Colloquium Lectures 1997

Highways in the Sky: Reinventing Personal Air Transportation

by Dr. Bruce J. Holmes

Tuesday, January 7, 1997 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Can you imagine commuting to work in an affordable small airplane from your home in the country? Can you picture a sales person calling on three clients in far-flung corners of the state and being home for dinner that same day? Can you see a family regularly flying themselves home to visit grandma on weekends, 500 miles away to a small town with no scheduled air service? How would your personal and business transportation choices be affected by a safe, affordable, all-weather personal small aircraft transportation system? What role will general aviation play in the U.S. intermodal transportation system of the 21st Century?

Emerging satellite navigation, digital communications, micro-computers, and new displays technologies offer breakthroughs in small aircraft features and capabilities for safety, affordability, and ease-of-use. Government, industry, and university research programs are underway to bring these new technologies to the marketplace. These efforts lay the foundations for unique opportunities to meet the Nation’s burgeoning transportation needs. However, for these efforts to come to full potential, the national infrastructure of small airports, training industries, fixed base operators, and the air traffic control system must be revitalized. These infrastructure investments require private sector as well as federal, state, and local public sector decisions.


Dr. Bruce J. Holmes manages the NASA General Aviation Program Office located at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. In this position, he directs the Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments (AGATE) Consortium. Dr. Holmes has been with NASA over 20 years. He has served in several research engineering and senior management positions at Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia and NASA Headquarters in Washington, DC, including duties Assistant Director for Aeronautics at the NASA Langley Research Center. His aeronautical engineering research accomplishments include drag reduction, flight testing methods, and aircraft design concepts. Dr. Holmes is internationally known for his research in the 1970’s and 1980’s that laid the foundations for use of natural laminar flow for fuel savings and performance improvements on airplanes in the marketplace today.

Dr. Holmes has published 70 technical papers and has received 4 patents on aerodynamic concepts. Dr. Holmes is a recipient of numerous NASA and technical society awards, most recently receiving the University of Kansas Alumni Honor Roll Award. He is an Associate Fellow and member of the Board of Directors in the AIAA, and a member of the Airplane Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA). His flying background includes over 30 years of professional general aviation flying in flight instruction, Part 135 air taxi and commuter airlines, flight testing, and crop dusting. His passion for aviation began at an early age, flying with his father in the family airplanes.

The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Satellite Navigation

by Dr. Bradford W. Parkinson

Tuesday, February 11, 1997 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


The Global Positioning System (GPS or NAVSTAR) has been called the most significant civil spin-off of the cold war. It evolved from early technology development efforts in the Navy and in the Air Force, but was almost canceled before gaining approval by the Department of Defense. GPS is still fairly new, and applications taking advantage of it are still being conceived. The GPS constellation of 24 satellites was not declared fully operational until April 27, 1995; prior to this, an initial operational capability was declared on December 8, 1993. While some implementations of GPS can offer phenomenal accuracy (e.g., within a few centimeters for landing aircraft), it still requires some expansions to satisfy signal integrity, continuity and availability requirements. Most of all, for the Global Positioning System to be formally accepted (and certified) internationally, the world community will need greater participation and greater confidence in commitments by the United States, which owns and operates the system.

This presentation will discuss the history, applications, and issues associated with the Global Positioning System. It will also present some of the advanced satellite-based navigation research projects at Stanford University, which are adressing how GPS availability is expected to change the future of ground, marine, and aerospace navigation worldwide. Examples of future applications include automatic landing of airplanes and demonstrations of robotic farm tractors.


Bradford Parkinson of Stanford University, the original Department of Defense (DoD) Global Positioning System (GPS) Program Director, has a broad background in management, modem control, astrodynamics, simulation, avionics, and navigation. He manages the NASA/Stanford Relativity Mission, Gravity Probe B (GPB) and also directs Stanford research on innovative uses of GPS. Degrees are from US Naval Academy (BS 1957), MIT (MS 1961), and Stanford (Ph.D. 1966). He is a distinguished graduate of the US Naval War College and was head of the Department of Astronautics and Computer Science at the US Air Force Academy. From 1966-68 he was an academic instructor for the USAF Test Pilot School. From 1972 to 1978 he led concept development and directed the NAVSTAR Joint Program Office for which he received the DoD Superior Performance Award for Best Program Director (1977). He retired as Colonel in 1978. From 1979 to 1980 he served as a group Vice President for Rockwell International. He was Vice President and General Manager of Intermetrics, Incorporated. He is Chair of the NASA Advisory Council and a member of the Presidential Commission on Air Safety and Security. Dr. Parkinson is a member of the AIAA, AAS, IEEE, ION, and Royal Institute of Navigation (RION). He has received many distinguished awards and authored more than 80 papers on Guidance, Navigation and Control. He is a fellow of the AIAA and the RION, and a member of the National Academy of Engineering. He is a commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Air Safety and Security.

