Mary Sandy Headquarters, Washington, D.C. (Phone: 202/453-2754) Cam Martin Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va.

(Phone: 804/864-6121) RELEASE: 90-35

March 1, 1990

NASA'S FIRST 'A' MARKS 75 YEARS OF ACHIEVEMENT With just a $5,000 initial outlay 75 years ago on March 3, 1915, Congress established the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), which would in 1958 form the foundation for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Even today that first small investment -- made only a dozen years after Orville Wright's famous flight -- is still paying enormous dividends. Although the United States could claim the first heavier-than-air flight by the Wright brothers in 1903, American aviation had been surpassed by European technology at the outbreak of World War I, and no American-designed aircraft flew in combat. The NACA was created to help regain the nation's position of aeronautical preeminence. From its beginnings as a simple government entity, NACA grew into the world's premier aeronautical research organization, pushing back the frontiers of flight for more than 4 decades. Aviation pioneers such as Wright, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh and Eddie Rickenbacker were among the early NACA members. The 1915 law directed NACA to "supervise and direct the study of the problems of flight, with a view to their practical

solution." The committee also was to facilitate the exchange of information within the aeronautical community. At that time, the United States had virtually no aeronautical engineers. NACA focused American scientific, technological and industrial talent on the potential of aircraft, and in effect, created the academic discipline of aeronautical engineering and its related fields. Though NACA was begun later than similar European efforts, it eventually put the United States in the lead in aviation. Today, three-quarters of a century later, NASA scientists and engineers continue to solve the problems of flight, both in and beyond Earth's atmosphere. But it was NACA that first built key facilities and devised organizational methods for advancing what is now called aerospace technology. The practical-minded engineers and scientists of NACA incubated the ideas and hatched the technology that first allowed American aviation to take off and fly. The returns on the nation's investment in NACA remain clearly visible today in numerous ways. By recognizing the needs of manufacturers and the military, NACA contributed extensively to every generation of commercial, civilian and military aircraft and developed the foundations for the modern aviation and space industries. The economic benefits of this long-term American competitiveness are a particularly clear part of the NACA legacy. In 1989, for instance, the U.S. aerospace industry saw a trade surplus of some $18 billion. Facilities for Aeronautical Research The inception and subsequent major periods of growth for the NACA were spurred by some of the century's major historical events. World War I demonstrated the military value of aircraft. Charles A. Lindbergh's 1927 solo Atlantic crossing caught the world's imagination. World War II required massive research and development in aviation, as did the events of the decades that followed. The growth spurred by these events was evident in another visible aspect of the NACA legacy: research facilities. By the early 1920s, aeronautical research had begun in earnest at NACA's Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory,

Hampton, Va., Hampton, Va., whose personnel formed the nucleus for two newer laboratories. On the eve of World War II, Ames Aeronautical Laboratory was begun in Mountain View, Calif., and the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory began operations in Cleveland. These three NACA laboratories are now known as NASA Langley, Ames, and Lewis Research Centers, respectively. The challenge for NACA researchers in the 1920s was to improve virtually every characteristic of aircraft. The struts and wire braces of biplanes caused severe, speed-reducing drag. The planes had poor lift-to-drag ratios, bad propellers and underpowered, unreliable engines. Basic understanding of the principles of flight was limited. The primary research tool for overcoming these problems was the wind tunnel. NACA's first wind tunnel was dedicated at Langley in 1920. Since that time, aerospace researchers have used wind tunnels to test their ideas. By moving an airstream across an aircraft, component or model, they can gather test data reliably, inexpensively and safely. NACA's first Full-Scale Tunnel was built after NACA had risen to international aviation research preeminence during the 1920s. By the end of that decade, NACA's work had pointed the way for aircraft to evolve toward the basic aerodynamic shapes still seen today. The first Full-Scale Tunnel began as one of a trio of innovative tunnels. Later, it was the center of the World War II effort to speed up military planes by finding ways to reduce their aerodynamic drag -- an effort that contributed substantially to Allied air power. In 1990, this same tunnel is about to enter its 7th decade of churning out valuable aerodynamic data. As one of scores of American tunnels conducting research into every kind of flight, including flight through and out of Earth's atmosphere, tunnels are used in studies of military, general aviation and commuter aircraft. In fact, this circa-1930 facility has a backlog of demand and is staffed for double shifts. Another example of the NACA legacy in research tools -- and therefore also of continuing returns on original investments in the organization -- is the world's largest wind tunnel located at

