point at ALDF.


Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

Our Home Planet

Fire Suppression Tests


Space Shuttle Testing


ECN-31803 LRC-1989-B701_P-07948

The FAA, Langley and NASA Dryden participated in a Full Scale Transport Controlled Impact Demonstration (CID) to evaluate antimisting kerosene to suppress fire in crashes. Langley supplied structural-loads instruments, instrumented test dummies, and impactsurvival seats. Fuselage section drop tests at the Impact Dynamics Research Facility generated preflight analysis data. The uncrewed transport was flown from a remote console. The resulting fuel-fed fireball took over an hour to extinguish and the fuel additive was determined to be ineffective.

(Above) A technician inspecting the HALOE instrument. The Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE) measured the Mount St. Helens volcanic eruption plume in 1980. SAGE I measured atmospheric ozone and aerosols and SAGE II, which launched for a twoyear mission, orbited for nearly 21 years. SAGE I and II data contributed to the Montreal Protocol that banned chlorofluorocarbons in 1987. The Earth Radiation Budget Experiment (ERBE) provided a breakthrough in monitoring the energy exchanged between the sun, the Earth, and space. The Halogen Occulation Experiment (HALOE) explored atmospheric chemistry, and the nature of stratospheric ozone depletion over the Arctic.

A shuttle flow visualization study by electron beam in the Helium Tunnel in 1981.

LRC-1981-B701_P-08871 LRC-1984-B701_P-06983

ERBE and SAGE II on the Earth Radiation Budget Satellite.


A crew escape concept analysis in the 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel.




Orbiter-Booster configuration in the NTF in 1985.


Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

The 70th Anniversary

Laser Technology



An open house for the public on October 24, 1987, drew 12,000 visitors as the final event of Langley’s 70th anniversary. This photo shows an F/A-18 model in the 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel.

Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, who made the first nonstop, unrefueled flight around the world in their Voyager aircraft, were special guests at Langley’s 70th anniversary. Left to right: Dr. Ray Colladay, NASA associate administrator of Aeronautics and Space Technology; Dale Myer, NASA deputy administrator; Yeager; Rutan and Center Director Pete Petersen.


Langley created laser velocimeter systems to measure complex flow, such as that in helicopter rotors, aircraft and spacecraft at high angles of attack, and in landingaircraft wake. (Above) Engineer Susan Gorton aligns a helicopter model in the 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel. LRC-1981-B701_P-08004

A 747 model during a wake vortex study in the Langley Vortex Research Facility. Laser beams are used to measure the local velocity and direction of flows in the model’s wake as it passes through the test area.

8-Foot High Temperature Tunnel

(Far left) In 1986, the 8-Foot High Temperature Tunnel (building 1265) underwent an upgrade for hypersonic airbreathing (scramjet) engine tests at Mach 4, 5 and 7. (Left) A large chine body in the test section for aerothermal studies.



Kenneth Hyde flew this restored Curtiss Jenny biplane for Langley’s 70th anniversary. Jennies were the first airplanes used in flight research by the NACA in 1919. Hyde, a retired airline pilot who worked on the restoration for 10 years, is in the rear seat, accompanied by copilot Charles Kulp. LRC-1993-B701_P-13118




Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

Testing the Sea Wolf

Nondestructive Evaluation



Vehicle Antenna Test Facility

The in-flight structural failure of a large part of the fuselage skin of an Aloha Airlines aircraft in 1988 increased interest in nondestructive evaluation (NDE) research. Dr. Joseph Heyman (right) developed an ultrasonic device to measure bolt elongation, a critical parameter in determining structural failures, and went on to develop NDE devices and procedures. Under Heyman’s leadership, an NDE laboratory was constructed, resulting in revolutionary technology and international recognition of Langley as a leader in the field.



In 1986, Langley tested a Navy Sea Wolf submarine model in the National Transonic Facility. Note that the model is inverted.

The Langley LowTurbulence Pressure Tunnel ceased operations when its drive motor burned in 2006. In 1986, a plaque was placed in the building foyer to honor pioneering NACA researchers.

The Vehicle Antenna Test Facility explores general communications for aircraft and spacecraft. A Boeing 737 model is shown during development of a collision avoidance system. LRC-1989-B701_P-01588


David Middleton, Raghavachari Srivatsan and Lee Person received a patent for a Takeoff Performance Monitor System (TOPMS) (left) to graphically present all critical takeoff information, which also won an IR100 award given annually for top 100 innovations.

LRC-1990-B701_P-08249 NASA


Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

National Aero-Space Plane



The Langley Impact Dynamics Research Facility (IDRF) determined the dynamic responses of aircraft structure and seats to established aircraft seat certification criteria used by the FAA. The data became the foundation for a Crash Survival Design Guide for general aviation.

Composite Components LRC-1986-B701_P-06865


(Above) A Schlieren study of the shock waves around a hypersonic configuration in the 20-Inch Mach 6 Tunnel.

Boeing 727 composite elevator.

Boeing 727 composite horizontal stabilizer.

Douglas DC-10 composite rudder and vertical stabilizer.

Lockheed L-1011 composite aileron.

Langley’s broad research program in composite materials and structures in the 1980s included basic research in matrix resins, fatigue behavior, damage tolerance, structural concepts, fabrication technology and environmental stability. Shown are highly successful Langley-sponsored commercial transport applications of composite components in flight service in NASA’s Aircraft Energy Efficiency (ACEE) program.

NASA and the Department of Defense conducted research on the X-15, space shuttle missions, propulsion, materials, and computer technology to advance hypersonic flight. In his 1986 state of the union address, President Ronald Reagan announced plans for a plane that would takeoff horizontally from a runway, perform single-stage-to-orbit missions, and shrink travel between Washington, D.C., and Tokyo to less than two hours. The “Orient Express” announcement was followed by the National AeroSpace Plane (NASP) program headed by DARPA with NASA responsible for technology maturation. Data was gathered for the Phase 3 decision to build an experimental vehicle, designated the X-30. Langley’s participation was extensive, including airframe and engine concept research. An artist’s concept of the NASP.




Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

A Visit from the Ninety-Nines

Computational Fluid Dynamics

Help After Challenger


(Above) In flight tests at Dryden on an F/A-18 High Angle Research Vehicle, a colored glycolbased liquid validated the computer predictions of flow paths and aircraft surface pressures. LRC-1989-B701_P-12817

In the 1980s, powerful new Computational Fluid Dynamics methods resulted in new analysis capabilities. The above graphic shows calculated flow fields on and above half of an F/A-18 fighter fuselage forebody at high angles of attack.


The relatively small Langley Visitor Center had an attendance of 221,000 in 1987, making it the third most attended of 126 state museums in Virginia. The visitor center was moved off site for security reasons, and to make it more accessible to the public. The city of Hampton and NASA worked for two years to put together a plan for a new aerospace museum in downtown Hampton called the Virginia Air & Space Center. The facility was dedicated in December 1988. Shown during a visit to the old visitor center are members of the Hampton Roads Chapter of Ninety-Nines, an organization of women pilots founded by Amelia Earhart.


Following the Shuttle Challenger accident on January 28, 1986, Langley reviewed and redesigned the solid rocket booster seals. Cynthia Lach of the Fatigue and Fracture Branch briefs Associate Administrator for Space Flight Richard Truly on O-ring test apparatus and redesign.

A Full Scale Semispan F-106B A Child Development Center

Langley Alumni


An F-106B. (Left) A non-flightworthy F-106B aircraft was sliced down its centerline to create a semispan, full-scale F-106B model (referred to as the F-53) for Full Scale Tunnel testing on the design of a vortex flap.The flap provides control of vortical flow shed off the swept wing leading-edge and significantly improves performance. RC-1984-B701_P-11339



The Langley Child 8-30 The8-30 Langley Child Development Development Center Center in September 1985 opened inopened September 1985 in the Helicopter former Helicopter in the former Tower building Tower building (building (building 30 1231), 1231), acceptingaccepting 30 preschoolers and eight preschoolers and eight infants. infants.



In 1987, retirees William Boyer, Edmund Brummer, Charles King, Donald Ward, Dominic Maglieri, and Abraham Leiss worked with the Office of External Affairs to establish the Langley Alumni Association. Chairman Bill Boyer and Center Director Pete Petersen are displaying the Langley Alumni Association Banner above.


The Langley Child Development Center opened in September 1985 in the former Helicopter Tower (building 1231), accepting 30 preschoolers and eight infants. Cutting the ribbon is Center Director Pete Petersen. (From left) Art Friend, Petersen, Melissa Coleman-White, and Kim Follman.


Chapter 8: Faster, Higher, Farther, and Safer

Langley Director Pete Petersen and family members of the deceased view the memorial.


On October 23, 1989, Langley dedicated a memorial for those who have lost their lives while serving the mission of Langley Research Center. Those honored include:

Stevens Bromley, Jr.

Aeronautical Engineer

August 20, 1924

Thomas Pittman

Electrical Engineer

Summer, 1943

Herbert Hoover

Test Pilot

August 14, 1952

Thomas B. Maxwell


June 28, 1954

William L. Alford

Test Pilot

October 12, 1959

Dale W. Dalin Supervisory Engineering January 7, 1981 Technician Paul F. Coy

Aerospace Engineer

November 19, 1981

Wendell W. Kelly

Test Pilot

November 19, 1981

In his dedication speech, Langley Director Pete Petersen said that “The eight people this monument honors – mechanics and pilots, technicians and engineers – represent the tightly woven fabric of talent that sustained and supported over 70 years of successful, and highly productive, research at Langley... They lost their lives in pursuit of our mutual dreams for a better world.”



Chapter 9

1990-1999 A New Direction

Astronaut Mark Lee on the STS-64 shuttle mission with the Lidar In-Space Technology Experiment developed at Langley.



Chapter 9: A New Direction

Chapter 9: A New Direction

Long Duration Exposure Facility

The VDT Becomes a Landmark


Richard H. Petersen (Left) The Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) was retrieved by Columbia in January 1990.

Paul F. Holloway

(Far left top) LDEF in shuttle cargo bay (note damaged covers). (Far left bottom) When LDEF returned to Earth, Paul Holloway (left) and Pete Petersen shared congratulations.


(Above left to right): Dr. Harry Butowsky, National Park Service historian, Paul Holloway, and W. R. Phillips, executive vice president of Newport News Shipbuilding, which built the pressure vessel. (Left) The Variable Density Tunnel, a National Historic Landmark, was moved from its building and put on display at the H. J. E. Reid Conference Center grounds.

