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Copyright 1997, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc.


Dennis M. Bushnell*
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Langley Research Center
Hampton, Virginia 23681-0001
Paper discusses future alternatives to currently deployed
systems which could provide revolutionary
improvements in metrics applicable to civilian
aeronautics with, in many cases, significant military
"spinoff." Specific missions addressed include subsonic
transports, supersonic transports, personal aircraft, and
space access. These alternative systems and concepts
are in many cases updates to known "end point" designs
enabled by recent and envisaged advancements in
electronics, communications, computing,
CFD/nonlinear aerodynamics and "Designer Fluid
Mechanics"-- in conjunction with a design approach
employing extensive synergistic interactions between
propulsion, aerodynamics and structures.
The last 50 years of aeronautics have been truly
revolutionary. In the developed world, train and ship
long haul passenger traffic has been replaced by aviation
and aviation has assumed a dominant role in warfare.
The list of revolutionary technological developments
during this period includes large swept wing near-sonic
transports of the B47-707 genre, supersonic cruise and
fighter aircraft, turbojets and ramjets, high strength
aluminums and composites, and a vast array of
avionics. Much of this progress occurred under the
dominant metric of higher, faster and larger is better and
was a continuation of aeronautical development trends
since the early 1900's.
Today and for the foreseeable future, the metrics, and
hence the nature of desired technological improvements
are "different." These "new" (civilian) metrics include
AFFORDABILrTY (initial, life cycle), productivity
(aircraft, air space), safety and the environment (noise,
pollution). Driving these metrics are global economic
competition (exacerbated by the demise of the "cold
war"), an increasing demand for air travel in the shorter
*Chief Scientist, Fellow AIAA

term, increasingly stringent environmental regulations

and the emerging competition from the ongoing
telecommunications revolution(s) wherein business
travel in particular may become increasingly replaced by
"virtual" interpersonal interaction via (eventually) 3-D
technology such as holographic projection, virtual
reality immersion, etc. Estimates indicate a 40 percent
business travel reduction over the next 20 years due to
the "teletravel" revolution with consequent (non-trivial)
reductions (the order of 1000 units) in CTOL transport
production (e.g., references 1 to 5). Such a reduction in
business air travel would leave recreational travel the
dominant market sector, a sector which is extremely
price sensitive, placing a further premium upon cost
reduction technologies.
Corresponding updated military metrics are also lead by
AFFORDABILITY, followed by responsiveness,
flexibility, lethality, survivability, logistic support and
standardization/interoperability. The present paper
places major emphasis upon the civilian sector, with
obvious military "spinoff possibilities" noted.
The current approaches to satisfying these metrics
almost universally involve incremental/evolutionary
technological improvements to the existing paradigms
coupled with revolutionary reductions in design cycle
time and "manufacturability" improvements in the
context of an "integrated product team." What are
conspicuous by their absence are any major attempts to
satisfy these metrics via the complementary approach of
inventing, developing, and deploying farther term/
advanced technologies, in particular advanced
configurations or systems, with revolutionary
performance improvements. While traditionally
performance improvements have been used to enhance
speed or reduce fuel consumption, they can obviously
also be employed to address the present metrics of
cost/part count/weight, productivity, safety and the
environment, where advanced performance can have

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Copyright 1998 by the American Institute of Aeronautics and

Astronautics, Inc. No Copyright is asserted in the United States
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Copyright 1997, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc.

truly dramatic payoffs. Also, much of the major

aeronautical improvement actually fielded over the past
40 years, particularly in the long haul arena, has been
the result of propulsion technology, primarily higher
bypass and turbine inlet temperature, which provided
much of the technology for a near trippling of seat
miles per gallon. Studies and suggestions for advanced
configuration concepts (e.g., references 6-11) have, in
general, not been investigated in depth nor
implemented. In fact, vehicle long term strategic
planning/research in the civilian aeronautical arena has
been exceedingly sparse for decades. This has not gone
unnoticed and calls for renewed longer term research
efforts have come from both Dan Goldin, the NASA
Administrator, and Congress "Focus NASA's
Aeronautics on Revolutionary New Concepts" (reference
12). The military has been much more proactive in this
regard (e.g., references 13,14 and the previous
"forecast" studies-e.g., reference 15).
The purpose of the present paper is to discuss example
advanced concept approaches, across the speed range and
for space access, which may provide revolutionary
changes and opportunities in civilian aeronautics in the
future. The context of this advanced concepts
discussion is that there are no "magic bullets," i.e.,
concepts which require no R&D, have no problems,
require no research and provide guaranteed (huge)
benefits. All of these approaches require considerable
work to move them through the two filters which exist
between an idea and a deployed system. The first of
these filters is a technical one which asks the question
"does it work." The second, and immensely important,
filter is technological and addresses the issue of whether
the concept makes sense in the "real world" when all the
"illities" are considered. Also, most of these concepts
are not new (see reference 16), simply worthy of being
readdressed in the context of new metrics,
missions/requirements, available technology levels and
implementation ideas. A central theme is the use of
serious synergies between propulsion, aerodynamic and
structural systems (see reference 17). Many of the
concepts discussed herein devolved from a series of
unpublished workshops and studies convened by the
present author at NASA Langley in the late 80's-early
90's specifically to (re)address advanced concepts in
various mission areas (CTOL, HSCT, hypersonic
airbreathing propulsion and personal aircraft).

(re)examination of advanced aeronautical concepts is that

aeronautics is far from operating near the limits of what
can be accomplished either physically or economically
i.e., the conventional wisdom (which is unfortunately
approaching a "self-fulfilling prophecy") that
aeronautics is a "plateau"/"mature" industry is
emphatically not correct. There is such a wealth of
alternative concepts, each of them offering truly
revolutionary possibilities, that the adaptation of even
one or a limited number could lead to a "Renaissance"
in aeronautics (see also reference 18).