Ames Research Center. The tunnel's largest test section was 40 feet by 80 feet. This facility was built during World War II and could test a complete fighter plane with its engine running. The tunnel was still the world's largest in 1987 when its size was increased to 80 by 120 feet and the power of its huge fans was nearly quadrupled. It now can accommodate even larger aircraft. A supersonic tunnel at Lewis, built in the early 1950's , tackled the special problems of testing full-scale jet and rocket engines. The tunnel, which is still in use, has been used for a wide range of aircraft, airbreathing missiles and manned spacecraft tests. Wind tunnels today still constitute a large part of the American investment in aeronautical research tools. In 1988, a special committee of the National Research Council valued the combined replacement cost of American tunnels in the billions of dollars and wrote that the health of these facilities is integrally linked with the health of the entire national aeronautical development effort. The research heritage of wind tunnels -- and many of the tunnels themselves -- come from the NACA era. NACA Achievements NACA/NASA innovations won six Collier trophies, America's most prestigious aviation award, for outstanding contributions to aeronautics technology. In innumerable other instances, NACA contributions paved the way for other immediate or longer-term improvements in aircraft. By the post-World War II era, the work of NACA even began paving the way toward the Space Age. The first Collier Trophy was given in 1929 for the innovative NACA cowling, which was placed around the radial air-cooled engine of the day to reduce drag while allowing the needed cooling. In 1946, NACA won the Collier Trophy for developing a thermal ice-prevention system for aircraft. After World War II, NACA began extensive work in jet engine research, and led advances in high-speed aerodynamics with programs like the X-1, in which Chuck Yeager surpassed the speed of sound in 1947, and the X-15, the first winged vehicle to fly

into space. The 1947 X-1 flight led to NACA's third Collier Trophy in 1948. NACA's fourth and fifth Collier trophies came in 1951 and 1955. One was for a wind-tunnel technology innovation called the slotted throat, which enabled tunnels to simulate the conditions of transonic flight or flight near and exceeding the speed of sound. The other was for the transonic "area rule," a principle of aerodynamic shaping that greatly enhanced the designs of supersonic aircraft. Building on NACA's proud heritage, NASA was awarded a sixth Collier trophy in 1987 for developing the technology for and testing of advanced turboprop propulsion systems that offer dramatic reduction in fuel usage for future subsonic transport aircraft. The NACA research tradition lent itself well to work on concepts for aerospace craft that would need to return to Earth from orbit or from spaceflight. Many NACA researchers worked years ahead of existing technology in the post-World War II era, much as NASA researchers often do today. They established the fundamental atmospheric re-entry during these pre-NASA years. 75 Years of Returns on Investment As the world's premier organization for aeronautical research, NACA provided the foundation -- the people, the institutions, the research tools -- on which NASA and the American aerospace industry have been built. The extent of the NACA-era legacy to NASA and to the nation shines through in a recent celebration of engineering achievements by the National Academy of Engineering. The academy cited NASA's Apollo moon landing as one of the greatest engineering achievements of all time and listed nine other achievements as the greatest of the past quarter-century. In addition to Apollo, three of these nine involve some large degree of NASA contribution: unmanned satellites, advanced composite materials and the jumbo jet. Four other cited achievements fall within the sphere of daily activity throughout NASA: micro-processors, computer-aided design, lasers and fiber-optic communication.

Even after 75 years, that first $5,000 appropriated by Congress in 1915 is still paying off throughout the American economy and in NASA -- a scientific and technological organization that spurs American competitiveness, spans the continent and reaches for the heavens.

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TO: MDS/PRA Group 1615 L Street, N.W. - Suite 100 Washington, D.C. 20036 DATE & TIME: March 02, 1990 5:00p.m. ORDERED BY: Edward Campion NASA Headquarters/LMD 400 Maryland Avenue, SW Washington, DC 20546 PHONE: 202/453-8400 PROJECT TITLE: Release No: 90-035 PRINT ORDER: 2222 PRINTING: Camera Ready, lst pg on NASA logo, other pages plain ENCLOSE & MAIL: Release of 5 pages MAIL DATE: March 05, 1990


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