Mary Sandy Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

(Phone: 202/453-2754) Don Haley Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. (Phone: 805/258-8381) RELEASE: 90-59

April 23, 1990

NASA F-16XL AIRCRAFT LAMINAR FLOW STUDIES SET TO BEGIN Flight testing of the first experimental wing surface designed to improve laminar (smooth) airflow at supersonic speeds will begin this month at NASA's Ames-Dryden Flight Research Facility, Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. The flights with a specially-modified F-16XL aircraft are part of an effort to improve high-speed performance by reducing aerodynamic drag. Current aircraft designs, both subsonic and supersonic, have turbulent airflow over a major portion of their wings. This turbulence decreases performance and reduces fuel efficiency. Good laminar flow occurs when the turbulent layers of air flowing over an aircraft wing in flight are minimized. A thin experimental wing section containing an active suction system has been placed on the upper surface of the F-16XL's wing. Designed by Rockwell International, North American Aircraft, El Segundo, Calif., the "glove," as it's commonly called, is intended to siphon-off a portion of the layer of turbulent surface air through millions of tiny laser-cut holes in the experimental section's titanium skin and provide a greater area of smooth airflow over that section of the wing. Researchers expect the instrumentation monitoring airflow over the experimental wing section to produce data that will validate computer codes and aid in the design of future high-speed civil transports and high-performance military aircraft. The F-16XL is on loan to NASA from the U.S. Air Force. It

is capable of flying more than 1,200 mph -- twice the speed of sound. The aircraft's delta-wing design and sustained supersonic capability make it an excellent testbed for the laminar flow studies. - more -2 The glove covers about 40 percent of the upper surface of the F-l6XL's left wing and about 50 percent of the wing's leading edge. A layer of foam, up to 2 inches thick in some places and covered with fiberglass, is used as a fairing to blend the glove with the aircraft's original upper wing surface. NASA research pilot Steve Ishmael will make about 20 flights over the next 3 months to evaluate the laminar flow wing section at supersonic speeds. According to Louis L. Steers, manager of the F-16XL project at Ames-Dryden, NASA also plans subsequent laminar flow studies. In this second phase, the aircraft's wing will be modified with a different type of experimental wing surface designed by NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Va. Initial flights in the second phase will be without a suction system. Later, a suction system will be added to the leading edge and other wing surfaces. The first phase of the F-16XL laminar flow research project is being carried out under a cooperative agreement between NASA and Rockwell International,

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TO: MDS/PRA Group 1615 L Street, N.W. - Suite 100 Washington, D.C. 20036 DATE & TIME: TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 1990 ORDERED BY: Edward Campion NASA Headquarters/LMD 400 Maryland Avenue, SW

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