Exploring the Gas Giants with Hubble Space Telescope

by Dr. Heidi B. Hammel

Tuesday, March 4, 1997 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


During the 1980’s, our understanding of the giant planets — Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune — was revolutionized by detailed images taken by the Voyager spacecraft of these planets’ atmospheres. Virtually all astronomy textbooks today still use Voyager images of the planets. However, those images were static: brief snapshots in time of four complex and dynamic atmospheric systems. In short, those images are no longer representative of the appearance of these planets. Recently, our knowledge of the atmospheres of the gas giant planets has undergone striking new advances, due in part to the excellent imaging capability of the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). In this talk, I will bring you up to date on our understanding of the giant planets, emphasizing the results from my two recent HST programs: (1) the study of the collision of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter, and (2) imaging of intriguing variability in Neptune’s clouds. I will also present HST observations of Uranus and Saturn, to place all four giant planets in comparative planetological context. You will leave this colloquium with a brand-new view of the largest planets in the Solar System.


Dr. Heidi B. Hammel is a Principal Research Scientist at MIT in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences. She received her undergraduate degree from the same department in 1982, and got a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Hawaii in Manoa (Honolulu, HI) in 1988. After completing a post-doctoral position at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (Pasadena, California), she returned to MIT in 1990. Dr. Hammel works primarily in the field of outer planets. She is an acknowledged expert about the planet Neptune, and was a member of the Imaging Science Team for the Voyager 2 encounter with that planet in 1989. For the impact of Comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 with Jupiter in July 1994, Dr. Hammel led the Hubble Space Telescope Team that investigated Jupiter’s atmospheric response to the collisions. Her latest research has focussed on imaging of Neptune and Uranus with Hubble Space Telescope.

Dr. Hammel was the 1996 recipient of the Urey Prize of the Division for Planetary Science of the American Astronomical Society, awarded for outstanding scientific research by a young planetary scientist. She also has been awarded several prizes in connection with public outreach, including the Astronomical Society of the Pacific’s 1995 Klumpke-Roberts Award for public understanding and appreciation of astronomy, and the 1996 Spirit of American Women National Award for encouraging young women to follow non-traditional career paths.

Fire and Global Change: A Hot New Environmental Issue

by Dr. Joel S. Levine

Tuesday, April 8, 1997 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


A recent report of the National Research Council, concludes: “Our planet and global environment are witnessing the most profound changes in the brief history of the human species. Human activity is the major agent of those changes–depletion of stratospheric ozone, the threat of global warming, deforestation, acid precipitation, the extinction of species, and others that have not become apparent.” Only one human activity contributes to all of those global changes: global burning, the burning of the world’s vegetation–forests, grasslands, and agricultural land–for land clearing and land-use change. It is believed that global burning is overwhelmingly human-initiated and that it has increased significantly over the last few decades, with most of the burning taking place in developing countries. Recent studies using satellite measurements performed at Langley and elsewhere, indicate that global burning is much more widespread and extensive than previously believed. On the average, as much as one percent of our planet’s land cover may burn each year. Scientists at the NASA Langley Research Center have been in the forefront of research in global burning, including the use of satellite measurements to assess the geographical extent of burning and the chemical sampling and analysis of gases and particulates produced by burning in very diverse ecosystems. Langley’s contributions to our understanding of global burning will be summarized.


Joel S. Levine is a Senior Research Scientist in the Atmospheric Sciences Division at NASA Langley Research Center. Dr. Levine received a B.S. in physics from Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, a M.S. in meteorology from New York University, and a M.S. in aeronomy and planetary atmospheres and a Ph.D. in atmospheric science, both from the University of Michigan. He serves as the Principal Investigator on global burning investigations supported by both NASA and the Global Change Program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Dr. Levine is Co-Director of an international scientific team to develop a inventory of the gaseous and particulate emissions produced by global burning for the International Global Atmospheric Chemistry Project, part of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program. Levine has authored or co-authored more than 125 scientific papers and edited four books on global change, atmospheric chemistry, and global burning. He is an Adjunct Professor of Applied Science and Physics at the College of William and Mary, where he teaches atmospheric science and has written and served as the on-camera host for more than 15 PBS television programs on atmospheric science and global change, including the award-winning series, Mission EarthBound. Levine was selected as Virginia’s Outstanding Scientist and received the New York Academy of Sciences’ Halpern Award for Chemistry, both honors for research in atmospheric chemistry and global change.

