Don Nolan-Proxmire Headquarters, Washington, DC (Phone: 202/358-1983


July 25, 1995

Mary M. Spracher Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA (Phone: 804/864-6527) RELEASE: 95-124 NASA GEARS UP TESTS ON THE "HOLY GRAIL" OF AERODYNAMICS After years of planning, NASA is preparing to flighttest a concept designed to improve the aerodynamics of aircraft traveling at supersonic speeds. The Supersonic Laminar Flow Control (SLFC) experiment is a special structure mounted on the wing of an F-16XL. The structure, known as a "glove," will use a suction panel and suction system to remove air from the wing boundary layer and maintain a smooth, low-drag, or laminar flow. Maintaining laminar flow will decrease drag by reducing skin friction on the surface of the wing. Such laminar flow control would enable planes to fly on less fuel and with smaller engines. Successful control at supersonic speeds would be a major breakthrough in the field of flight. "Historically, laminar flow control has been called the Holy Grail of aerodynamics," said Mike Fischer, principal investigator for the project, a collaborative effort led by NASAÕs Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA. Successful supersonic laminar flow control could bring the High-Speed Civil Transport (HSCT) one step closer to reality. The HSCT is the conceptual supersonic airliner of the future. Such a plane would fly twice as fast as today's typical airliner and carry approximately 300 to 350 passengers. -more-

-2The successful application of laminar flow control to the HSCT may reduce drag enough to decrease takeoff gross weight by 10 percent, an amount roughly equal to an entire load of passengers. The SLFC glove is designed to fit over the left wing of an F-16XL. The resulting wing extends the basic aircraft's highly swept wing shape to the fuselage, thus more loosely matching the form of the HSCT. The outer surface of the suction panel is made of titanium and perforated with over 10 million laser-cut holes, each 0.003 inches in diameter. The panel is divided into 20 suction regions, each individually controlled by valves. An onboard turbo compressor will provide the suction. A passive fairing, made of foam and fiberglass, completes the aerodynamic shape of the glove. The passive fairing does not include suction, but simply blends the uniquely shaped wing into the fuselage. The suction panel has been installed on the wing of an F-16XL at NASAÕs Dryden Flight Research Center in Edwards, CA. System tests are scheduled to begin in July and the modified F-16XL is expected to begin six months of flight testing in late September. The flight test's objective is to obtain key data which will enable HSCT designers to proceed with confidence. Development of the suction panel and its sub-systems has been a "big team effort," said Project Manager Jeff Lavell at Langley. Dryden collaborated from the start with Langley's SLFC research team on the experiment planning. A development contract for the suction panel and system was awarded in October 1992 and, based on Langley's overall concept and plans, an industry team of Boeing, Rockwell and McDonnell Douglas formulated the design of the panel and suction system. The panel was assembled at Boeing and delivered to Dryden in December 1994. Delivery of the suction system,

fabricated by McDonnell Douglas, was completed in April 1995. A smaller suction panel has been flown at Dryden at supersonic speeds on an F-16XL, but the concept has never been demonstrated to this scale. "This is relatively highrisk technology," said Lavell. "If successful, it will have a high payoff," he said. -endNASA press releases and other information are available automatically by sending an Internet electronic mail message to In the body of the message (not the subject line) users should type the words subscribe pressrelease. The system will reply with a confirmation via Email of each subscription. A second auto message will include additional information on the service. Questions should be directed to (202) 358-4043.