LRC-1990-B701_P-02128 LRC-1989-B701_P-12626

Holloway, who had been serving as Langley’s deputy director, replaced Petersen as Langley’s seventh director in October 1991. He began his career at Langley in June 1960. He specialized in hypersonic aerodynamics, entry flight mechanics analysis and earth orbital and planetary space missions. Holloway contributed directly to the development of the space shuttle program and served three detail assignments at NASA Headquarters. President Reagan appointed him co-director of the NASA and DOD National Space Transportation Architecture Study Team in 1985.


In October 1991, Langley’s Director Richard H. Petersen was chosen by NASA Administrator Richard H. Truly to head the agency’s Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology at NASA Headquarters.

Director Holloway initiated a staff structure in which employees were matrixed into a program or project when and where their skills were needed, regardless of their organizational homes. The matrix structure stressed an interdisciplinary approach to research.

A New Direction Spending in manned space programs was reduced, while planetary science programs spending increased.


In October 1991, Director Richard H. Petersen was chosen by Administrator Richard Truly to head the agency’s Office of Aeronautics and Space Technology at NASA Headquarters. Paul F. Holloway, who had been deputy director, replaced Petersen as Langley’s seventh director, and named Dr. H. Lee Beach, Jr. as deputy director. The Long Duration Exposure Facility (LDEF) was retrieved by the Space Shuttle Columbia after 69 months in low earth orbit. Materials flown on LDEF provided a wealth of knowledge about the effects of space exposure. In 1992, President George H. W. Bush nominated Daniel Goldin as NASA Administrator. He transformed NASA programs. Spending in manned space programs was reduced, while planetary science programs spending increased. With a lower budget, Golden advocated a “faster, better, cheaper” approach to do more with less. He was a vigorous proponent for Mars exploration.

Director Holloway initiated a staff structure in which employees were matrixed into a program or project when and where their skills were needed, regardless of their organizational homes. The matrix structure stressed an interdisciplinary approach to research. Atmospheric science programs at Langley grew in response to the growing concerns about the health of our planet. The Mission to Planet Earth – the use of the perspective of space to understand our home planet – was initiated. Holloway announced his resignation in July 1996, and was succeeded by Dr. Jeremiah Creedon as Langley’s eighth director. Creedon had worked at Langley for 33 years and was a nationally recognized expert in flight-control systems. The X-30 National Aerospace Plane program was a joint NASA and industry program that looked at hypersonic propulsion and structural concepts until the early 1990s. An important legacy of the NASP program was the advancement in research

of materials capable of withstanding extreme temperatures. The NASA High-Speed Research Program (HSR), also a joint NASA and industry program, focused on a single aircraft concept with wind tunnel model tests and computer modeling to study propulsion and airframe structural technology that considered environmental goals. The HSR program advanced technology for lightweight, high-performing aircraft structural components. A Langley institution since the 1940s–the Apprentice Program– transitioned from a Center training program to working with community colleges and co-op programs for technician training. Work to develop effective sensors to better understand the atmosphere made progress. Atmospheric composition research was critical in understanding ozone photochemistry and the ozone “hole.” Seminal observations provided international scientists with information about the vertical structure of the

ozone hole, the role of atmospheric dynamics, and assessments of its long-term changes. Langley’s work in the interaction of the radiation of the Sun’s energy and Earth’s climate examined the fundamental question of the role of clouds in heating and cooling the Earth. Studies included the first direct measurement of the cooling impact of tiny particles expelled during volcanic eruptions. The work in tropospheric chemistry leveraged ground-based, airborne, and satellite sensors to provide high spatial resolution observations of regional air quality trends. Work in active remote sensing contributed essential data to understand the detailed vertical structure of the atmosphere, including the long-range transport of pollution and volcanic aerosols and new details about thin clouds and their impact on the atmosphere. Data were served to scientists and classroom teachers around the world through Langley’s Atmospheric Science Data Center. 

Under Creedon, Langley’s organizational model was changed to more clearly identify points of contact and expertise to the outside world.


Chapter 9: A New Direction

Chapter 9: A New Direction

The HL-20

Technical Opportunities Showcase




Researcher Sue Grafton with a subsonic HL-20 model.


An HL-20 model in the Unitary Tunnel.



The Halogen Occultation Experiment (HALOE) confirmed that chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were responsible for the annual ozone hole. Dr. James Russell (above) led the HALOE project.

The first Technology Opportunities Showcase (TOPS) in October 1993 in Langley’s hangar exhibited more than 160 technology transfers.

High Alpha Research Vehicle (HARV) LRC-1992-B701_P-05116


Crew accommodation volunteers (left to right) Erik Vedeler, Fernandez Ratcliff, Tom Yager, Bill Abeyounis, Steve Robinson, Natalie Rivers, Larry Cooper, Wendy Pennington, and Shirley Jones.

The HL-20 was a candidate to transport crew and cargo to and from the space station, launching on a rocket and landing on a runway. North Carolina State University and North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University constructed this full-scale model.

New Visitor ’s Center LANGLEY'S DIRECTORS LRC-1997-B701_P-00598

Dr. Jeremiah F. Creedon Dr. Jeremiah F. Creedon succeeded Paul Holloway as Langley’s eighth Director in July 1996. Creedon had worked at Langley for 33 years and was a nationally recognized flightcontrol systems expert. He was Langley’s director of the Airframe Systems Program Office at the time of his appointment. Creedon received bachelor and master of science degrees and a doctorate in electrical engineering from the University of Rhode Island. In 1995, he received the Presidential Rank of Distinguished Executive in Senior Executive Service.


(Above) Congressional representatives (left to right) unidentified, Robert C. Scott, George Brown, Jr., and Herbert H. Bateman, and Langley’s Roland Bowles and Joseph Heyman discuss Langley’s highly successful wind shear program. Brown was a key advocate for the program, which was managed by Bowles.


(Left) A forebody and deflectable strakes fabricated at Langley.

(Left) Administrator Dan Goldin takes notes while touring exhibits at TOPS.


The Virginia Air & Space Center (VASC) under construction. It opened in April 1992.

(Above) smoke injected near the nose tip illustrates a strong vortex created when the left nose strake is deflected.



Chapter 9: A New Direction


Bushnell and the BWB

Langley celebrated its 75th anniversary on July 17, 1992, with a ceremony in the hangar featuring the unveiling of this painting “Expanding the Frontiers of Flight” by renowned space artist Robert McCall.

75 TH Anniversary

Langley Chief Scientist Dennis Bushnell issued a challenge for a “renaissance for the long-haul transport.” Robert Liebeck of McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) responded with a blended wing body (BWB). (Above) The large model of the BWB, designated X-48, is shown here flying remotely piloted tests at NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center.

A BWB model in the 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel.

Wind Shear (Left) Dr. Roland Bowles managed the Wind Shear Program. (Below) A tail-mounted camera in the Langley 737 shows a distant storm. (Right) The Wind Shear Program researched abruptly shifting wind direction and speed to improve aircraft safety. Langley’s 737 evaluated three advance-warning wind shear sensors: microwave radar in the nose, an infrared sensor (top beam), and a lidar sensor (bottom beam).

Employees formed a “75” on the runway apron of the hangar. (Right) The final event of Langley’s 75th celebration was the internment of a time capsule on December 17, 1992. The capsule was buried below an aluminum sculpture. About 50 items were placed in the capsule, including a “Greetings from 1992” letter from Langley management, documents about Langley’s aeronautics and space achievements and a packet of tomato seeds carried on LDEF.

(Above) Langley’s Charles Dunton holds a kite he built showing Samuel Langley, Wilbur and Orville Wright, and Alan Shepard. John L. Evans



Chapter 9: A New Direction

Chapter 9: A New Direction

High-Speed Research

National Aero-Space Plane X-30 General Dynamics, McDonnell Douglas, Rockwell International, Pratt & Whitney and Rocketdyne developed the X-30 or National Aero-Space Plane (NASP). (Left) Langley’s Lana Couch led the program for the Agency.


Guy Kemmerly with a Boeing HSCT model in the 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel.


(Above) A NASP scramjet engine in the 8-Foot High Temperature Tunnel.

Roy Harris and Walter Bruce inspect a High Speed Commercial Transport (HSCT) model in the National Transonic Facility.

Computational Fluid Dynamics depiction of airflow over a NASP.

F-106 is Retired

A Russian Concorde


A HSCT model in the 16-Foot Transonic Tunnel.


Langley’s F-106B (NASA 816) was retired in 1991 and is permanently displayed in the Virginia Air & Space Center. Langley aerodynamisist Richard Whitcomb spoke at the retirement ceremony.



The HSR Program used a 35-year-old Russian supersonic transport, the Tupolev Tu-144LL. Langley’s Rob Rivers (right) and Dryden’s Gordon Fullerton — the first Westerners to fly the aircraft — as shown here at the Zhukovsky Air Development Center near Moscow.


The High-Speed Research (HSR) Program, led by Wally Sawyer (right), addressed sonic boom, atmospheric effects, and takeoff noise. Within the program, several High-Speed Civil Transport (HSCT) configurations were designed. Langley’s David Hahne is shown here in the Full Scale Tunnel with a Douglas Mach 2.2 transport concept model.



Chapter 9: A New Direction

Chapter 9: A New Direction

LIDAR in Space

Thank You Visits

Reducing Flight Delays


Industry appreciated Langley’s contributions to their development programs and sent aircraft on visits to Langley: a Boeing 777 (1996), and a Lockheed Martin C-130J (1998).

The Low Visibility Landing and Service Operations program researched minimizing delays. (Above) Sharon Beskenis checking a research pallet in the 757. (Below) Vice President Al Gore (back left) in the cockpit with Langley pilot Harry Verstynen (back right) while NASA Administrator Dan Goldin (front right) observes.

(Left) Langley researcher Mary Beth Wusk and her daughter tour the C-130J in 1998.


Retired 737-100

Runway Improvements


(Above) The Lidar In-Space Technology Experiment (LITE) was the first to use lidar for vertical profile atmospheric studies from space. Astronaut Mark Lee on the STS-64 shuttle mission with LITE in the cargo bay.

NASA LRC-1999-B701_P-00997

The Joint Winter Runway Friction Measurement Program included NASA, Transport Canada and the Federal Aviation Administration. These photos show the Langley 757 landing on a snowy runway.