Most of the configuration concepts discussed herein rely

on a set of technologies developed extensively over the
last 30 years which can be collectively termed "Designer
Fluid Mechanics." These technologies include laminar
flow control (reference 19), mixing enhancement (e.g.,
reference 20), separated flow control (references 18 and
22), vortex control (reference 23), turbulence control
(e.g., reference 24), anti-noise, favorable wave
interference (reference 25), and even "designer fluids."
In most cases, these have been taken to the flight test
stage and beyond and are thus ready, in various
manifestations, for inclusion in, and to provide enabling
technology/ capability for, synergistic advanced aircraft
Consider, for example, the currently applicable aircraft
metrics-productivity, safety, environment and
affordability. These would be greatly enhanced by
major simultaneous reductions in wake vortex hazard
(reference 23), drag-due-to-lift (references 26-34) and
friction drag (references 35,36). The Designer Fluid
Mechanics literature just cited offers an extensive array
of alternative reduction approaches for each metric/flow
phenomena. If the lists of the various approaches are
"merged" and "simultaneous solutions" sought, the
resultant configurational implications strongly suggest
several revolutionary configurational alternatives, for
example, to the current 707-DC8 CTOL transport
paradigm. This serves to illustrate the thought
processes followed to develop the advanced
configurations described in the following sections.

A major "bottom line" suggested by this

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Strut/Truss-Braced Wings with Wing-Tip Engine

Pfenninger has long advocated strut bracing to improve
the performance of conventional transports (e.g.,
references 37 and 38, see also references 39-44). The
resulting (bending, torsion) structural benefits allow
reduced wing thickness and sweep, resulting in a
tremendously enhanced and easily maintained (reduced
sensitivity to roughness/insect remains/ice clouds,
reduced cross flow) extent of natural-to-easily forced
low drag laminar flow, as well as increased span. The
latter allowed a reduction in wing chord, further
enhancing the extent of laminar flow, as well as
enhanced takeoff and climb performance and reduced
vortex hazard. Plenninger's designs for such aircraft
yielded L/D values in the 40's, over twice current
levels. The concept was not, however, adopted
primarily because the extensive wing span did not fit
the FAA "80 meter box" for airport gate compatibility
and disbelief that a transonic strut braced wing could be
designed with acceptable shock drag (and obtain laminar
flow on the strut/truss). Obviously strut-bracing is
routinely employed on low(er) speed aircraft. The
latter objection is probably not valid in light of today's
CFD capabilities. "We build what we can compute"
(reference 45) and we have been too long constrained in
aircraft design to linear theory and consequent "linear

The span of a strut braced configuration can probably

be reduced to the 80 meter requirement and the overall
performance retained if an alternative approach is
employed for major drag-due-to-lift reduction-wing tip
engine placement (also enabled by strut/truss bracing).
Whitcomb (reference 46) and others (e.g., references 47
to 55) have shown that up to the order of 50 percent
DDL reductions are obtainable using this approach,
which probably requires circulation control in the
empennage region and utilization of thrust vectoring on
all engines to handle the "engine out" problem. The
Pfenninger approach of wing sweep/thickness
reductions and consequent natural-to-easily forced wing
laminar flow as enabled by strut bracing is also
Synergistic propulsion-aerodynamic interaction
The use of tip engines for aerodynamic drag-due-to-lift
and wake vortex reduction is part of an overall
paradigm shift in aircraft design where a configurational
concept is sought in the context of an "open
thermodynamic system," i.e., synergistic use is made

of the energy added by the propulsion system.

Historically, aerodynamic theory is almost totally
predicated upon analysis within a "closed system" (no
energy added within the control volume). By necessity,
as speed is increased, increasing use has been made of
favorable propulsive interactionswing propulsive precompression/engine nacelle favorable interference lift at
supersonic speeds and, at hypersonic conditions, the
entire undersurface of the body is an integral part of the
engine flow path for the airbreather case. However,
little "first principles" work is available regarding
favorable interactions in the subsonic case.
A theoretical construct for aerodynamic optimization in
an open system is not yet extant, but there are several
discrete examples, in addition to the whig-tip engine
case, where synergistic airframe/ aerodynamicpropulsion integration has been studied and in some
cases even applied. These include circulation control
wing flow which offers up to a factor of 4 increase in
CL compared to conventional flaps and slats with
tremendous reductions to "part count" (reference 56),
wake/boundary layer ingestion into the propulsion
system [order of 15 percent increase in propulsion
efficiency (e.g., reference 57)] including synergistic
interaction with an LFC suction system (reference 58);
thrust vectoring for control (e.g., X-31, "tail-less
fighters, etc.) and, hypersonically, for lift enhancement
and thrust requirement reduction; utilization of a
leading edge region LFC suction system for high lift
during takeoff; the ejector wing for improved structural
and aero efficiency (reference 59); wing tip injection for
wake vortex and drag-due-to-lift reduction and myriad
propulsive-augmented high lift schemes. An additional
major opportunity for synergistic propulsionaerodynamic interaction is the "Goldschmied" wing (or
body), a takeoff on the Griffith wing (reference 60).
The basic concept is to position the propulsive inlet in
the recompression region on the wing/afterbody to
effectively place "sinks" inside the body and convert
much of the balance of the afterbody into a stagnation
region instead of having a rear stagnation "point."
Estimates indicate up to a 50 percent "cancellation" of
the body friction drag is possible via this "static
pressure thrust" approach (references 61-65). An
additional, but to this point unevaluated, approach is
use of inflatable surfaces to provide "mission
adaptation." A particularly attractive application of
this would be tailoring of the afterbody region of
hypersonic cruise vehicles during acceleration through

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the transonic speed regime to alleviate the tremendous

transonic "drag pinch" problem on configurations
designed for efficient hypersonic cruise/

Double Fuselage
Conventionally, double fuselage/multi-body aircraft
have been employed to provide span-load distribution
and accrue the associated structural weight benefits
(reduced wing bending moment) without going all the
way to a "blended wing body'Vspanloader configuration
i.e., providing such benefits via "conventional" (e.g.,
"comfortable") technology. Total aircraft drag is also
reduced, primarily due to favorable effects on drag-dueto-lift (e.g., references 9 and 66-70).