A New Era of Planetary Exploration

by Dr. Robert D. Braun

Tuesday, May 6, 1997 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


The design and development of a series of small planetary exploration spacecraft is proceeding rapidly at NASA and industry centers across the country. Poised for flight in the coming decade, these projects should continue to expand our knowledge of the solar system long after the Mars Pathfinder landing and Mars Global Surveyor orbital insertion later this year. While providing scientists and the public with new data, insight, and images of Mars, these missions are operating with a “better, faster, cheaper” philosophy. As a result, flight of this aggressive series of landers and orbiters poses numerous technological challenges including: design of micro-spacecraft, sample-return systems, the first flight of an aerocapture system, autonomous precision landing, and design of lightweight, high-speed entry systems. In this lecture, NASA’s robotic planetary exploration strategy will be discussed. Mission and science objectives will be presented with an emphasis on the technological challenges that lie ahead. Finally, current plans for the piloted exploration of Mars will be discussed.


Robert D. Braun is an aerospace technologist in the Space Systems and Concepts Division of the NASA Langley Research Center. He has been working on the development of aeroassist elements for robotic and piloted planetary exploration since 1987. Dr. Braun received a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from The Pennsylvania State University in 1987, a M.S. in Astronautics from The George Washington University in 1989, and a Ph.D. in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Stanford University in 1996. He has been a member of the Mars Pathfinder design team since 1992 and is the only non-JPL member of the Pathfinder entry, descent, and landing operations team. Dr. Braun has led the LaRC Mars Pathfinder analysis efforts for which he received the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal in 1996. He has also worked on the design of the New Millennium Mars Microprobes (scheduled for launch in Jan. 1999) and is currently leading LaRC’s Mars 2001 aerocapture team. Dr. Braun also serves as the JPL point-of-contact for LaRC’s planetary entry activities.

The Evolution of Aerodynamic Design with Wind Tunnels, Computational Fluid Dynamics, and Computational Optimization

by Paul E. Rubbert

Tuesday, June 3, 1997 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Over the span of the speaker’s career, the practice of aerodynamic design has evolved guided by theoretical aerodynamics, wind tunnel testing, and the ever increasing role of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD). Up until the 1990’s, progress occurred at a rate paced by the growth of computer power. Computation optimization in the design process became viable. The early 1990’s brought a period of major adjustment and realignment as airplane companies adapted to a new paradigm of industrial competitiveness. During this period the focus changed from product performance to process performance. The practice of optimization switched from endeavors that sought to maximize the mission performance of an airplane to the practices that seek to maximize customer satisfaction. The relationship between aero- dynamic design shaping and the manufacturing processes is becoming a key aspect of aerodynamic design. Timeliness has become the dominant theme. New directions in wind tunnel methodology, CFD, and computational optimization were launched at Boeing in the early 1990’s as a response to this new paradigm. Those developments have now matured to the point where their impact is being felt in an increasing number of airplane development activities.

We have entered a period where improvements to aerodynamic design process are taking place at a rate that is unprecedented. This presentation provides a number of examples of recent airplane design activities that illustrate how advances in wind tunnel, CFD, and optimization methodology are producing some truly dramatic and inspiring advances. The speaker will conclude with a vision of the future and the challenges that must be met in achieving that vision.


Dr. Paul E. Rubbert is an international expert and leader in the development and application of Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) in aerodynamic design. He has been called upon by government, industry and academia to provide his expertise, guidance and vision in charting the ongoing revolution in aerodynamics propelled by of CFD. He has received numerous awards including the prestigious Wright Brother’s Medal.

Dr. Rubbert began his career at The Boeing Company in 1960 after receiving BS and MS degrees in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Minnesota. In 1963, he continued his graduate study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a Ph.D. degree in Aerodynamics in 1965. Returning to the Boeing Company, he led aerodynamic design activities for transonic transport aircraft. In 1972 he became the manager of a CFD research group which has received worldwide recognition, and subsequently he became the Director of the Boeing CFD Laboratory. Today he is a Boeing Technical Fellow and is leading the transformation of aerodynamic engineering in a “quality movement” that is revitalizing an increasing number of U.S. Corporations.

