A Celebration of the Centennial of the NACA
John D. Anderson, Jr., Tom D. Crouch, Roger D. Launius
Tuesday, March 24, 2015 at 2:00pm in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium
(video) within the Langley firewall only
The NACA in the 1930’s – Trailblazing the Technical World of Aerodynamics
During the 1930s the NACA made pivotal and enduring contributions to the discipline of aerodynamics. Three striking examples are:
(1) The systematic design and testing of families of airfoil shapes, including the now classic laminar flow airfoil series
(2) The NACA Cowling. NACA cowlings, like the NACA family of airfoils, were used by airplane designers world-wide.
(3) Pioneering the intellectual understanding of high-speed aerodynamics, and in particular the cause of the “compressibility problems” plaguing high speed subsonic airplanes during the late 1930s.
The talk will highlight the physical nature of these problems, how the NACA went about their solution, and the principal players who pioneered their solution. During the Airplane Design Revolution of the 1930s, there was also a revolution in applied aerodynamics, and this revolution was driven by the engineers and scientists at the NACA Langley Memorial Laboratory. This talk will tell their story.
John D. Anderson, Jr. is Curator of Aerodynamics, National Air and Space Museum, and Professor Emeritus, Aerospace Engineering, University of Maryland, College Park. Anderson has published ten books, some in multiple editions, in the areas of aerodynamics, computational fluid dynamics, airplane performance, hypersonic aerodynamics, high-temperature gas dynamics, the history of aerodynamics, and the history of aeronautical engineering. These include A History of Aerodynamics (Cambridge University Press) and The Airplane: A History of Its Technology (American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics). McGraw-Hill has named his series of aerospace engineering textbooks the “Anderson Series” in recognition of their impact on engineering education. He is the author of over 120 papers in radiative gas dynamics, re-entry aerothermodynamics, gas dynamic and chemical lasers, computational fluid dynamics, applied aerodynamics, hypersonic flow, and the history of aeronautics. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.
The Langley Aeronautical Laboratory and the Prehistory of the NACA: 1910-1915
By 1913, America had ceded technological leadership of aviation to the European nations. The primary reason for the retarded state of aeronautics in the U.S. was the lack of public and private investment in the new technology, compared to that provided by European nations, where war clouds were gathering on the horizon. As early as 1910, a handful of Americans, in the best traditions of the Progressive movement, had pointed to the need for a government sponsored aeronautical laboratory similar to those maintained by the European powers, an organization that could undertake flight research programs of value to the military services and U.S. industry. Efforts that began in 1912 with meetings at Washington’s Carnegie Institute culminated in the decision of Smithsonian Secretary Charles D. Walcott to establish a Langley Aerodynamical Laboratory, headed by the experimental physicist Albert Francis Zahm. This talk will trace the checkered political history of that organization, assess its strengths and weaknesses, and explore the role of the Langley Laboratory in setting the stage for the establishment of the NACA.
Tom Crouch is Senior Curator of Aeronautics at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum. A Smithsonian employee since 1974, he has held a variety of curatorial and administrative posts at both the National Air and Space Museum and the National Museum of American History. He holds a BA from Ohio University, an MA from Miami University and a Ph.D. from the Ohio State University. In 2001, the Wright State University awarded Dr. Crouch the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. He is the author or editor of more than a fifteen books and dozens of articles for both popular magazines and scholarly journals, most on topics related to the history of flight technology. He is the recipient of a number of literary and professional awards. As a Presidential appointee, 2000-2004, Dr. Crouch chaired the First Flight Federal Advisory Board to the First Flight Centennial Commission.
What is the NACA Model of Research and Development? Reflections on a Century of Aerospace Development
There have been many specific recommendations for NASA’s path into the twenty-first century. With the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011 and the lack of a clear way forward in human spaceflight, several have argued that NASA should return to its roots as a research and development agency dedicated to advancing the basic technology for spaceflight that may then be transferred to the private sector for further development and application. Invoking the NACA model is often a part of this discussion. The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was NASA’s immediate predecessor. Created in 1915, NACA’s charter called for it “to supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight, with a view to their practical solution, and to determine the problems which should be experimentally attacked, and to discuss their solution and their application to practical questions.” So what was the NACA model for aerospace research and development (R&D)? There are actually several answers to that question, and this presentation will explore those answers.
Roger D. Launius is Associate Director for Collections and Curatorial Affairs at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. He has also been a senior curator and Division Chair in Space History at NASM. Between 1990 and 2002 he served as chief historian of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. He has written or edited more than thirty books on aerospace history, including: Historical Analogs for the Stimulation of Space Commerce; Space Shuttle Legacy: How We Did It and What We Learned; and Coming Home: Reentry and Recovery from Space, which received the AIAA’s history manuscript prize. He is a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the International Academy of Astronautics, and the American Astronautical Society, and associate fellow of the AIAA. He also served as a consultant to the Columbia Accident Investigation Board in 2003 and presented the prestigious Harmon Memorial Lecture on the history of national security space policy at the United States Air Force Academy in 2006. He is frequently consulted by the electronic and print media for his views on space issues, and has been a guest commentator on National Public Radio and all the major television network news programs.