An advanced double fuselage approach could attempt to

delete the conventional outer wing panels and only
retain a, largely unswept/long chord, whig section
between the fuselages. This requires prodigious dragdue-to-lift reduction, a requirement which can be
addressed via design of the fuselages as wing-tip "end
plates" and the individual fuselage empennage as
"winglets," i.e., the tails become thrusting surfaces in
the presence of the wing vorticitv wrapping around the
For this case, the "midwing" can become the site of the
gear (to allow use of conventional runways), engines
"buried" at the rear of the wing to accrue the benefits of
"boundary layer ingestion" and extensive (natural/
suction) laminar flow. The major payoff would accrue
from making the fuselages detachable/interchangeable
to provide a civilian "sky-train" with enhanced
productivity. The midwing portion which does all the
"flying" could be in the air nearly "around the clock"
with freighter and/or passenger modules, thereby nearly
doubling the productivity/duty cycle and "return on
investment" (reference 71). Such an approach would
allow a restructuring of the airline capital investment,
with the airlines "owning" their fuselages and leasing
them from a "rent-a-wing" company. Obviously,
military versions could have cargo, troop, and refueling
fuselages-providing a quantum jump in military
flexibility and productivity.
Biplane/Ring Wing
Another alternative configuration is a "back-to-thefuture" relook at a long-haul biplane (reference 72, see
also references 9,73 and 74). Recent work (reference

72) indicates a wide spectrum of benefits for such an

approach, again in the context of present-to-future
advances in CFD, materials, controls, "Designer Fluid
Mechanics," etc. technologies. Some of these
estimated benefits are major-60 percent reduction in
wing weight, order of 30 percent increase in L/D and
reduced vortex hazard. The related ring whig (e.g.,
references 75 and 76) is also worth revisiting.

As this paper is written, the requirement for, and

interest in, "Jumbo Aircraft" (>600 PAX) is in a state
of uncertainty. Airbus is proceeding with an enlarged
"conventional" aircraft study/development, Boeing has
placed its corresponding effort on the "back burner" and
the fate of a developing Douglas aircraft blended wing
body effort is dependent upon the outcome of the
proposed Boeing-McDonnell Douglas "merger." There
is little doubt that a larger size/updated version of the
747 would have greatly improved performance (e.g.,
reference 77). At some level the major players (U.S.,
Europeans, Russians) are studying the technology for a
jumbo aircraft in the 800+ PAX range which is,
"different"-some variant of the spanloader or "blended
wing body" (BWB). From reference 78, "machines
with more than 1,000 seats will have to be designed.
For such machines, the unstable flying wing, quite
probably equipped with a canard, will be the imposed
solution." (Bernard Ziegler, Senior Vice President,
Engineering, Airbus). Jumbo options aside from
conventional and BWB include multi-body and wing-inground (WIG) effect The multi-body is a viable
candidate but the WIG probably is not. Study of the
extensive Russian work in the WIG arena indicates
several nontrivial problem areas for the WIG vis-a-vis
the long haul transport mission-operation near the
surface in high density air engendering a high drag
level, structural and propulsive weight inefficiencies
associated with water impact and takeof f thrust
requirements and safety problems associated with
operation at the extremely low altitudes (fractions of
the wing chord) required to attain appreciable ground
effect benefits on "cruise" L/D.
The success of a "deployed version," the B-2 bomber,
has renewed interest, worldwide, hi spanloader/blended
wing-body aircraft The major performance benefits of
such aircraft are required to address the potential "killer
issues" for jumbo aircraft-noise and vortex hazard

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engendered by their great weight. It is not clear,

although jumbo aircraft will obviously carry more
passengers individually, whether airport passenger
throughput will go up or down with the introduction of
jumbosmore PAX per aircraft but perhaps less
aircraft/unit time in terms of takeoffs/landings due to
wake vortex/noise/passenger handling delays.

Obvious benefits of spanloader aircraft include large

increases in L/D (due primarily to the demise of
fuselage wetted area/skin friction) and reduction in
empty and gross takeoff weight. The design approach
"puts the lift where the load is" for a requisite size
aircraft with a physical wing thickness sufficient to
allow passenger seating within the wing. The
technological challenges (as well as the opportunities)
of an 800+ PAX long haul B WB transport are
tremendous but at least thus far evidently "workable."
These challenges include thick wing sections (possibly
with hybrid LFC and synergistic ("Goldschmied")
propulsion integration), non-circular pressure vessels,
stability and control, emergency passenger egress, ride
quality, airport compatibility and very high Reynolds
number aerodynamics-both high lift and cruise. The
B WB design inherently contains a surfeit of internal
volume and is therefore highly conducive to enhanced
range, cargo operation and passenger comfort In regard
to the latter benefit, "sleeper" versions of the B WB
could provide very interesting competition to the
HSCT for trans-Pacific routes in terms of enhanced
comfort/lower price versus shorter transit time/higher
price. The USAF "New World Vistas" study (reference
14) specifically called out the BWB approach as an
excellent candidate to provide enhanced "global reach"
airlift capabilityin conjunction with precision (GPSguided) delivery pallets as an alternative to the vehicle
design decrements and vulnerability of landing "in
theater." The large payload/volume and extraordinary
range of BWB transports also provides extraordinary
capability for high capacity paratroop drops, cruise
missile or UCAV carriage/launch, "AWACS" missions
and "aerial replenishment" References 9 and 82-87
provide an entre into the BWB literature, reference 88
describes a very different Russian spanloader approach.

The channel whig is an interesting example of an

advanced configuration which was somewhat ahead of
its time. The concept was originally developed,

essentially empirically, in the 40's and early 50's as a

STOL light aircraft and several versions were flown,
this is not just a "paper airplane." The essential
technology consists of a semicircular airfoil "channel"
underneath, and surrounding on the underside,
"standoff wing mounted engine nacelles such that the
engine-induced airflow produces sizable lift on the wing
"channel" at zero-to-low forward speed, providing
dramatic STOL capability. The developers of the
configuration claimed, but there was never any
satisfactory "proof that the approach was capable of
near VTOL performance. Development of this concept
has been essentially dormant since the late 50's except
for Soviet research-Antonov produced an advanced
prototype-demonstrator in the late 80's termed the AN181 (reference 89).