Development, Flight, and Landing of the Mars Pathfinder Spacecraft

by Anthony J. Spear

Tuesday, July 15, 1997 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


The Mars Pathfinder landing on July 4, 1997 will usher in a new era of planetary exploration. Historically, spacecraft that orbit or land on a distant body carry a massive amount of propellant to decelerate. Instead the Pathfinder spacecraft requires only a modest supply of fuel to navigate to Mars. With use of a Viking-derived aeroshell, the spacecraft descends through the Mars atmosphere directly from its interplanetary flightpath, deploys a parachute approximately 10 km above the surface, and fires solid rockets within 100 m of the surface for final braking prior to the deployment of airbags that cushion its touchdown. After landing, petals open to orient the lander upright, followed by deployment of a small rover, Sojourner, and several science instruments. As the first Discovery mission, accomplishing this project under NASA’s “better, faster, cheaper” philosophy was a pathfinding task in itself. Pathfinder’s total cost, including rover development, the launch vehicle, and operations was limited to $270M. In comparison, the Viking project would have cost over $3 billion in today’s dollars. Additionally, being the first robotic entry system designed in nearly two decades, relevant technical expertise was not available in one location. Instead, a multi-center team was formed to attack the technical challenges and fly the mission on schedule and within cost. In this colloquium, development and flight of the Pathfinder spacecraft will be discussed. In particular, the July 4th entry, descent, and landing events will be highlighted. The latest set of science and engineering data will also be provided.


Anthony J. Spear has been the manager of the Mars Pathfinder project since its inception in 1992. In 1991, he led the initial Jet Propulsion Laboratory studies on NASA’s Better, Faster, Cheaper Discovery missions. Tony has worked on numerous interplanetary spacecraft including the Mariner Mars 1964, Mars 1969, and Venus Mercury 1973, Viking, and Magellan programs. He performed numerous management through development and flight of the Magellan spacecraft, serving as Project manager during the Venus orbit insertion in 1990 and completion of the high resolution surface radar imaging map in 1991. From 1975-1979, he managed the development and implementation of several microwave instruments for NASA’s SEASAT 1978 Earth satellite mission which included the first synthetic aperture imaging radar to fly in space. Tony has served four years in the United States Air Force and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Carnegie Melon, a Master of Science degree in electrical engineering from the University of Southern California, and a Master of Engineering degree from the University of California at Los Angeles.

The High Speed Civil Transport

by Wallace C. Sawyer

Tuesday, August 5, 1997 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


The Post Cold war era has given rise to increased competition among the aircraft manufacturers of the world. The United Kingdom, France and Japan’s Ministry of International Trade have all made substantial investments in technologies required to demonstrate an economically viable and environmentally acceptable high-speed civil transport (HSCT). Industry experts predict that the number of flights to the Pacific Rim will quadruple by the beginning of the next century, spurring the demand for over 500 next-generation supersonic passenger transports. Therefore, the first country to develop a supersonic transport that is competitive (i.e., less than a 30 percent ticket surcharge) with existing subsonic transports stands to capture a significant portion of the long-haul, intercontinental market. Specifically, the HSCT market is estimated to be worth $250 billion and could potentially add 140,000 critical skill jobs to the economy. In order to capture this market and preserve the United States leadership in commercial aviation, the High Speed Research (HSR) Program is being conducted by NASA. The goal of this program is to demonstrate the technical feasibility of a next-generation supersonic transport. This presentation will discuss the challenges faced by the HSR program and the major accomplishments to date.


Wallace C. Sawyer is the Director of the High-Speed Research Program for the Agency. He has held this position since July 1994 and oversees NASA’s focused commercial high-speed research efforts. Mr. Sawyer began his career at Langley in 1965 as an aerospace engineer. He has authored or co-authored over 45 technical publications and has also contributed to a technical textbook. He has served in numerous management positions including: Assistant Head, Supersonic Aerodynamics Branch; Head, Concepts Analysis Section; Head, Fundamental Aerodynamics Branch; and Head, Supersonic/Hypersonic Aerodynamics Branch. He has also served as the Assistant Chief and Chief of the Advanced Vehicles Division responsible for directing multi-disciplinary studies of advanced aeronautical vehicles, and in NASA Headquarters as the Acting Assistant Director of Aeronautics for High Performance Aircraft. Most recently, he served as Acting Deputy Director of Aeronautics and Deputy Director of the Aeronautics Program Group. He received his bachelor of arts degree in Physics and Mathematics from Elon College in North Carolina in 1964. He also pursued graduate studies in Physics at the College of William and Mary and in engineering management at George Washington University. He is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.