(Left) Dr. Ed Browell with the NASA ER-2 that carried a Lidar Atmospheric Sensing Experiment instrument for studying water vapor and aerosols under LITE.

The moving map real-time runway and taxi display. Collision avoidance during runway operations was a major objective in Langley’s Aircraft Safety Program.


Langley’s 737 research aircraft was retired in 1997 and is now at the Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle, Washington. NASA



Chapter 9: A New Direction

Chapter 9: A New Direction

Quieter Engines


TetrUSS Software



The Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments (AGATE) Program was a public-private partnership in general aviation that researched structures and materials, aerodynamics, and computer-based cockpit systems. Langley’s Dr. Bruce Holmes led AGATE. (Above) The Lancair Columbia 300 and Cirrus SR-20 in the Langley hangar.

A specially outfitted 777 aircraft confirmed the effectiveness of a number of significant noise reduction concepts, including a Langley-developed asymmetrical scalloped chevron design, during flight tests in 2005.

The Langley-developed, awardwinning Tetrahedral Unstructured Software System (TetrUSS) is used by industry, government and universities to study the aerodynamics of aircraft, spacecraft, rotorcraft, automobiles, and turbomachinery, as well as biomedical applications.

X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle

(Above) Artist’s version of the X-33 VentureStar.


Engine Inlet

(Left) X-33 model in the Langley Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel. The NASA X-33 Reusable Launch Vehicle was a prototype for a single stage to orbit vehicle that launched like a rocket and landed like an aircraft. Langley studied reusable cryogenic tank systems, composite structures, metallic and composite thermal protection systems, vehicle systems analysis, aerodynamic and aerothermodynamic testing and analyses, and flight control technology. Aerospace Researcher Kelly Murphy with an X-33 model in the 20-Inch Mach 6 Tunnel.


Earth Radiation Budget Experiment

The Earth Radiation Budget Experiment studied the exchange of energy between the sun, Earth and space. The graphic illustrates a typical monthly average clearsky radiation emitted by Earth as measured by the instruments.

In the 1990s, Langley continued to support Army, Air Force, and Navy research. Typical of the support is this T-45 engine inlet test in the 16-Foot Transonic Tunnel.




Chapter 9: A New Direction

Chapter 9: A New Direction

Saving the Constitution

From Langley, Selected for Space

A Guinness World Record (Left) Local high school students, mentored by Langley staff, earned a place in the 1993 Guinness Book of World Records for a successful flight of the world’s largest paper airplane. The flight took place in the Langley hangar with a handmade airplane with a 30.5-foot wing span, weighing less than eight pounds, that flew 114.75 feet.



The National Archives and Records Administration discovered mysterious crystal flakes inside glass encasements of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, known as the Charters of Freedom. Under Dr. Joel Levine’s leadership, a team discovered that backing paper beneath each document had released water vapor, causing glass deterioration and formation of sodium hydroxide or lye. The Charters of Freedom were placed in redesigned encasements and put back on display. (Above) Langley’s James West studies crystals.

Seven Langley employees served as space shuttle astronauts. Frederick D. Gregory served (1974-1978) as a Langley test pilot. Dr. Stephen K. Robinson was a Langley specialist in fundamental aerodynamics and flow physics (1990-1993 and 1994-1995). Dr. Roger K. Crouch conducted research on semiconductors and crystal growth (1962-1985). Leland Melvin worked in nondestructive evaluation technology (1989-1998). Dr. Charles J. Camarda specialized in high-temperature structures and thermal protection systems (1974-1996 and 2014-present). Kenneth D. Cameron served in the NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) (20032008) as a principal engineer, NESC chief astronaut, and deputy director for safety. Roy D. Bridges, Jr., who came to Langley as a former astronaut and served as the center’s director from 2003 to 2005.


Mark Croom with free-flying drop models of (clockwise from top) F/A-18E Super Hornet, X-29A forward swept wing demonstrator, F/A-18C Hornet, F-15 Eagle, F-14 Tomcat, X-31 Enhanced Fighter maneuverability demonstrator, F-4C Phantom II, F-5A Freedom Fighter, and F-16XL. S114E6219


(Above) Advisors included (above from left) Dick Whitcomb, Hewitt Phillips, Jim Penland, Ferdinand Grosveld, and Bill Reed. The airplane was displayed at the Virginia Air & Space Center. LRC-1992-B701_P-03325

Advanced Composites Technology

Drop Models

Steve Robinson during a 1995 shuttle Discovery mission anchored to a foot restraint on the ISS’s Canadarm-2.


A stitched resin fiber infusion composite wing section was tested in the Structures and Materials Laboratory. Langley Researcher Marvin Dow was the first NASA employee to have a corporate building named after him — the Marvin B. Dow Stitched Composites Development Center at Boeing.




Marvin B. Dow


Chapter 9: A New Direction


Pearl Young Theater


(Above) Langley’s SansEC wirelessly powered sensor technology originally developed for spacecraft has been licensed by more than 10 companies for a variety of commercial applications.


In 1995 Langley opened its Pearl Young Theater in the building that had previously housed the Langley Visitor Center (building 1202A). Retirees W. Hewitt and Viola Phillips, friends of Young, cut the ribbon for the 246seat Pearl Young Theater. At right is Patsy Campbell, Langley’s Federal Women’s Program Manager.

(Left) Rob Bryant is holding flexible tubing made from soluble imide or LaRC-SI, developed at Langley for high-speed aerospace applications, but it was also found to be suitable for medical implant devices because it is biologically inert. NASA

80th Anniversary

Whale Bones


The 3.5-million-year-old fossilized partial skull, ear bones, vertebrae, rib fragments and jaw bone of a 30-foot long juvenile baleen whale were uncovered during pipe trenching at Langley. The College of William & Mary geology department excavated and studied the fossils. Shown here is Dr. Jerre Johnson of William & Mary.


Langley’s 80th anniversary open house on July 19, 1997, attracted over 16,000 people. (Above) Long lines waited to inspect Langley’s 737 flying laboratory.



Chapter 10

2000-2009 A New Century

In April 2006, a joint NASA- French Space Agency satellite known as Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) was launched to advance the understanding of how clouds and particles affect climate, weather, and air quality.



Chapter 10: A New Century

Improving Aviation Safety


Joined Wing Concepts SAGE III


Joined-wing aircraft concepts in the 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel (above) and the 16-Foot Transonic Tunnel.

On December 10, 2001, the Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE III) lifted off aboard the Russian Meteor-3M spacecraft. (Above) SAGE III in the laboratory.


The Aviation Safety Program made night flights with the Langley 757 at the Dallas Fort Worth International Airport. Langley’s Runway Incursion Prevention System (RIPS), Synthetic Vision Systems (SVS), and Hold Short Advisory Landing Technology were demonstrated. (Right) A cockpit display of SVS NASA


A New Century Revolutionary concepts for inflatable re-entry heat shields, Mars aircraft, advanced cockpit displays and extraterrestrial habitats were investigated.

In June 2002, Director Jeremiah Creedon departed for a new assignment at NASA Headquarters. Delma Freeman, Jr. became acting director, then director, before retiring in August 2003. Former astronaut and NASA Kennedy Director Roy Bridges became Langley’s 10th director. Lesa Roe was named deputy director in June 2004, and became the center’s first female director in October 2005.

flights. Earth-observing satellites sent back data to improve our understanding of the planet where we live. Revolutionary concepts for inflatable re-entry heat shields, Mars aircraft, advanced cockpit displays and extraterrestrial habitats were investigated. Langley’s composite materials program began its research on applications for primary structures such as wings and fuselages.

Tragedy struck the shuttle program when Columbia broke up during re-entry. Langley mourned the loss of the astronauts and assisted with the accident investigation. The Discovery Return to Flight mission carried Charlie Camarda and Steve Robinson, both from Langley, into space.

Langley was the lead for the aerodynamic definition and analyses of the Ares I launch system. The center provided vehicle guidance and control development, and fabrication of Orion crew capsule test articles.

The X-43 scramjet-powered research vehicle made record-setting


The NASA Engineering and Safety Center was created to perform independent analysis of high-risk projects.

The center furthered aerospace research and efforts to attract and train the next generation of aerospace engineers and scientists with the creation of the National Institute of Aerospace, and continued partnerships with the Virginia Space Grant Consortium.

MISSE 3 aboard the International Space Station in August 2006.


By the turn of the 21st century, personal computers and highly capable editing software changed the NASA technical report process. Coupled with technology transfer and papers presented at professional societies and meetings, research information was disseminated more quickly to industry, academia and partners.  (Above) William Kinard briefing Lesa Roe with a model of the Materials International Space Station Experiment (MISSE) case and (right) the actual MISSE article in the laboratory.


Chapter 10: A New Century

Chapter 10: A New Century

Flight 587 Investigation

National Transonic Facility

Cloud Studies


NASA LRC-2000-B701_P-00413

The Proteus is a tandem-wing, all-composite, high-endurance aircraft designed by aviation innovator Burt Rutan. The privately owned research platform sometimes partners with NASA for airborne science research such as the Cirrus Regional Study of Tropical Anvils and Cirrus Layers (CRYSTAL-FACE).

Boeing conducted tests of the 777 and 787 in the National Transonic Facility (NTF). (Above) a 5.2-percent scale model of the 777 in the NTF.

The center evaluated the composite tail of American Airlines Flight 587 for the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The 2001 accident was attributed to overuse of rudder controls in response to wake turbulence from a Boeing 747 that had taken off before Flight 587.

(Left, left to right) Boeing’s Deepak Om and Doug Ball present a Boeing 777-200 display model to Langley’s Rich Wahls and Allen Kilgore. LRC-2002-B701_P-01298

Earth Studies The Clouds and the Earth’s Radiant Energy System (CERES) experiment measures solar-reflected and Earth-emitted radiation from the top of the atmosphere to the surface, as well as cloud properties. (Left) heat (or thermal radiation) emitted to space from Earth (right) sunlight reflected to space.

(Left) NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe (gray jacket), NTSB Chairman Marion Blakey (center) and Director Creedon (right) view the composite tail.

A 430-ton per day liquid nitrogen plant reduced the time to complete a cryogenic test cycle and decreased the cost of liquid nitrogen for the National Transonic Facility.

Freeman served as the director from June 2002 to August 2003. He began his career at Langley in 1960 as an instrument calibrator in the Instrument Research Division. He was an aerodynamicist in the Langley Full Scale Tunnel and a systems analyst in the Space Systems Division. He had a key role in tests and analyses for the space shuttle configuration and also in developing the HL-20 lifting body. He held several leadership positions in Langley’s space vehicle research organizations. He was assigned to NASA HQ as the Deputy Chief Engineer for the Space Transportation Architecture Study and then returned to Langley as Deputy Director. He earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Virginia.