The original 40's-to-50's era research on the channel

wing was, by necessity, highly empirical and resource
constrained (see references 90-97). The concept
provides a classic example of an approach worth
revisiting with updated tools and technology to
ascertain the extent to which its STOL performance
could approach VTOL. In particular, the incorporation
of circulation control in the classical sense (via
blowing immediately upstream and above the trailing
edge), when combined with the engine-induced flow
over the wing, should further augment the lifting
capability of the configuration. Additional technology
updates/approaches of possible interest include (poweron) CFD, flow separation avoidance and control, wing
laminar flow for cruise performance and inboard strutbracing along with the all important controls issues.
The potential for such an updated channel wing
approach to address the "V-22 niche" should be
determined as the channel wing could possibly
incorporate very interesting lifting capabilities with a
fairly high cruise speed at reduced weight/cost compared
to the V-22 (with its engine rotation requirements and
associated systems penalties).

The increasing importance of "Pacific Run" air travel

and the requisite long transpacific flight times for the
current subsonic transports have renewed interest in a
Mach 2 class "high speed civil transport." Such a
device is nominally a "flying fuel tank" to a much
greater extent than the subsonic case, due to the

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addition of appreciable wave drag. This large fuel

fraction (order of one half to two thirds of gross takeoff
weight) makes the designs exceedingly sensitive to drag
level and drag reduction. A mere 1 percent drag
reduction can yield a IS Klb reduction in take off
weight. To first order the cruise drag is nearly equally
partitioned between skin friction, volume wave drag
and wave/vortex drag-due-to-lift. Large drag reductions
are potentially available via "Designer Fluid
Mechanics," e.g., laminar flow control, favorable wave
interference and flow separation control as well as
configuration tailoring to produce an elongated lifting
line (references 25 and 99). The following advanced
configuration concepts provide enhanced performance
alternatives to the conventional "double-delta"
planforms. Drag reductions theoretically attainable
include up to 70+ percent of the skin friction via
laminar flow control and a very large fraction of the
volume wave drag via favorable wave interference.

reference 106). "Novel" general concepts with

application across the configurational spectrum include
use of flow separation control at cruise to allow full
exploitation of inviscid design precepts (reference 25).
The current design approach entails investigation of
advanced (primarily inviscid flow-driven) aero concepts
in the wind tunnel to determine flow separation
boundaries in terms of vehicle attitude and geometry.
The potential performance of the advanced concept is
then degraded accordingly. Utilization of "designer
fluid mechanics" technology in a proactive manner for
cruise should allow recovery of this flow separationinduced performance loss. Potential benefits include
enhanced wing leading edge thrust, increased upper
surface lift, increased fuselage lift/camber (reduced wave
DDL) and enhanced performance of favorable wave
interference (via shock-B.L. separation control) as well
as "bird-like" flight for enhanced ah- system
productivity/noise reduction at lower speeds.

Parasol Wing
This is an old approach wherein reflections of the
fuselage nose shock provides favorable interference lift
and subsequent afterbody region thrust (references 4,
99-102). Estimated L/D improvements are in the range
of 25 to 30 percent Advanced technologies required to
accrue these benefits include flow separation control for
the shock-boundary layer interaction regions and
fluidics or variable physical geometry to work the "offdesign" performance issues. The reduction in volume
wave drag may allow reduced wing sweep and
consequent greatly enhanced LFC application.

Another "alternative" is to consider a "multi-stage"

aircraft (e.g., references 25 and 107). In-flight refueling
and some type of "take-off assistance" are obvious
ways to "multi-stage," but what is specifically
suggested herein is that since the HSCT is a "flying
fuel tank" the aircraft that lands is very different/lighter
weight than the vehicle at takeoff. Therefore, the
heavy fuel/noise control/high lift devices and gear (gear
weight approaches fuselage weight for an HSCT)
required for the "takeoff' condition could perhaps be
positioned toward the rear of the craft and
"detached'V'flown back" once airborne. The vehicle is
thus not burdened throughout its flight by apparatus
uniquely required for mission initiation only.

Strut-Braced "Extreme Arrow"

Pfenninger has also advocated an externally strut-braced
HSCT with truly revolutionary cruise performance-an
L/D of order 20, over twice that of the best of the
current approaches (references 103 and 104). The strut
bracing allows use of an extreme arrow wing planform
with minimal wave drag-due-to-lift, increased aspect
ratio and extensive laminar flow ("controlled"). Midwing fuel canisters are used to provide favorable wave
interference and load alleviation with extensive
"natural" laminar flow on both the fuel canisters and
the fuselage.

Other Alternative HSCT Approaches

Northrup has studied a "reverse delta" configuration for
purposes of obtaining extensive regions of "natural"
laminar flow on the wing (reference 105, see also

If economics or environmental considerations dictate a

lower altitude/lower speed ( 50 Kft, M =1.5) than an
obvious "approach of choice" would be the R.T. Jones
yawed whig (references 108-110) which is capable,
from reference 108, of doubling speed and increasing
PAX load-out 25 percent vis-a-vis the 747 for
essentially the same fuel burn.
Another exceedingly interesting but at this point
highly speculative approach to HSCT (and also CTOL)
optimization is through wave drag reduction via
"plasma Control"/ electro-gas-dynamics. The
conventional shock-plasma Interaction literature is
clustered about two "end points" in terms of parameter
space-planetary (collision-less) bow shock formation in

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the solar wind and inertial-confined fusion. Of