Technological Needs of Airlines in the 21st Century

by Karel Ledeboer

Wednesday, September 10, 1997 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


The Operations Committee of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is composed of 30 senior representatives from the Engineering, Maintenance, and Flight Operations areas of IATA’s member airlines. This committee recently undertook an effort to define the technological needs of the airlines for successful operations in the next century. Eight significant areas of interest were identified. These are (in alphabetical order): aircraft and engine construction materials; aircraft size; avionics (including future antenna construction and design); maintenance (easing, reducing, eliminating, and managing); operating costs; propulsion and fuel (including noise and emissions); security; and training. The overriding parameter in each of these eight areas, however, is safety. Karel Ledeboer will discuss the airlines’ views on each of these eight topics, and will also discuss the three conclusions reached so far: commercial aviation must reach an even higher level of safety than today; operating costs must continue to decrease; and the impact on the environment must be minimized.


Karel Ledeboer, a Dutchman, is an Aeronautical Engineer who earned his degree in 1962 at the Technical University in Delft. At that time he was already employed by KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. He joined the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in August 1994 as Senior Director, then became Technical Director, and is now Director of Operations and Infrastructure. In his 33 years with KLM, Karel has held a variety of functions: Director of Central Engineering, Deputy General Manager, Senior VP for Engineering and Maintenance, Senior VP for Flight Operations, and most recently, Executive VP for Operations. He was Chairman of the Board of a number of KLM subsidiaries, and served on the Board of the Netherlands Aerospace Laboratories. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society and has received a Knighthood in the Order of the Netherlands Lion.

Evolving at Warp Speed: Supercomputing – 2001 and Beyond

by Gary P. Smaby

Tuesday, October 14, 1997 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Gary Smaby began tracking the fledgling supercomputing industry in 1982. From his vantage point as a widely respected Wall Street analyst for the investment banking firm that brought Cray Research into the stock market, Mr. Smaby built an international reputation as an oft-quoted observer on trends in the high-performance computing (HPC) landscape. In his remarks, Mr. Smaby will present an historical, and often lighthearted perspective on the forces that shaped the evolution of supercomputing during its heyday; highlighting the factors that led to the tumultuous restructuring that has characterized the market in the post-Cold War era. In lay person’s terms, Mr. Smaby will trace major industry events along the historical timeline and offer some prognostications about the future direction and impact of HPC into the new millenium.


Gary P. Smaby is CEO and Principal Analyst at Smaby Group, Inc, an international strategic advisory boutique. Mr. Smaby advises senior executives at many of the world’s largest corporations – and most promising start-ups – on strategies for launching and building successful new technology ventures. He also serves as interim CEO for ThemeMedia, Inc., a Redmond WA based information visualization software start-up formed as a joint venture between Smaby Group and Battelle Memorial Institute. Mr. Smaby began his career in the information technology (IT) industry in 1974 as an entrepreneur when he founded Realcom Corporation, an advanced graphics imaging firm. Over the next eight years, Gary launched and built several successful new ventures. In 1982, shortly after successfully divesting Realcom, Gary joined the Minneapolis-based investment banking firm of Piper Jaffray as vice-president and senior analyst to set up an emerging technology group. During his Wall Street career, Mr. Smaby’s coverage encompassed a broad spectrum of the IT industry from high-performance workstations and supercomputers to networking and digital media. He was promoted to Managing Director, Technology Research in 1986. In 1988, Gary left Piper to join the New York investment firm of Needham and Co. as Managing Director. He formed Smaby Group in 1989. Gary graduated with a B.A. from St. Olaf College, with dual majors in East Asian Studies and Art.

How Design and Operational Factors Influence the Nature and Shape of Resulting Airplane Configurations

by John C. Houbolt

Tuesday, November 4, 1997 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Why do airplanes look like they do? There are a host of design and operational factors which directly influence the way an airplane configuration is born. Many of these factors are conflicting in nature. This talk aims to describe these factors in an elementary way and to show how the final shape of an airplane configuration is highly dependent on its intended use. Some basic theoretical formulae, not complicated, are given to show what specific parameters are of key concern in the design process. The factors which are involved in making the airplane as efficient as possible are also brought out. Illustrative slides will form the basis of the presentation.