Bridges was director of Langley from August 2003 until October 2005. He came to Langley after serving as director of NASA Kennedy for over six years. A retired Air Force Major General, as a NASA astronaut, he piloted the Space Shuttle Challenger on mission STS-51F in July 1985. Bridges is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering science. He received a master of science degree in astronautics from Purdue University in Indiana.



Dr. James Starnes, Jr.


Delma C. Freeman, Jr.

Roy D. Bridges, Jr.



Starnes was chief engineer for structures and materials at NASA Langley and was considered by many the nation’s preeminent expert in composite structures technology. His career at Langley spanned 33 years. He contributed to the design of the International Space Station and the NASA investigations of the Challenger and Columbia space shuttle accidents and led NASA’s investigation into the Crash of Flight 587. He passed away in October 2003. The Structures and Materials Lab (building 1148) was named in his honor.

On May 14, 2002, Center Director Jeremiah Creedon announced his promotion to associate administrator for the Office of Aerospace Technology. He is shown here with his wife, researcher Carrie Walker, at a farewell reception.


(Left to right) Langley’s Ivatury Raju, Edward Glaessgen, Thiagaraja Krishnamurthy, Brian Mason and Carlos Davila with a display of study results.

Edward Browell monitors measurements of ozone and aerosols. Data from the HALOE and SAGE II satellites helped NASA monitor the state of Earth’s ozone layer.


Langley’s OV-10A was modified with top and bottom instrument pods for low-altitude measurements of data for correlation with the CERES instrument.


Chapter 10: A New Century

Chapter 10: A New Century

Sonic Boom


The Wright Experience

Langley joined with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Dryden and Northrop Grumman for the Shaped Sonic Boom Demonstration. Langley provided analysis during flight tests of a F-5E fighter modified with a “nose glove” to demonstrate that shaping the body and wing could reduce sonic booms heard on the ground. The modified F-5E and an unmodified F-5E flew supersonic flybys over an instrumented test range in 2003 with very positive results.


In 2001, Langley sponsored the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA), operated by a nonprofit consortium that included the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Foundation, Georgia Tech, Hampton University, North Carolina A&T State University, North Carolina State University, the University of Maryland, the University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and affiliate members Old Dominion University and the College of William & Mary.




Langley’s 757 Airborne Research Integrated Experiments System (ARIES) flew various Synthetic Vision concepts at Eagle County Regional Airport near Vail, Colorado.


Ken Hyde of The Wright Experience and the Old Dominion University staff used the Full Scale Tunnel to gather data on replica gliders, the 1903 Flyer, and propellers for the 100th celebration of the flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.


Personal Air Vehicles

The data set from the Sounding of the Atmosphere using Broadband Emission Radiometry (SABER) instrument on the Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics and Dynamics or (TIMED) spacecraft, which launched in 2001, is the first global, longterm, and continuous record of thermosphere, or upper atmospheric, emissions of Nitric oxide (NO) and Carbon dioxide (CO2).





(Above) Langley engineers working on personal air vehicle concepts between 2003 and 2005 designed this Tailfan aircraft that they called the Civetta, which translates to “little owl” in Italian, reflecting its quiet flight characteristic.

The Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) used (from left) a Cirrus SR22, a Cessna 206, and a Lancair Columbia 300. The SR22 and Columbia 300 used Langleypioneered technologies: modified wing leading edges, energy-absorbing airframes and advanced cockpit display.

Lesa B. Roe


Roe became the first female director of Langley in October 2005 after serving as deputy director and associate director for business management. Her career included 20 years in engineering, technical and managerial positions within the government and private industry. An electrical engineer, her background included four years of management within the International Space Station Program. She advocated for revitalized facilities at Langley and instituted a multiyear plan to demolish outdated facilities and build environmentally efficient ones.




Chapter 10: A New Century

Chapter 10: A New Century

Rocket Planes on Mars

757 Retires

Hypersonic Testing

X-43 forebodies used in wind tunnel tests. LRC-2008-B701_P-01660

Langley’s 757 Airborne Research Integrated Experiments System (ARIES) departed the center in September 2006 to be put into flyable storage. (Above) Langley crew chief Dale Bowser waves from the door while engineer Wendy Pennington takes a picture of the nose door autographed by crew members and researchers.

The 12-foot-long X-43A demonstrated airframe-integrated supersonic ramjet (scramjet) propulsion at hypersonic speeds. Langley led the project and developed hypersonic technology. Dryden was responsible for flight research. The unmanned vehicles were mated to a Pegasus XL rocket-powered booster launched from a NASA B-52B. After the Pegasus accelerated to a specified test condition, the X-43A ejected from the booster and was powered by the scramjet engine. After data were collected, the X-43A fell into the Pacific Ocean at a designated place. The first X-43A flight in June 2001 failed when the Pegasus became erratic and was destroyed. On March 27, 2004, the second X-43A successfully flew and set a world speed record for air breathing aircraft of Mach 6.83 or about 4,900 mph. The third X-43A flight on November 16, 2004, reached a speed of Mach 9.6, or almost 7,000 mph.

Dr. Joel Levine is shown here with the ARES Mars airplane concept which was designed and tested at NASA Langley. The flyer was also tested in the Earth’s atmosphere at an altitude of over 100,000 feet (about 20 miles high) where the density and pressure is comparable to that of the Mars atmosphere near the surface.

Mars Rovers

The NESC LRC-2014-B701_P-01162

The NASA Engineering and Safety Center (NESC) was created after the Columbia tragedy to perform independent testing, analysis and technical assessments for NASA’s high-risk projects to ensure safety and mission success. The NESC focuses on technical excellence and proactive engagement to give the Agency a powerful resource for problem resolution and prevention. The organization was initially headed by Ralph Roe (above).


(Above) Program manager Vincent Rausch examines a 3-percent Pegasus XL model in the 20-Inch Mach 6 Tunnel.


Langley developed aeroshells and parachutes for the Mars Exploration Rover (MER) that carried Spirit and Opportunity. Prasun Desai, above, Langley Mars Exploration Rover mission lead, with a photo of an artist’s concept of the rover.


(Right) A B-52 with the Pegasus and X-43 payload. The first X-43A at Dryden for ground testing.


Chapter 10: A New Century

Chapter 10: A New Century

Return to Flight

Space Shuttle Testing

Glass Cockpit

NASA KSC-99pp0441

Atlantis was the first Shuttle equipped with a new Multifunction Electronic Display System (MEDS) based on Langley-developed glass cockpit technology.

LARSS Intern Program NASA


From left, astronauts of the Discovery STS-114 Return to Flight, Steve Robinson, Jim Kelly, Andy Thomas, Wendy Lawrence, Charlie Camarda, Eileen Collins and Siochi Noguci. The mission’s primary objectives were to test and evaluate new safety procedures. Langley astronaut Steve Robinson performed 3 spacewalks, one to demonstrate protective tile repair techniques, the second to install a space shelf to hold spare parts and the third to pull loose thermal protection tile gap-fillers. Langley astronaut Charlie Camarda is a thermal structures expert, awarded for developing a heat-pipe cooled sandwich panel for space shuttle structures.

Langley astronaut Charlie Camarda onboard the International Space Station with drills developed by Langley technician Ron Penner, designed to attach a patch to the shuttle leading edge.


In April 2006, NASA observed the 25th anniversary of the first space shuttle flight. (Above) Langley retiree William “Bill” Woods holds some of the many shuttle concepts that he tested during configuration assessments.

Otherworldly Habitats

Columbia Investigation


(Below) A carbon-silicon carbide material developed at Langley as a patch for the space shuttle wing leading edge.

Virginia Space Grant Consortium

The Langley Aerospace Research Student Scholars (LARSS) program provided internships for college students. Created by Director of Education Dr. Samuel Massenberg Sr. (left) with Roger Hathaway, then University Affairs Officer.


STA-54 being dispensed in a lab. This was a candidate material developed at Langley to fill in cracks between shuttle tiles and door seals. A cylinder designed to be carried by an astronaut held the material, which flew on Discovery’s STS-114 Return to Flight mission in July 2005.

LRC-2004-B701_P-00818 LRC-2003-B701_P01721

Langley’s Thomas Horvath inspecting a shuttle model in the 20-Inch Mach 6 Tunnel during the Columbia accident investigation.




A 12-foot inflatable habitat at Langley for materials and radiation studies. (Left) Project leader Karen Whitley in the habitat. (Below right) Langley’s Kathy Barnstorff and newscaster Joe Flanagan of WVEC in front of the habitat.

In September 2005, Langley celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Aircraft Landing Dynamics Facility (ALDF). (Above) Researcher Tom Yager briefs observers at the ALDF’s steel carriage.


Chapter 10: A New Century

Full Scale’s Last Test

Ares 1-X

The last project of the Langley Full Scale Tunnel was the Boeing X-48C, a modification of earlier blendedwing-body configurations.

Stability of the launch abort configuration was evaluated in the Spin Tunnel.

(Above) Testing in the Unitary Tunnel.


IRVE Heat Shield

Langley led the development of the aerodynamic data book for the Ares I-X rocket, and initiated planning and analysis for similar activity for an Ares V.

(Left) Vehicle dynamics studies in the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel.


Langley researchers developed the Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment (IRVE) to demonstrate a heat shield concept for larger payloads. Launched from NASA Wallops (right), it successfully completed inflation and re-entry.



The IRVE being prepared for launch.

Ares I-X being transported to the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center in October 2009.



Chapter 10: A New Century


NACA Reunion

Virginia Space Grant Consortium

The Virginia Aerospace Science and Technology Scholars (VASTS) program is an interactive online science, technology, engineering and mathematics learning experience combined with a problembased summer academy at NASA.

The Box



The final NACA reunion in May 2008 was sponsored by Langley, with 360 attendees from 30 states. Langley retirees Milt Holt (left) and Duncan McIver were the hard-working organizers of the very successful event.

In January 2008 Hollywood came to Langley to film the psychological-thriller movie “The Box,” starring Cameron Diaz, James Marsden and Frank Langella. The Full Scale Tunnel test section was transformed into a mystical headquarters office.