particular interest in the former case is Venus, which
has no magnetosphere and is therefore subject to
electro-gas-dynamics as opposed to magneto-electro-gas
dynamics phenomena (e.g., reference 111).
Examination of the physics of shock-plasma
interactions (c.f., reference 112) indicates that, in the
absence of a magnetic field ion-acoustic waves are
expected to be dominant. Research in Russia (e.g.,
reference 113) and the U.S. (reference 114) indicates
unexpectedly large experimental effects for a "new
arena" of shock-plasma interactionweakly ionized
plasmas at conventional gas dynamic conditions
(continum flow, supersonic/hypersonic Mach
numbers). Typical requisite experimental conditions
are 1012 electrons/cc, but relatively high electron
temperature (vis-a-vis ion/neutral temperature) and
placement of electrons well ahead of the unmodified
bow shock. Conventional wisdom (e.g., reference 115)
would indicate that such weak ionization should have
little-to-no effect on the neutral gas dynamics.
However, the observations indicate virtual replacement
of the usual speed of sound by a higher speed wave
system the order of the ion-acoustic velocity and
consequent reduction in effective Mach number and
body drag. The reducio-ad-absurdium implications are
truely revolutionary-an increase in drag rise Mach
number from 0(.85) to 0(2+), HSCT's which are
similar in configuration to CTOL transports and CTOL
transports with greatly increased wing thickness/reduced
sweep, etc. The keys to such leaps are the verification
of the available observations, understanding of the
operative physics and obvious developmental aspects
associated with high temperature electron generation
and placement in and ahead of the vehicle flow field.
That an increase in sound speed can reduce wave drag
has long been known (e.g., references 116 and 117),
but heating per se is simply not an energetically
efficient approach to obtaining such a sound speed
increase/drag reduction. What is "new" is the
possibility of employing new physics (e.g.,
coulombic-induced communication-ion-acoustic
waves) and the exceedingly low power levels which the
existing data base suggests are required. Some type of
"amplification system" may be operative to achieve
such dramatic influences upon gross flow field features
from such a small energy input/low ionization fraction.
A current line of investigation in that regard involves
dynamic processes including ion-acoustic instabilities

(e.g., reference 118).



The developed nations entered the 1900's with a

transportation system (for people) centered upon the
horse, the railroad and the steamship, with associated
travel times the order of hours-to-days/weeks,
depending upon distance. In the closing years of the
same century, the automobile has long supplanted the
horse and the fixed whig aircraft has nearly driven the
railroads and steamship companies from the long haul
passenger business. Travel times have shrunk to
minutes-to-hours. In the process of supplanting older
transportation systems, these newer approaches have
had a profound influence upon the structure of modem
societies. In the U.S., cities have expanded out of 18th
century seaports and 19th century railheads, where
much of the developed region was by necessity within
walking distance of the transportation terminals, into
tremendous suburbs with attendant reductions in
crowding/increased opportunity for individual home
ownership etc., etc. The existing transportation
system fulfills a variety of purposes, including travel
to and from work and stores, and for various business,
service and pleasure related activities.
This portion of the present report centers upon future
possibilities/options for a specific portion of the
transportation spectrum, short-to-moderate range,
nominally from 10's to 100's of miles. The current
dominant transportation mode for this mission is the
automobile, which, possibly more than any other
single technical achievement, has enabled the current
life style enjoyed by the developed nations. In this
process, the auto has created massive safety problems
(order of 40,000 deaths/year due to highway accidents)
and has been responsible for the expenditure of truly
prodigious sums on roads, bridges, along with
pollution-induced health and material degradation
remediation. The current status of the auto
infrastructure is that we continue to clear and pave
more of the watershed, contributing to air pollution,
flooding, desiccation, the formation of heat islands and
wildlife habitat degradation. Also, the average trip
time is increasing due to suburbian expansion and
increased congestion, causing non-trivial changes in
family life as travelers attempt to utilize non-traditional
time slots, or suffer long/nonproductive commutes. In

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the U.S. the interstate highway system is (finally)

finished and is already clearly overburdened and in need
of very expensive repairs and expansion, particularly in
the urban areas.
Society cannot, easily or otherwise, continue to bear
the costs imposed by almost sole reliance upon the
automobile for short-to-intermediate passenger
transport, alternatives are necessary for the futureboth
for the developed societies and those that desire to/are
developing. Probably the most commonly advocated
alternatives involve some form of mass transit, which
have, along with tremendous capital costs, several
other drawbacks such as passenger wait time, weather
exposure and lack of privacy, security, pride of
ownership and personal stowage. Additional drawbacks
are the fact that they are not portal-to-portal and there is
no guarantee of having a seat, as well as an inherent
assumption regarding increased population
density/concentration. Undoubtedly, the future mix of
short-to-intermediate transport systems will include

both mass transit and automobiles of some variety,

probably operated on "intelligent" highways to
improve safety and throughput/trip time (reference
119). The "smart highway" alternative is, however,
expensive and very limited in terms of growth potential
There is, however, both a need and an opportunity to
include in the transportation mix a personal air vehicle

which would provide, percentage-wise, the same

increase in speed (compared to the auto in traffic), as
the auto provided over the horse. Personal air

transportation usable by "everyone" is both

revolutionary and the next logical step in the
development of human infrastructure and corporal
communication. The increased speed of such a
capability, along with the greatly reduced capital
requirements in terms of highways/bridges, etc., should
allow significant increases in the quality of life as well
as reduced state and national public works budgets.
Specific benefits include distribution of the population

over a much larger area allowing a more peaceful/less

damaging co-existence of man and nature, along with
improved transportation safety. The "vision" is of
multilevel highways in the sky, controlled and
monitored by inexpensive electronics as opposed to
narrow, single level, exceedingly expensive "ribbons of
concrete" (e.g., reference 120). Such air
systems/vehicles could also obviously be used for

longer haul, as are automobiles today. The various

wait times associated with commercial air travel, along
with the inefficiencies in terms of transit time of the
hub and spoke system mitigate in favor of reduced
overall trip time for slower, but more direct, travel via
personal aircraft (compared to the "faster" commercial
jet). Various options exist for personal aircraft
systems. The discussion herein will address one such
option, an automatic VTOL-converticar, and attempt to
defend that particular recommendation.
Certain requirements/desirements are common to any
personal transportation vehicle/system. These include
short transit time/high speed, direct portal-to-portal,
privacy and security, constant availability, personal
stowage and a suitability for use by the "non-pilot."
The latter necessitates from the outset that an obvious
(and probably attainable) goal should be an automatic
personal air transport system, automatic with respect to
navigation (e.g., references 121-123), air traffic control
and operation. The technology to accomplish this is
either currently employed by/for the long haul air
transport application, or in the research/application
pipeline, thanks to the microchip "electronics
revolution" and includes GPS, personal and other
communication satellites (44 broadband/mobile
communication satellite systems "on the books'Vin
progress) and the military investments in RPV's,
AAV's, UAV's, UTA's, UCAV's, etc. Such
automatic operation could provide vastly improved
safety, as the preponderance (70 percent to 80 percent)
of air transport accidents have historically been due to
"human error." In addition, it makes personal air

vehicle transportation available to the general public,

as opposed to the few who have the opportunity,
wealth, and physical characteristics to become pilots,
as well as reducing the unit cost by an order of
magnitude or more due to the concomitant vast
increases in production rate/market.
Conventional wisdom holds that, to be successful, an
alternative transportation system must be not only
faster, but also relatively inexpensive. The costs
involved in any system include acquisition, operation,
maintenance, and depreciation. To be competitive with
the automobile a personal VTOL-converticar should
have an acquisition cost in the vicinity of a quality
automobile. Although in terms of the current
helicopter industry, this is a ridiculous target, the
advantages of a production run of millions instead of

