Donald G. James NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

June 18, 1991 (Phone: 202/453-2754) Del Harding Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif. (Phone: 415/604-9000) RELEASE: 91-92 FULL-SCALE AIRCRAFT TESTED IN WORLD'S LARGEST WIND TUNNEL Tests are underway on an F/A-18 fighter aircraft in the 80-by-120-foot wind tunnel at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, Calif., making it the first full-scale aircraft to face the winds in the world's largest wind tunnel. The 135,000 horsepower motors that turn the tunnel's six fan drives roared to life beginning a series of investigations designed, among other things, to understand how a modern fighter like the F/A-18 performs at high angles of attack, or "high alpha." Angle of attack is the tilt of a plane's body and wings relative to the wind. The pilot's ability to control the plane in high-alpha flight is an advantage in some aerial combat scenarios. The wind tunnel tests are part of NASA's High Alpha Technology Program, a cooperative research program at NASA's Ames, Langley and Lewis Research Centers. "The High Alpha Technology Program is a comprehensive program which integrates supercomputer technology, ground-based experiments and flight tests of a specially equipped F/A-18 fighter. This is an ambitious effort to improve the maneuverability of high performance military aircraft at very high angles of attack," said Ames high alpha program coordinator Dr. Lewis Schiff.

"The high-alpha regime poses a unique and difficult challenge to our understanding of aerodynamics. Our goal," Schiff said, "is to develop advanced design methods which can accurately predict the behavior of an aircraft maneuvering in this regime." The wind tunnel test is conducted in the 80-by-120-foot test section of Ames' National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC). The tests are scheduled to run 12 weeks, with a second entry planned next year. The U.S. Navy, through the Naval Air Systems Command, supplied the F/A-18 aircraft to NASA. - more -2"NASA's aeronautics research is based on the philosophy of 'Computation to Flight' where the most effective tools are put to use as a team to increase our understanding of aerodynamics," said Schiff. These tools include supercomputers and the science discipline known as Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), wind tunnels and flight simulators (ground-based facilities), and research aircraft tests. CFD, as applied to aeronautics, is the science of calculating the behavior of air ("fluid") flow around an aircraft. The power of supercomputers coupled with super workstations allow for three-dimensional graphic illustration of the computed air flow, giving researchers better overall understanding of the flow structures and interactions. There are four objectives of the NFAC tests: correlating the wind tunnel results with data obtained from small-scale wind tunnel tests and actual F/A-18 flight tests on a specially instrumented F/A-18 called the High Alpha Research Vehicle and CFD analysis; developing a data base from tests on forebody flow control devices; studying buffeting experienced by twin-tail fighters; and investigating the aerodynamic differences between the F/A-18 A and C versions. - end Photos and a backgrounder on The High Alpha Technology Program are available from Ames Research Center, (415/604-9000)