16-Foot Transonic Tunnel Closes The 16-Foot Transonic Tunnel (building 1146) closed in September 2004. The last test was a NASA/Air Force/Boeing study of the Scramjet Engine Demonstrator, known as X-51 (below).

Barbara Durling Barbara J. Durling was hired at Langley as a mathematician in 1944. She authored or co-authored 13 NASA technical publications on propellers, vehicle rendezvous maneuvers, impact dynamics of lunarlanding vehicles, panel vibrations studies of the space shuttle, dynamic loads of flexible aircraft, and received the NASA Exceptional Service Medal. Durling died as an active Langley employee after a 56-year career. A plaque was dedicated in her honor in July 2003 in Langley’s Structural Dynamics Facility (building 1293). (Below) Langley Associate Director Doug Dwoyer (left), Durling, and Director of Aeronautics Roy Harris.

D75H1679 NASA, LRC-1997-B701_P-02913



Langley’s Michael Finneran and Michael O’Hara, worked to obtain a Langley Research Center special license plate with the help of Virginia State Sen. Marty Williams, who sponsored it.

Chapter 11

2010-2017 To w a r d t h e F u t u r e

NASA Langley engineers and partners dropped various versions of NASA’s Orion spacecraft into the 20-foot-deep Hydro Impact Basin to understand how the spacecraft may behave when landing under its parachutes in different wind conditions and wave heights during deep space missions.. LRC-2012-B701_P-00430


Chapter 11: Toward the Future

Chapter 11: Toward the Future

New Headquarters

Pad Abort 1

Mars Science Laboratory

The TDT at 50



LRC-2013-B701 P-00137

In 2010, NASA conducted a successful Pad Abort 1 (PA-1) flight test at the White Sands Missile Range to assess the effectiveness of a rocket-powered abort system for the Orion crew capsule. (Left) The launch abort vehicle being prepared for launch for the PA-1 test.

(Above) In 2011, Langley opened its new Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) award-winning 79,000-square-foot Headquarters Building (building 2101).


The rover Curiosity successfully landed on Mars on August 6, 2012. The rover was a component of the NASA Mars Science Lab (MSL) that launched in November 2011. Langley led the modeling and simulations of the entry, descent, and landing of the spacecraft. Langley also led the development of an instrument suite of 14 embedded sensors in the heat shield to measure atmospheric conditions and heat shield performance during descent with MSL Entry, Descent & Landing Instrument (MEDLI) (left). Langley helped design the parachute system, and developed Curiosity’s laser that vaporizes rocks to learn their composition. The MEDLI results will significantly influence how we send future robotic and human missions to Mars.


The Langley Transonic Dynamics Tunnel (TDT) celebrated its 50th anniversary with tours and a ceremony. Associate Administrator for Mission Support Woodrow Whitlow, Jr., whose career began in the TDT, gave remarks. NASA

Toward the Future NASA initiated a new X-plane program in 2016 – inspired in part by the results of Langley studies.


In April 2014, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden announced that Langley Director Lesa Roe had been selected as the agency’s deputy associate administrator. She was succeeded by Deputy Director Stephen Jurczyk. After serving as director for less than a year, Jurczyk was named associate administrator of the Space Technology Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters. Dr. David Bowles was appointed Langley’s 13th director in June 2015.

to reduce the size of control surfaces, and studies of surface coatings to minimize the adverse effects of insect residue on laminar flow control concepts. Partnerships with industry and the Department of Defense resulted in encouraging results for alternate aircraft fuels, and wind-tunnel studies of advanced configurations identified advantages of unconventional designs. NASA initiated a new X-plane program in 2016, inspired in part by the results of Langley studies.

In February 2017, Langley’s earth observing SAGE III on International Space Station (ISS) instrument was carried on SpaceX’s commercial cargo spacecraft Dragon on a Falcon 9 rocket to the ISS.

A new composite layup robot, the Integrated Structural Assembly of Advanced Composites (ISAAC), was installed with exciting new applications, efficiency and design options available in the important new field of formed composites structures.

Advancements in aeronautics included active flow control

Langley led the development of the aerodynamic database for

the new NASA Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket. The center also led and developed elements of the aerodynamics database for the Orion crew capsule, as well its launch abort system. Earlier Langley research on the HL-20 vehicle inspired industry to begin development of a reusable automated spaceplane known as the Dream Chaser to resupply the International Space Station. Its configuration refinement was based on cooperative tests in Langley wind tunnels. A new generation Langley concept known as IRVE-3 was demonstrated during a highly successful launch from the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in which it was deployed and re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere at Mach 10, surviving temperatures of

about 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and forces up to 20-gs. As part of its reinvestment strategy, Langley constructed several new buildings in the West Area, including a new Headquarters building, an Integrated Engineering Services Building and the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility, named for the woman who calculated the spaceflight of Alan Shepard, the first American in space. Langley also broke ground for the Measurement Systems Laboratory in April 2017. Langley celebrated the 50th anniversary of the Langley Transonic Dynamics Tunnel, the 45th anniversary of the Langley Colloquium Series, the 40th anniversary of the first successful Mars landing of the Langley-led Viking project and the 10th anniversary of the CALIPSO (Cloud-Aerosol Lidar

In 2015, the first 19 honorees were inducted into the Langley NACA and NASA Hall of Honor.


Chapter 11: Toward the Future

Chapter 11: Toward the Future

Having an Impact on Research

Dream Chaser


NASA, LRC-2013-B701_P-00368

Sierra Nevada

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s commercial spacecraft, Dream Chaser, shown attached to the International Space Station in an artist’s illustration, is based on HL-20. (Above top) Langley’s Bruce Jackson (left) briefs astronauts Rex Walheim (center) and Gregory Johnson before Dream Chaser evaluations in the Cockpit Motion Facility (building 1268). (Above bottom) A 10-inch Dream Chaser model is evaluated in the 31-Inch Mach 10 Tunnel (building 1251).

An Orion Crew Module ground test article undergoing a test for water landing at Langley’s Hydro Impact Basin.


Air Traffic Management


Hole-Punched Clouds and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observation) satellite. In 2015, the first 19 honorees were inducted into the Langley NACA and NASA Hall of Honor in observance of their exemplary contributions. The event was held in concurrence with the 100th anniversary of the NACA. A second induction ceremony occurred for the 100th anniversary of Langley in 2017. The book Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly detailed the outstanding contributions and personal lives of AfricanAmerican women mathematicians at Langley. The book, a best seller, was also the basis of a movie that depicted Katherine Johnson; Mary Jackson, who became the first African-American female engineer at Langley; and Dorothy Vaughan, who became the first African-American branch head.  NASA

The Integrated Structural Assembly of Advanced Composites (ISAAC), a versatile robot to fabricate lighter, stronger composite structures, was installed in the Advanced Manufacturing Facility (building 1232A).


NASA Administrator Charles Bolden visited Langley for air traffic management technology briefings. Researcher Randy Bailey (right) with Bolden in the Cockpit Motion Facility.

Langley’s Patrick Minnis co-authored a paper on “hole punch” clouds caused by aircraft gaining altitude through a supercooled cloud. Results suggest that the effect may enhance precipitation near airports. NASA



Chapter 11: Toward the Future

Chapter 11: Toward the Future


Impact Research


(Left) An instrumented CH-46 helicopter was dropped with 15 crash-test dummies in a joint NASA, Navy, Army, FAA and industry program for composite structures test and mitigation of occupant injury.


Langley is partnering with Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory and Ball Aerospace & Technology Corporation on the Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) instrument, which will be the first space-based instrument to monitor major air pollutants across the North American continent every daylight hour at high spatial resolution.

Environmentally Responsible Aviation

Stephen Jurczyk Jurczyk became Langley’s director in April 2014. He began his NASA career at Langley as an electronics engineer. He managed the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission and formulated technology development strategy for the Earth Science Enterprise while on a detail to NASA Headquarters. He was an instrument systems engineer and the spacecraft systems manager for the Landsat 7 at NASA Goddard. He also served as director of systems engineering, director of research and technology, and deputy director at Langley.


Virginia Air & Space Center

Investigating Insects



(Above) An MD-500 helicopter was dropped to evaluate a deployable Kevlar honeycomb energy absorber.

After nine outstanding years as director of Langley, Lesa Roe was appointed as NASA’s deputy associate administrator in May 2014. Her legacy at Langley includes a highly successful initiation of Langley’s revitaliztion and a close relationship with the Langley staff.


Lesa Roe


A blended-wing body model is tested in the 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel (building 1212) as part of the NASA’s Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project.


Helping in a Crisis In December 2011, the Langley Colloquium celebrated its 40th anniversary. Wernher von Braun gave the first talk. Keith Henry, who narrated the anniversary presentation, and Sheila Thibeault, one of the group to suggest the series, reminisce at the celebration.


(Above) Researchers from NASA Langley flew nonstick wing coatings on Boeing’s ecoDemonstrator 757 in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 2015. The engineers assessed how well five different coatings worked to prevent insect remains from sticking to the leading edge of the airplane’s right wing.


The Virginia Air & Space Center (VASC) added an Orion space capsule test model built at Langley. The VASC is the only museum where the Mercury, Gemini, Apollo and Orion space capsules are on display.



(Left) Researcher John Gardner inside the Basic Aerodynamic Research Tunnel (BART) preparing a model wing to evaluate surface coatings to prevent insect residue buildup.


The NASA Engineering and Safety Center’s Clint Cragg assisted with the rescue of 33 trapped Chilean miners. NASA helped design a 13-foot rescue capsule that was a complete success.



Chapter 11: Toward the Future



Space Launch System (SLS)

Parents, teachers and students can become citizen scientists working with NASA satellite data with the GLOBE Clouds app. Citizen scientists can check for satellite flyover times, make their observation, record their data, send the data to NASA and review NASA’s observation data with the app.


Exploration Flight Test-1 launched Orion from Cape Canaveral for two Earth orbits to evaluate the heat shield and parachute.

World Tour for Science Langley led and participated in dozens of field campaigns across the globe to help better understand our planet. DISCOVER-AQ and ACT-America flew across the U.S. to study air quality and carbon transport. In 2016, KORUS-AQ began assessing air quality across urban, rural and coastal South Korea. NAAMES took to the air from St. John’s, Newfoundland, and by sea from Woods Hole, Mass., to meet in the North Atlantic, home to the world’s largest phytoplankton bloom, to study plankton production, species composition, and aerosol emissions. Many other campaigns stretched across the world to collect important scientific data and test technologies for future space-based missions.