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hundreds, along with a recent offering of a single seat

helo for $30K (references 124 and 125) and a two-place
"gyroplane" for $20K, all at small production runs
makes the outlook to achieve such a goal possible if
not probable (see reference 126). Operational costs
include fuel, insurance, parking fees, etc., and need not
be greater than the auto. Maintenance is considerably
greater for present helos than for autos, and therefore
this issue would have to be addressed in any personal
helo technology development program.
All-weather operation is also a requirement, the same
all-weather capability one now has in an automobile,
which is by no means absolute. Extremely heavy rain,
extreme winds, ice and snow will all either slow or
stop the auto, and similar restrictions will probably
hold for the personal helo. Obviously the evolving
"detect and avoid" technology could be utilized by the
personal helo (either on or off board) to increase safety
vis-a-vis extreme weather. In terms of speed and range,
the helo must provide a significant speed advantage or
it is simply not viable. As compared to a fixed wing
personal aircraft, the helo speed advantage is much less
vis-a-vis the auto, but at a nominal factor of 4 (for the
traffic case) still sufficient We are currently spending
significant sums to gain a factor of 2+ in the high
speed civil transport program (vis-a-vis subsonic
transports). Another key issue is rider acceptance in
terms of acoustics, vibration, ride quality, and
reliability/safety. All of these technical areas will
require further work, although the helo community has
made significant strides in these already and
considerable further gains/technological advances are in
the pipeline. A final major set of issues involve
community acceptance in terms of acoustics and
downdrafts during near surface operations. Again, more
work is needed, but these could be addressed by
operational as well as technological approaches.
Previous approaches to the "personal helicopter" have
mainly considered existing machines as opposed to the
advanced technology/ farther term vision discussed
herein (e.g., references 127-129). There have been,
however, calls for such an approach (references 130,
Over the years, particularly since the 1930's, there have
been suggestions, and in some cases strident calls, for
the development and marketing of personal aircraft
Although "general aviation" has made considerable
advances, the "aircraft for the masses" never really

caught on for a variety of reasons, mainly involving

COST, requisite technology readiness and an absolute
requirement that the "operator" be a "pilot" e.g., nonautomatic operation. History is replete with examples
of concepts which are good ideas and which keep
resurfacing until the technology base is ready. An
obvious example is the gas turbine engine. Since the
last personal aircraft campaign in the late 40's-50's,
major strides have occurred in several enabling
technologies. These include light weight miniature,
inexpensive and tremendously capable electronics/
computing, lightweight composite materials with
"nearly infinite" fatigue life, computational fluid
mechanics, smart-to-brilliant materials/skins, flow
control of several types and active controls/load
alleviation. Such advances significantly change the
personal aircraft discussion, particularly for the helo.
"The helicopter looks, 35 to 40 years after its
invention, to be poised in the position the fixed wing
aircraft were in the late 40's and early 50's, again 40
years after the first flights were being made" (reference
132). In particular, the personal helicopter would
profit from much of the sizable investment made in
military machine research, albeit the civilian
application is in many ways less severe in terms of
"rough usage" etc. This is again directly analogous to
the fixed wing situation where the 707 class of
transport aircraft profited immensely from/was enabled
by, the military investments in swept wing/jet
propelled bombers/tankers/transports.

Key helo-specific technologies either available or in the

pipeline include composite blades with 10,000 hour
fatigue life, the hingeless-bearingless rotor with low
drag hub, automatic health monitoring to allow
significant reductions in maintenance costs, antivibration and anti-noise for enhanced rider comfort,
automatic piloting and navigation/nap-of-the-Earth
operation, and composite structure and smart skins for
flow and load control (see, for example, references 133140).
There are several "systems level" issues and critical
choices regarding the personal aircraft which served as
key discriminators in the selection of the particular
personal aircraft discussed herein, a helo-converticar.
The first such issue is whether the personal aircraft
(either "fixed" or rotary wing) should be a separate air
vehicle, or a "converticar," i.e., a combination
automobile and air vehicle capable of economically

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performing both missions. Economics and utility

strongly favor the "converticar" option. There are
numerous elements common to both the air and ground
vehicles, such as passenger compartments, engines,
etc. and therefore, if it is technically feasible to reduce
the weight of an auto to what is reasonable for an air
vehicle, then a single device should be considerably
more economical (initial cost as well as maintenancewise) than buying and maintaining two separate
vehicles, particularly when one considers the present
cost of autos. Simplex estimates of the flight-specific
component weights indicate a value of less than 1000
pounds, indicating that, with shared utilization of
common systems such as the engine, the "all-up"
weight of the converticar could be in the (reasonable)
range of 3000+ pounds. From an operational
viewpoint, usage as well as maintenance-wise, a single
vehicle should be much more convenient, obviating the
need for a "rent-a-car" in the vacinity of one's
destination. Once the converticar option is selected,
some decision/recommendation has to be made
regarding the provision for the "air-unique"
components, particularly the lift-producing surfaces
which require, for reasonable levels of drag-due-to-lift,
non-trivial span/aspect ratio. Options include towed
"trailored" wings (utilized in early versions of the
converticar), fixed wings of inherently low aspect ratio
for "readability" (reference 141), airport "rent-a-wing"
concessions where the wings are attached prior to, and
removed at the conclusion of, flight, and
telescoping/folding wings. The present author favors
the telescoping/folding option as offering the best
compromise between convenience and performance.
The next critical choice is between conventionaV'fixed
wing" operation and a VTOL device. An essential
difference is that the fixed wing machine/operation
requires an airport. There are many thousands of GA
airports in the U.S. and one would have to begin and
end the air portion of the trip at one of these. In the
opinion of the present author, this is simply too
restrictive and contravenes several of the fundamental
purposes of the personal air vehicle such as
independence of/reduced requirement for large civil
works, portal-to-portal transportation, and access to
remote sites (remote from roads, etc.).
The VTOL option would allow development/usage of
currently undeveloped nations/regions at a fraction of
the cost of the roads/bridges, etc. usually required for

such development, and at much less disruption to the

environment (reference 142). The estimated off-shore
market for such a device is the order of $.5T/year.
Conversion from ground to flight and back again for a
helo-converticar requires only a relatively hard surface
with a diameter the order of 25 ft, something which
could be placed at intervals alongside the existing
highway system to provide convenient ground-to-air
"merging" away from existing builtup housing areas to
minimize acoustic/downdraft etc., influences upon the
population. Further advantages of the helo include the
provision for both lift and propulsion in a single device
during air operation and ATC "margin" (in the event of
an ATC conflict the vehicles involved could "hover" or
locally land while the problem is addressed/resolved).

Another major option involves the extent to which the

operation in the air mode should be automatic as
opposed to pilot/human derived. While sport models
could be somewhat human-controlled (within the
confines of the ATC/safety regulations) the optimal
solution is clear. The portion of the population
physiologically capable of becoming pilots is not large
and there is considerable cost and time involved in
doing so, most accidents are due to pilot error (reference
129), and the ATC system requires, for the large
numbers ultimately envisaged, automatic operation.
Therefore, a user-orientated personal air capability
should, ultimately, be automatic in operation as well
as navigation and ATC, as already suggested herein.
A personal transportation machine capable of both
ground and (VTOL) air operation could be an
automobile with an 1C engine (reference 144), probably
initially a two-seater and at least somewhat pilotcontrolled, which is light enough to also fly and which
has built into its roof an erectable low drag, large taper
(reference 145) rotatable hub with a diameter consistent
with the vehicle width containing the order of four or
more telescoping/ folding rotor blades. In addition, a
rear deck vertical fin is required within which is a,
perhaps electrically driven, tail rotor. Alternative
approaches include circulation control on the
"afterbody" or a tandem/counter-rotating rotor system.

As stated several times in this discussion, the central

issue is COST (see the quote from Henry Ford in
reference 146) and usability. As a result of
technological advances in several areas, many of them
momentous, and the tremendous requirement/market for

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such an affordable/user-friendly capability, the issue of

personal air transportation should be revisited. The
probable course of development for personal air
transportation is parallel to that of the automobile in
the early 1900's. The initial machines were expensive
("rich man's toys") with many impediments to their
operation such as poor roads, noise sensitivity and laws
which were in many cases "anti-automobile." Once
industrialists (e.g., Henry Ford) addressed the problem
via "design to cost/PRICE," simplicity (any color as
long as it's black) and mass production, the price
dropped drastically and the resulting widespread
sales/utilization of the product revolutionized, in many
ways, our entire society (see also references 147 and
148). The key to such a mass market/affordability for
the VTOL converticar is automatic operation via a
largely existing infrastructure and technology base.
Militarized versions would provide the armed forces
with a (robotic/automatic) flying jeep capable of
meeting the battlefield mobility requirements for the
"Army after next" (beyond "Force 21"). Such an
"automatic" VTOL-capable machine would also
provide, in a "future world" of increasing prevalent telecommuting and "electronic cottages" affordable/robotic
delivery of requisite food supplies for the carbon-based
inhabitants as well as goods ordered on the
"net'Vshopping channels.

There are two disparate space access missions with

fundamentally different but overlapping metrics-inexpensive transportation of "pounds to orbit" and
"space warfare." The former mission is vital to
economical/ viable space utilization (environmental
monitoring, navigation, communications, natural
resource observation, space manufacturing,
astro/solar/planetary physics, planetary exploration
etc.) and is currently being worked by NASA via the
X-33 and X-34 programs. The space warfare mission
was the subject of the NASP program of the late 80's
and early 90's and the continuing/increasing
requirement for a military Transatmospheric Vehicle
(TAVy'space plane" is clearly stated in several
recent/ongoing Air Force planning studies (e.g.,
Spacecast 2020, Air Force 2025, New World Vistas).
The rationale for a military space plane includes battle
space awareness, global precision strike and space
control. The present writer suggests that the different
metrics/requirements for these two missions may

perhaps best be satisfied by disparate approaches~an

advanced rocket for inexpensive space access and an
advanced airbreather which could uniquely provide the
required flexibility for the military space plane
missions. The increased dry weight/cost associated
with airbreathing engines makes the hypersonic
airbreathing option problematical for the "pounds to
orbit" mission but its capability for self ferry, enhanced
cross range, orbital plane change, recall, enhanced
launch window, in-atmospheric abort/assured payload
return, dispersed launch sites, orbit/deorbit/reorbit, etc.
uniquely satisfy various space warfighting metrics (see
references 149-152).

Considering first the "pounds to orbit" mission for

both civilian and military applications, over the years a
large number of studies have "mixed and matched" the
various multitudinous technical/technological space
access options available, focusing on (significantly)
reduced costwith no obvious "clear winning
combination." The following suggested advanced rocket
involves emerging technologies not yet included in
these previous systems studies with the intent of
addressing the prime metricaffordabili ty. The
suggested technological elements of a space access
advanced rocket include propulsion, fuel and aero
components. The suggested primary propulsion cycle
is a pulse-detonation wave rocket engine, a technology
which is successfully emerging from several years of
Phase 2 SBIR research projects. Potential benefits
include lightweight, order of 15 percent Isp increase
(constant volume as opposed to constant pressure
combustion) and up to a factor of 40 reduction in
pressure level requirement for the turbine feed pumps
with attendant major reliability and cost benefits
compared to current (i.e., SSME) practice/requirements
(e.g., references 153-157). Significant additional thrust
up to the Mach 6 regime is available via a lightweight
exhaust region shroud/ejector designed using NASPlevel and beyond mixing augmentation technology.
Estimates indicate the addition of the ejector could
significantly increase payload fractions (e.g., references
158-161). The suggested advanced fuel is solid
hydrogen (with imbedded Boron lattice) under
development in the Phillips Laboratory HEDM
Program (reference 162). In addition to the expected
densification benefits, the Air Force estimates up to a
25 percent fuel Isp increase. Finally, to obviate aerocontrol-dictated ballast and "packaging" requirements
recourse could be made to "designer aerodynamics"