(Above) NASA’s heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS) in the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel (building 648).

After launch in 2015, RaD-X provided first-time indications of how cosmic rays deposit energy at the top of the atmosphere where commercial airlines fly.

(Right) The EFT-1 Orion heat shield was delivered to Langley for water-impact tests.

(Far right) Engineers and technicians prepare an SLS stack model for testing in the 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel (building 1212).






Chapter 11: Toward the Future


Hidden Figures

Langley retiree Katherine Johnson received the Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama in 2015 for her work calculating space flight trajectories. Among others honored was baseball legend Willie Mays (right).


Boeing’s 757 ecoDemonstrator paid a visit to Langley in June 2015. NASA used the aircraft to demonstrate Langley concepts, including: insect-resistant coatings, tiny flow actuators for the Active Flow Control Enhanced Vertical Tail Flight Experiment, and Airborne Spacing for Terminal Area Arrival Routes software for more efficient flight. (Above) Employees and news media flocked to the display in the hangar.

NASA 23204580911_018 NASA

Laser Testing the Kiowa


Margot Lee Shetterly’s bestselling book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race highlights stories of some of Langley’s African-American computers.

(Right) In May 2016, Langley named its new research facility the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility (building 2103).

Dr. David Bowles An Army Kiowa Warrior helicopter model in the Langley 14 by 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel for tests using lasermeasurement techniques.


Dr. David Bowles became Langley’s 13th director in June 2015. He began his career as an advanced materials researcher. He was airframe structures integrity and composites manager for NASA’s Advanced Subsonic Technology Program and Vehicle Systems Research and Technology project manager for NASA’s Next Generation Launch Technology Program. He then became director of Langley’s Exploration and Space Operations Directorate.



Installed on the International Space Station in 2017, the SAGE III instrument is used to study ozone, a gas in the upper atmosphere that serves as Earth’s protective sunscreen.




Christine Darden (standing from left), Janet Stephens, Kathryn Smith, Sharon Stack and (seated) Katherine Johnson, who were all computers at one time in their careers.


Shetterly at Langley for a Women’s Month celebration.


Chapter 11: Toward the Future

Chapter 11: Toward the Future

Port in a Storm



The Inflatable Re-entry Vehicle Experiment 3 (IRVE-3) was launched from NASA Wallops. It carried a 680-pound heat shield called a Hypersonic Inflatable Aerodynamic Decelerator (HIAD) that expanded to almost 10 feet in diameter, and then survived re-entry speeds of up to 7,600 mph. (Left) Artist’s concept of a 30-foot diameter HIAD. (Above) Engineers packing the IRVE-3 before flight. NASA

New Concepts

A-Train Satellites

The group of satellites termed the Afternoon Constellation, or A-Train, observe dust in the atmosphere, which can reflect sunlight, affecting Earth’s energy budget and weather. (Left) A widespread plume of dust from the Sahara Desert over the Canary Islands. NASA LRC-2014-B701_P-0001

As Tropical Storm Hermine steamed up the East Coast in September 2016, neighboring Langley Air Force Base reached out to NASA Langley to see if Langley could shelter a few F-22 Raptors. Even though the hangar already had a large visitor — a NASA C-130 — and other research airplanes, it was able to shelter more than a dozen fighters. The facility is rated for at least a Category 2 hurricane.

Langley studied revolutionary configurations like this Boeing externally braced wing concept in the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel (building 648). NASA



Chapter 11: Toward the Future

Chapter 11: Toward the Future


Viking Project Looks Back at 40



(Above) Viking Mission manager Thomas Young at the Viking 40th anniversary symposium. NASA

The Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) consists of reflected solar infrared spectrometers that will measure the Earth system with unprecedented accuracy. According to Bruce Wielicki, CLARREO science team lead, CLARREO accuracy will do for climate observations what GPS did for navigation.

(Left) The Viking Project celebrated its 40th anniversary in July 2016, with a two-day gathering at Langley. NASA historians (left to right) Glenn Bugos and Erik Conway and the Smithsonian’s Roger Launius reviewed the accomplishments of the project.


Honda Aircraft Co. funded wind-tunnel investigations of its advanced business aircraft, the HondaJet. (Above) A HondaJet in Langley’s hangar for inspection by staff and the media. (Left) A model being tested in the National Transonic Facility.


PRSEUS and the Super Guppy CHIEFS

A New Multifaceted Building


U.S. Forest Service

The Convective Heating for Improvement for Emergency Fire Shelters (CHIEFS) partnership was formed to provide materials, tests, and design for improved shelters for wildfire fighters. Shown are: Langley engineer Mary Beth Wusk (right), Canadian researcher Mark Ackerman (standing) and U.S. Forest Service Fire Shelter Project lead Tony Petrilli (leaning over the shelter).


In October 2014, the Integrated Engineering Services Building (IESB) opened. It includes a flight mission support center, engineering design center, distance learning studios, training rooms, the Reid Conference Center and the Pearl Young Theater.

(Right) In December 2014, NASA’s Super Guppy transport aircraft delivered a huge composite fuselage test section, known as the Pultruded Rod Stitched Efficient Unitized Structure (PRSEUS) to Langley for structural testing in the Langley Combined Loads Test System (COLTS) facility (above).




Chapter 11: Toward the Future

Chapter 11: Toward the Future

Langley Research Center NACA and NASA Hall of Honor As part of the celebration of the NACA Centennial in 2015, Langley Research Center and the Langley Alumni Association initiated a Hall of Honor to recognize the exemplary careers of past employees and to reflect on the notable contributions that were instrumental to Langley’s success. A second class of honorees was inducted as part of Langley’s Centennial celebration in 2017.

THE CLASS of 2015 Ira H. Abbott

“In recognition of outstanding contributions to the development of the NACA-series of airfoils, and exemplary leadership of NACA and NASA programs of critical national importance.“

John V. Becker

“In recognition of pioneering contributions

to the technology of hypersonic flight, including design of the 11-Inch Hypersonic Tunnel and visionary leadership that culminated in the X-15 research aircraft.“

Maxime A. Faget

“In recognition of extraordinary engineering insights and innovation that enabled Project Mercury, and technical leadership of development of NASA’s manned space systems, from Mercury to the Space Shuttle.“

Robert R. Gilruth

“In recognition of pioneering contributions

to the quantitative understanding of aircraft handling qualities, concepts for flight testing in lieu of wind-tunnel testing, and leadership of America’s manned spaceflight program.“

John C. Houbolt

“In recognition of single-handed, unwavering advocacy of the lunar-orbit-rendezvous concept that enabled accomplishment of President Kennedy’s objective of a manned mission to the moon and back, during the decade.“

Eastman Jacobs

“In recognition of pioneering development of the NACA-series of airfoils — especially the laminar flow series — and design of important Langley wind-tunnel facilities.“

Robert T. Jones

“In recognition of extraordinary contributions to the fundamental understanding of aerodynamic principles, and development of the ‘swept-back’ wing enabling efficient supersonic flight.“

Samuel Katzoff

“In recognition of pioneering contributions

to the theoretical understanding of fundamental aerodynamic phenomena, and leadership to ensure the quality of NACA and NASA research publications.“

Christopher C. Kraft, Jr.

“In recognition of early research in air-

craft handling qualities; and subsequent creation of the concepts and processes for the planning, execution, and control of manned spaceflight missions.“

Eugene S. Love

“In recognition of pioneering contributions to the technology of lifting bodies for controlled entry from space  –  especially the HL-10  –  and leadership of Langley’s critical roles in development of the Space Shuttle.“

Max M. Munk

“In recognition of development of thin

airfoil theory, and the revolutionary Variable Density Wind Tunnel.“

W. Hewitt Phillips

“In recognition of pioneering research in aircraft flight dynamics and development of multiple, unique simulation technologies at Langley – specifically, the Lunar Landing and Differential Maneuvering Simulator Facilities.“

John P. Reeder

“In recognition of an exemplary career as NACA and NASA’s preeminent test pilot; and his critical role in the development and implementation of the Terminal Configured Vehicle Program.“


Henry J. E. Reid

“In recognition of development of the NACA V-G Recorder, and exemplary leadership during a storied career as Engineer-inCharge of the NACA Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory and Director of the NASA Langley Research Center.“

John Stack

“In recognition of pioneering research and leadership related to the challenges of supersonic flight, including leadership of the X-1 Program, and contributions to development of the slotted-wall wind tunnel.“

Theodore Theodorsen

“In recognition of ground-breaking research on the phenomenon of aircraft flutter, and development of the use of freon in wind tunnels to enable aeroelastic testing in simulated flight-like environments.“

Fred E. Weick

“In recognition of pioneering full-scale propeller research, development of the low-drag NACA engine cowling, and spinresistant aircraft design.“

THE CLASS of 2017 Clinton E. Brown

“In recognition of exemplary technical contributions to enhance the performance of swept leading-edge wings for supersonic flight and leadership of NACA and NASA’s early research into the challenges of hypersonic and space flight.”

Robert A. Champine

“In recognition of an extraordinary career as an NACA and NASA test pilot – pioneering flight evaluation of research aircraft ranging from supersonic (X-1) to helicopters; development of simulators critical to the training of Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo astronauts; and leadership of astronaut training.”

“In recognition of pioneering contributions to the understanding of aircraft noise generation and suppression mechanisms, leading to dramatic reductions in aircraft noise; and conception and establishment of the Langley Aircraft Noise Reduction Laboratory.”

Mary W. Jackson

Smith J. DeFrance

Katherine G. Johnson

Charles J. Donlan

Joel S. Levine

“In recognition of leadership of the design, construction, and early operations of iconic Langley test facilities – the Full Scale Tunnel, 19-Foot Pressure Tunnel, Propeller Research Tunnel, and 8-Foot High-Speed Tunnel.”

Pearl I. Young

Cornelius Driver

to the NACA and NASA resulting from her personal establishment of systems that ensured the accuracy, thoroughness, and quality of technical publications.”

Harvey H. Hubbard

“In recognition of contributions to critical Langley programs including rocketboosted supersonic model research, satellite launches, lunar observations, missions to Mars, and characterization of phenomena in severe storms.”

“In recognition of revolutionary contributions to the science of aerospace – the area rule, supercritical wing, and winglets – that enabled supersonic flight of military aircraft, and energy-efficient flight of commercial aircraft.“

“In recognition of enduring contributions

“In recognition of extraordinary technical contributions and leadership of NASA research on supersonic civil and advanced military aircraft, and service to programs of critical national security interest.”