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wherein dynamic pneumatic vortex generation is

utilized to provide stable/controlled flight in lieu of/in
addition to conventional fins and "static margin" (e.g.,
reference 163), i.e., application of the NASA/USAF
HARV forebody vortex control technology for fighter
aircraft and the X-29 (unstable vehicle) control
approaches) to the (unstable) rocket control problem.
Optimization of the base ejector approach suggests a
"different" configuration-an annular/hollow cylindrical
geometry with extremely (structural/cost) efficient
torroidal fuel/oxidizer tanks and both "internal" and
external air entrainment into the ejector propulsion

Considering next the military-specific space-access

requirements, the suggested airbreathing
cycles/technologies for the TAV/space warfare mission
have as their "core" (up to March=10) the
"conventional" NASP approach of (with increasing
Mach number) low speed system/RAMJET/diffusiveburning scramjet A key finding from the NASP effort
was the criticality of the high Mach number (M>10)
propulsive performance. In particular, the internal
losses/penalties (friction, heat transfer, shock, mixing,
weight, disassociation) of the diffusive burning
scramjet in the high Mach number regime are not
consistent with a viable machine.
Therefore, two new cycles are suggested for this M>10
speed regime. For 10<M< =15 Langley has begun
working a "PMSIC" (premixed shock induced
combustion) approach which features forebody fuel
injection/mixing, greatly reduced combustor
length/losses/weight and an Isp increase the order of 25
percent (e.g., references 164-168). For the "pullup"
into orbit portion of the flight path, a lox-augmented
scramjet, essentially a high Mach number RBCC is
suggested which utilizes flow-path embedded linear
rocket motors to pressurize the combustor/allow
airbreathing to higher altitudes (reference 149) and
provide shear for enhanced mixing and species for
nozzle catalysis. The key to a viable PMSIC engine is
the avoidance of "pre-ignition" upstream of the
combustor in the forebody premixing region along
with simultaneous forebody injection/mixing
optimization for penetration, fuel addition thrust,
injection-induced compression and forebody skin
friction/heat transfer reduction.
In addition to these basic cycles, other technologies

could be employed to enhance airbreathing propulsive

performance at high Mach number-thrust vectoring for
trim and drag reduction, multiple shock inlet, nozzle
flow catalysis to reduce the thrust loss associated with
species "freezing," fuel thrust via (highly) heated fuel
injection and forebody boundary layer transition delay
for flow path friction/heat transfer loss reduction.
With the exception of limited application of fuel
heating and transition delay these technologies/cycles
were not employed in the various NASP design cycles.
Their utilization should enable development of a
viable/affordable "warfighting" space plane. An
additional requirement for such a development is a
"T&E" engine test facility in the Mach 10 to 16 range
with the requisite large size/long run time needed for
hypervelocity engine "certification" in terms of the
interacting system elements-combustion, aerointegration, aero-thermal, aero-thermal elasticity,
materials/ structures, coatings, seals, controls,
operability, etc. Promising facility research for this
requirement is underway at Princeton University and
MSB, Inc. in Butte, Montana. The current "best bet"
approach is a combination of "cold" very high pressure
air storage/supersonic flow establishment with
subsequent (serial) energy addition to a moving stream
via e-beams (or MW/lasers) and subsequent MHD
acceleration (reference!69). The R&D engine test
requirements can be met viable a detonation driver
upgrade to the NASA Hypulse facility (reference 170).
The design driver for both of these facilities is the high
total pressure required to simulate the forebody (post
bow shock) flow for the PMSIC class of engines (e.g.,
simulation of "combustor entrance" conditions is not

Our problem in space access is emphatically not a

dearth of promising technological possibilities, there
are many more than mentioned herein. We are
emphatically not up against physical/physics barriers
in terms of major performance improvement
approaches for system weight
reduction/affordability/flexibility, etc.

Advanced configuration and "frontier" aeronautics is

admittedly long term and high risk (by definition) but
constitutes, in the opinion of the author, the only
approach available which can seriously address the

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productivity, cost, safety and environmental metrics in

a truly meaningful manner.
1. Contained within the discussion herein are
several relatively novel general approaches/concepts.
These include, for example, transport aircraft designed
and optimized in an open thermodynamic system
(utilization of extensive propulsive/ aerodynamic/
structural synergisms) and utilization of flow control at
cruise and otherwise to accrue full iiiviscid performance
2. A suggestion is made for development of
automatic personal aircraft operation (via GPS, corns
satellite constellations and RPV/AAV/UCAV, etc.
technology) enabling a large vehicle production run and
an affordable revolution in personal mobility (VTOL
"converticar") and many aspects of our culture/economy
($.5T/year to $lT/year market).
3. A multitude of updated/modified alternative
configurations are suggested for both subsonic and
supersonic long haul which have revolutionary
potential. The wealth of available possibilities/
approaches greatly increases the probability that one or
more of these could "work" in the "real world." The
resource level currently expended in the area of advanced
concepts/configurations is, and has long been,
"subcritical" in terms of providing adequate evaluations
even of the potential of the ideas currently extant.
4. Suggestions are made for advanced (in
some cases revolutionary) approaches to space accessfor both the "pounds-to-orbit" and space warfighting
5. In the opinion of the present author, we
should return to the invention/development and
utilization of advanced concepts as a method of
working affordability (along with the current design
cycle and manufacturability/"process" approaches).


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ACKNOWLEDGEMENT-The author is, and will

forever be greatly indebted to the many in and out of
aeronautics who have had the courage, foresight,
knowledge and creativity to seriously consider the
farther term possibilities in aviation. Their work is
absolutely crucial to the health and
competitiveness of our industry and national defense
and, increasingly, to the enrichment of the human


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