“In honor and recognition of the ambition and motivation that enabled her career progression from “human computer” to NASA’s first African-American female engineer, and subsequent career supporting the hiring and promotion of other deserving female and minority employees.”

Norman L. Crabill

“In recognition of early research into the challenges of high-speed flight, leadership within the Space Task Group – including selection and training of Mercury astronauts – and consummate service as Langley Deputy Center Director, and Manager of the fledging Space Shuttle Program.”

Richard T. Whitcomb

Roy V. Harris, Jr.

“In recognition of sustained advocacy for, and engineering leadership of, NASA programs to provide the technological foundation for civil commercial supersonic transports and other revolutionary aerospace concepts and configurations.”

“In recognition of contributions to the development of methodologies for analysis of manned mission (from Mercury to Apollo) and satellite (Echo) trajectories, and dynamic control of large space structures.”

M. Patrick McCormick

“In recognition of pioneering development of remote sensing capabilities (both space-based and ground-based), and research analyses that have significantly contributed to scientific understanding of the Earth’s atmospheric processes.”

Edward C. Polhamus

“In recognition of extraordinary aerodynamic insights which enabled practical variable sweep wings and vortex flow control for high-performance military aircraft; and vision, advocacy, and leadership that led to realization of the National Transonic Facility at Langley.”

James H. Starnes, Jr.

“In recognition of personal contributions, and leadership of pioneering research in advanced metallic and composite structures, that heralded their use in aircraft, spacecraft, and launch vehicles.”

Floyd L. Thompson

“In recognition of exemplary leadership of Langley research programs spanning both the NACA and NASA eras, and especially as Langley Center Director during the formative years of NASA’s manned spaceflight program.”

Dorothy J. Vaughan

“In recognition of a career of unparalleled contributions to the scientific understanding of the atmospheres of Mars and the Earth, and a sustained leadership role in defining the scientific objectives of future Mars exploration activities.”

“In recognition of exemplary leadership as the NACA’s first female African-American supervisor, demonstrated expertise as a programmer of the earliest digital computers, and myriad contributions to the success of the nation’s aeronautics and space programs.”

James S. Martin, Jr.

Charles H. Zimmerman

“In recognition of extraordinary leadership as Assistant Manager of the highly successful Lunar Orbiter Project, and as Manager of the Viking Project that placed the first two successful landers on the surface of Mars.”

“In recognition of a career of extraordinary innovation – design of unique facilities and radical aircraft configurations, and leadership of NASA’s aeronautics research program.”


Chapter 11: Toward the Future

Full Scale Blades in Washington, D.C.

Hall of Honor


The Langley Alumni Association and Langley Research Center instituted a Hall of Honor to recognize individuals who had exemplary careers and to inspire current and future employees. Nineteen individuals were inducted on August 13, 2015, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the NACA. (Top) 102-year-old honoree, John Becker and his daughter Mary Maddox discuss his career with retiree Joseph Chambers. (Bottom) Retiree Bill Gilbert unveils honoree portraits at the ceremony. NASA

A four-bladed fan from the Full Scale Tunnel on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. At the top of the picture is America’s first jet aircraft, the Bell P-59, which was tested in the tunnel in 1944.

Measurement Systems Laboratory Artists concept of the Measurement Systems Laboratory (MSL), a 175,000-squarefoot research facility for development of electronics, lasers, and instrumentation. The ground was broken for the building in April 2017.


60 Years of Service NASA

Heritage Site Recognition In May 2015, the American Helicopter Society (AHS) recognized Langley’s contributions to helicopters and vertical/short takeoff and landing (V/STOL) aircraft.

Recognized as one of the best federal agency workplaces, NASA has had many long-serving employees. Three had Langley careers of over 60 years: (left to right) M. Leroy Spearman, William I. “Bill” Scallion, and Melvin H. Lucy. Spearman and Scallion have passed away. Lucy is an active Langley professional. LRC-2003-B701_P-00009 LRC-1988-B701_P-12144 LRC-2016-B701_P-01483


(Left to right) Administrator Charles Bolden, Langley Director Dave Bowles, AHS Executive Director Mike Hirschberg and NASA Associate Administrator for Aeronautics Jaiwon Shin. The background photograph shows Langley researchers who participated in flight testing of the XC-142 tilt-wing V/STOL. NASA


Employees gather on the runway apron of the hangar for a photo celebrating Langley’s 100th anniversary.

Chapter 12

Chapter 11: Toward the Future

Further Reading



angley’s accomplishments over the past 100 years are extraordinary. The NACA constructed the laboratory in 1920–at a time when aviation experts disagreed on whether heavier-than-air airplanes would displace dirigibles as transportation systems and flights to the moon and Mars were the subject of science fiction, not flight research. No one could have anticipated the giant leaps in technology that this national treasure would contribute. The development of world-class wind tunnels and labs by NACA Langley quickly led to breakthroughs in aviation; and many of the facilities were adapted to new, unanticipated applications, extending their years of usefulness far beyond those anticipated by their designers. Many continued to serve as NASA facilities. During World War II, the NACA Langley supplied critical data for the nation’s warplanes. The NACA added laboratories in California and Ohio that broadened support for the nation’s air power. These new laboratories began operations with leadership and staff from Langley. After the war, Langley advanced technology with the development of supersonic X-planes and supersonic wind tunnels. Recognizing the possibility of human flight beyond the atmosphere, and introducing new facilities to address the major barriers to space flight during the last days of the NACA, the Langley staff prepared the United States for space research. The experience with supersonic flight provided the technical foundation for those who led the response to the Soviet challenge of Sputnik and the race to the moon. The legendary contributions of Langley personnel and facilities during Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo ensured success. The NASA space program brought fundamental changes in Langley’s mission. Langley metamorphosed from an aeronautics research laboratory to an aerospace research organization of a space-enthused nation. The change was evident in augmentation of funding and staffing levels. As the legendary Max Faget once quipped, “the difference was as basic as NA¢A and NA$A!” Victory in the race to the Moon, coupled with pressing social concerns resulted in a reduction of public interest in space in the 1970s. Researchers continued to push the challenges of high-speed flight within and outside the earth’s atmosphere to support future aerospace goals. Work began on the development of winged and wingless vehicles that could exit and reenter the atmosphere by gliding, forming the foundation for the Space Shuttle program.


Langley experts pioneered computer-based design tools in all disciplines, and developed piloted simulators for assessment of revolutionary aerospace vehicles. The Center was at the forefront of a supersonic civil transport development, contributing vehicle configurations and providing leadership in research to minimize sonic boom noise. Langley’s research to improve flight extended to efforts to understand the atmosphere, which led to becoming a world leader in atmospheric sciences, providing instruments, data, analyses, and management for programs that increase knowledge of our home planet. Returning retirees and visitors are struck by the changes to the campus. The disappearance of wind tunnels and laboratories is nostalgic for those that labored in them, but their contributions are the foundation for current breakthroughs and new technologies. New facilities such as the Katherine G. Johnson Computational Research Facility (KGJCRF) and the Measurement Sciences Laboratory (MSL) will provide state-of-the-art research space. The KGJCRF will push forward science and aerospace computer modeling and simulation. The MSL will house laser and lidar labs to advance sensor technology. The new Integrated Engineering Services Building offers new technology and new ways of collaborating across the Agency, such as the flight mission support center, the engineering design center, and the digital learning network that were unheard of when Langley began. Langley’s leadership is looking to the future, in addition to developing state of the art research facilities based on Langley’s strategic plan, they are looking at the future aerospace and science needs of the nation. In conjunction with NASA leadership and our country’s leadership, they are planning a way forward that will keep the United States at the forefront. The next 100 years will bring many opportunities as we strive to develop technology for safer, more efficient aircraft, spacecraft that will bring humans to Mars and instruments to learn more about our home planet and other planets that humans may explore. The next century will see exciting and inspiring innovations, provided by a new generation that builds on the accomplishments celebrated in this book. The key to Langley’s success is the generations who dedicated themselves to achieving the nation’s aerospace and science goals at this amazing place. Through them, NASA Langley Research Center has a storied legacy and a soaring future. 

This list of publications is relevant to the 100-year history of the NASA Langley Research Center. Many of the documents are available as free downloads on the Internet, and URL addresses for these are listed. 1.  Baals, Donald D. and Corliss, William R., Wind Tunnels of NASA, NASA SP440 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1981). http://history.nasa.gov/SP-440/cover.htm 2. Becker, John V., The High-Speed Frontier NASA SP 445 (Washington, DC:, 1980). http://www.hq.nasa.gov/office/pao/History/SP-445/cover. htm 3.  Chambers, Joseph R., and Chambers, Mark A., Emblems of Exploration: Logos of the NACA and NASA NASA SP-2015-4556 (Washington, DC: GPO, 2015). http://www.nasa.gov/connect/ebooks/emblems_of_ exploration_detail.html 4. Chambers, Joseph R., Cave of the Winds: The Remarkable History of the Langley Full-Scale Wind Tunnel NASA SP-2014-614 (Washington, DC: GPO, 2014). http://www.nasa.gov/connect/ebooks/cave_of_the_winds_ detail.html 5. Chambers, Joseph R., Concept to Reality: Contributions of the NASA Langley Research Center to U.S. Civil Aircraft of the 1990s, NASA SP2003-4529 (Washington, DC: GPO, 2003). https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/ nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20030059513.pdf 6.  Chambers, Joseph R., Innovation in Flight: Research of the NASA Langley Research Center on Revolutionary Advanced Concepts for Aeronautics, NASA SP 2005-4539 (Washington, DC: GPO, 2005). http://history.nasa. gov/monograph39/mon39_a.pdf 7.  Chambers, Joseph R., Modeling Flight: The Role of Dynamically Scaled Free-Flight Models in Support of NASA’s Aerospace Programs NASA SP-2009-575 (Washington, DC: GPO, 2009). http://www.nasa.gov/ pdf/483000main_ModelingFlight.pdf 8.  Chambers, Joseph R., Partners in Freedom: Contributions of the Langley Research Center to U.S. Military Aircraft of the 1990’s, NASA SP-20004519 (Washington, DC: GPO, 2000). http://www.nasa.gov/centers/ langley/pdf/70897main_PiF.pdf 9. Curtis, Robert I.; Mitchell, John; and Copp, Martin, Langley Field, The Early Years 1916–1946 (Langley AFB, VA: Office of History, 4500th Air Base Wing, 1977). Commercially available. https://crgis.ndc.nasa.gov/ crgis/images/8/86/40_Years_of_Aeronautical_Research_Hunsaker.pdf 10.  Gray, George W., Frontiers of Flight: The Story of NACA Research (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1948). Commercially available. 11.  Hansen, James R., Enchanted Rendezvous: John C. Houbolt and the Genesis of the Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous Concept, NASA Monographs in Aerospace History No. 4 https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs. nasa.gov/19960014824.pdf

13.  Hansen, James R., Spaceflight Revolution: NASA Langley Research Center from Sputnik to Apollo, NASA SP-4308 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1995). http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4308/sp4308.htm 14.  Hunsaker, J.C., “Forty Years of Aeronautical Research,” Annual Report to the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution for 1955, Publication 4232 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1955) 15.  Keller, Michael David, “Fifty Years of Flight Research: A Chronology of the Langley Research Center, 1917–1966,” NASA TM-X-59314 (1966). https://crgis.ndc.nasa.gov/crgis/images/a/aa/HHN-65.pdf 16.  NASA Cultural Resources (CRGIS) web site of major facilities and historical material, https://crgis.ndc.nasa.gov/historic/Langley_Research_Center 17.  National Aeronautic Association, “Collier Trophy: About The Award,” https://naa.aero/awards/awards-and-trophies/collier-trophy 18.  Newcomb, John, A Bunch of Plumbers, High Tide Publications (Deltaville, VA, 2015). Commercially available. 19.  Phillips, W. Hewitt , Journey in Aeronautical Research: A Career at NASA Langley Research Center, NASA Monographs in Aerospace History Number 12 (Washington, DC: NASA History Office, 1998). http://history. nasa.gov/monograph12/monograph12.htm 20.  Phillips, W. Hewitt, Journey into Space Research: Continuation of a Career at NASA Langley Research Center, NASA SP-2005-4540 (Washington, DC: GPO, 2005). http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4540/sp4540_1.pdf 21. Roland, Alex, Model Research: The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics 1915–1959 (Washington, DC: NASA SP-4103, 1985) http:// history.nasa.gov/SP-4103/sp4103.htm 22.  Schultz, James, Crafting Flight, NASA SP-2003-4316 (Washington, DC: GPO, 2003). http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4316.pdf 23. Shetterly, Margot Lee, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race, (William Morrow, 2016). Commercially available. 24.  Shortal, Joseph A., A New Dimension: Wallops Island Flight Test Range, the First Fifteen Years (NASA Reference Publication, No. 1028, 1978) 25.  Swenson, Loyd S., Jr, with Grimwood, James M., and Alexander, Charles C., This New Ocean: A History of Project Mercury, NASA SP-4201 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1966). http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4201/toc.htm 26.  Wallace, Lane E., Airborne Trailblazer-Two Decades with NASA Langley’s 737 Flying Laboratory, NASA SP-4216 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1994). http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4216.pdf 27.  Weick, Fred E. and Hansen, James R., From the Ground Up: The Autobiography of an Aeronautical Engineer (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institute Press, 1988). Commercially available.

12.  Hansen, James R., Engineer in Charge: A History of the Langley Aeronautical Laboratory, 1917-1958, NASA SP-4305 (Washington, DC: GPO, 1986). http://history.nasa.gov/SP-4305/sp4305.htm


Chapter 11: Toward the Future



pecial thanks for assistance and encouragement go to staff members of the NASA Langley Research Center. Richard R. Antcliff, Director of Langley’s Office of Strategic Analysis, Communications and Business Development (OSACB), provided the encouragement and mechanism for this undertaking. Gail S. Langevin of the Office of Communications served as contract manager for NASA, provided access to the Langley Historical Archives Collection, reviewed drafts and guided the overall integration of the effort. Mary E. Gainer provided photographs, documents, and support within her responsibilities for preserving Langley’s artifacts and documenting its history via the excellent site http://crgis.ndc.nasa.gov/historic/Larc, which is available for on-line public viewing. Susan K. Miller and the staff of the Langley Technical Library provided invaluable documents and information, especially on the early days of the NACA. Langley’s photo archivist Teresa L. Hornbuckle contributed outstanding support, personal research efforts, and access to previously unpublished photographs in the Langley collection. Her associates, Joseph C. Tatroe and Mary E. Sitzler, provided high-quality scans of photographic negatives, many of which required extensive enhancements. Graphics specialist Michael Sean Walsh contributed a superior job of overall design while the cover illustration is by Jenny Mottar. Appreciation is also extended to the hundreds of NACA and NASA photographers– past and present–who recorded these historic pictures of Langley and its people. Special thanks to the hundreds of writers–technical specialists, public outreach and media specialists, and historians–who recognized the historical impact of events at Langley and recorded events used in this publication. The photographic collection and history of the female computers at Langley by the late Dr. Beverly Golemba were especially valuable. Author Margot Lee Shetterly provided invaluable details regarding Langley’s African-American computers and other personalities discussed in her book Hidden Figures. Many active and retired NASA personnel provided photographs, discussions and anecdotes presented in this work. Sincere thanks to Dr. Lin H. Chambers, A. Gary Price, Walter H. Reiser, Jr., Fred D. Jones, Domenic Maglieri, Percy J. “Bud” Bobbitt, Bobby L. Berrier, Francis H. “Fran” Capone, Dennis W. Bartlett, Richard “Dick” Re, William C. “Bill” Woods, Paul G. Fournier, Kenneth R. “Dick” Yenni, G. Louis Smith, George M. Ware, H. Keith Henry, David A. Throckmorton, Christine R. Williams, Kristina Cors, Gloria Champine, and the late John Newcomb. Support for this undertaking was also provided by individuals at other


NASA Centers and organizations. Thanks are extended to historian Robert S. Arrighi of the NASA Glenn Research Center, who supplied photographs and documentation of ex-Langley personnel. Glenn E. Bugos, historian at the Ames Research Center, and photo archivist Lana L. Albaugh of Ames contributed photos from the collection of Robert T. Jones. David Throckmorton of the National Institute for Aerospace and Mary Sandy of the Virginia Space Grant Consortium provided material on their organizations. The staff of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility at College Park, Maryland was of tremendous assistance by providing access and guidance for finding original documents and photographs from its NACA and NASA collections. Particular thanks go to NARA archivists David A. Pfeiffer of the Textural Records Branch and Holly Reed of the Still Pictures Branch. William M. Butler, Deputy Command Historian of the Air Force Air Combat Command History Office, contributed photographs of early Langley Field. Thanks go to Kate Igoe of the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution for the use of photographs. Noted aviation author Tommy Thomason also provided photographs of interest. Steven T. Corneliussen and Deborah Magaldi provided valuable information on the history of the Virginia Associated Research Center and the Jefferson Lab. Ken Hyde provided his expert knowledge of historic aircraft including the gliders and powered airplanes of the Wright brothers and the Curtiss Jenny. Deborah G. Douglas, Curator of Science and Technology at the MIT Museum, and her assistant, Rachael Robinson, contributed valuable photographs and information. Debbie’s five-year tenure as Langley’s visiting historian in the mid-1990s was of considerable value in the search for materials. Appreciation is also extended to Albert Kahn Associates, Inc. and the Bentley Historical Library of the University of Michigan for permission to use the Kahn map of Langley Field in its early days.

About the Author


oseph R. Chambers is an aviation consultant who lives in Yorktown, Virginia. He retired from the NASA Langley Research Center in 1998 after a 36-year career as a researcher and manager of military and civil aeronautics research activities. He began his career in 1962 as a member of the research staff of the Langley Full Scale Tunnel, where he specialized in flight dynamics research on a variety of aerospace vehicles including V/STOL concepts, parawing vehicles, reentry bodies, and fighter aircraft configurations. In 1974, he became the head of the Full Scale Tunnel, the Langley 20-Foot Spin Tunnel, and Langley’s outdoor free-flight and drop-model testing. In 1989, he also became head of aircraft flight research at Langley in addition to his previous responsibilities. In 1994, he was assigned to organize and manage a new aeronautics group responsible for conducting systems-level analysis of the potential payoffs of NASA technologies and advanced aircraft concepts to help guide NASA research investments. Mr. Chambers is the author of over 50 NASA technical reports and publications, including: NASA Special Publications SP-514 Patterns in the Sky on airflow condensation patterns for aircraft; SP-2000-4519 Partners in Freedom on contributions of the Langley Research Center to U.S. military aircraft of the 1990s; SP-2003-4529 Concept to Reality on contributions of Langley to U.S. civil aircraft of the 1990s; SP-2005-4539 Innovation in Flight on Langley research on advanced concepts for aeronautics; SP2009-575 Modeling Flight on the use of flying models by NASA; SP-2014-614 Cave of the Winds on the history of the Langley

Full-Scale Tunnel; and SP-2015-4556 Emblems of Exploration on the history and applications of the logos of the NACA and NASA. He has written or contributed to several books for the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate of NASA Headquarters including SP-2010-570 NASA’s Contributions to Aeronautics. He has made hundreds of world-wide presentations on NASA’s research and development programs to audiences as diverse as the von Karman Institute in Belgium and the annual Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Fly-In at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and is frequently requested to address technical audiences and the public. Mr. Chambers has served as a representative of the United States on international committees and has given lectures on NASA’s aeronautics programs in Japan, China, Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, France, Germany, and Sweden. He received several of NASA’s highest awards, including the Exceptional Service Medal, the Outstanding Leadership Medal, and the Public Service Medal. He also received the esteemed Washington, D.C., Downtown Jaycees Arthur Flemming Award in 1975, as one of the 10 most outstanding civil servants in all federal agencies for his management of NASA’s stall/spin research for military and civil aircraft. He earned a bachelor of science degree in Aeronautical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology and a master of science degree in Aerospace Engineering from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech).

Finally, thanks to reviewers Michael P. Finneran, Samuel P. McDonald and Katherine A. Barnstorff, who provided copy editing. The Center leadership team also reviewed and provided comments. In addition, David F. Young (Director of Science), Walter C. Engelund (Director of Space Technology & Exploration) and George B. Finelli (Director of Aero) looked over the draft for accuracy, content and readability. Comments and suggested changes from the group resulted in a greatly enhanced document.


Chapter 11: Toward the Future

This publication is dedicated to the tens of thousands of past, current and future employees of NACA and NASA Langley, in recognition of their contributions to America’s position of global leadership in aerospace technology and climate science.


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