Dr. John C. Houbolt has had a distinguished career in the aerospace industry, initially with NASA Langley from 1942 through 1963, and then with Aeronautical Research Associates of Princteon from 1963 to 1975, returning to NASA Langley as the Chief Aeronautical Scientist from 1976 until his retirement in 1985. He continues to provide engineering consulting services in his retirement. His interest in airplane design is a personal one related to one of his hobbies: he is a private pilot with a multi-engine rating.

Early in his career Dr. Houbolt specialized in research on stability and dynamics of aircraft structures. As he moved into management, first as Associate Chief of the Dynamic Loads Division (1949-1961) and then as Chief of the Theoretical Mechanics Division (1961-1963), he diversified into research in aeroelasticity of aircraft and space vehicles and in special problems of space flight. Dr. Houbolt has authored over 100 technical reports. He is the recipient of numerous awards including the NASA Exceptional Scientific Achievement Award in 1963 for conception and development of the Lunar-Orbit Rendezvous concept for performing the manned lunar landing mission. He earned a Bachelor of Science and a Master of Science degree in civil engineering from the University of Illinois in 1940 and 1942, respectively, and a PhD. in Technical Sciences from ETH in Zurich, Switzerland in 1957. He also received an honorary Doctorate from Clarkson University in 1990.

Evolution of the Blended-Wing-Body Subsonic Transport

by Robert H. Liebeck

Tuesday, December 9, 1997 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


NASA, Industry, and academia are currently working together on new solutions to tomorrow’s aviation challenges. These challenges include the predicted tripling of passenger air travel from 1995 to 2015 and pressures on the aircraft industry to produce lower ticket prices while remaining economically viable. Future aircraft will also be required to meet increasingly stringent noise, emissions, and safety requirements. The use of revolutionary technologies and aircraft concepts may enable future aircraft to meet these challenges.

One revolutionary concept under study is the Blended-Wing-Body. This thick “flying wing” would carry 800 passengers more than 7000 miles in a double-deck compartment that blends into the wing – almost twice the capacity of a Boeing 747-400. Adjacent to the passenger section is room for baggage and cargo. By integrating engines, wing, and body into a single lifting surface, the overall efficiency will be maximized. Using 2015 technology, advances in structures, aerodynamics and other technologies will be combined to dramatically increase the performance over current aircraft. Many challenges exist that will involve complex solutions requiring a multidisciplinary design approach. This talk will address those challenges and the steps needed to resolve them.


Dr. Robert H. Liebeck is a Senior Fellow at The Boeing Company, Long Beach, California. He has been instrumental in recent application of “flying wing” technology to the subsonic passenger aircraft. He received his B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in Aeronautical Engineering from the University of Illinois in 1961, 1962, and 1968 respectively. He was employed by the Douglas Aircraft Company in 1961 and has remained with the organization to the present through various corporate changes. Since 1977 he has also been an Adjunct Professor of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Dr. Liebeck is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a fellow of the Institute for the Advancement of Engineering. He has authored or co-authored over 50 technical publications. He has received numerous awards and this year was a keynote speaker to the White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security.

Why Wilbur and Orville?

by Tom D. Crouch

Wednesday, December 17, 1997 at 1:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium. Sponsored by the NASA Langley Research Center Colloquia Committee, the AIAA Hampton Roads Section, the Air Force Association, the National Defense Industrial Association, and the Virginia Aerospace Business Round Table.


On the occasion of the 94th anniversary of the first flight of the Wright Flyer, Dr. Tom D. Crouch, Chairman of the Division of Aeronautics at the National Air and Space Museum, will discuss the unique combination of talents and qualities that enabled Wilbur and Orville Wright to become the first people to sucessfully complete the quest for flight. Dr. Crouch will examine this historic flight from personal, professional, and engineering perspectives to reveal how Wrights found themselves on the doorstep of history on December 17, 1903.


Dr. Tom D. Crouch is Chairman of the Division of Aeronautics at the National Air and Space Museum. A Smithsonian employee since 1974, he has served both the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) and the National Museum of American History (NMAH) in a variety of curatorial and administrative posts. Dr. Crouch holds and BA (1962) from Ohio University, an MA (1968) from Miami University, and a Ph.D. from the Ohio State University. All of his degrees are in history. He is the author or editor of a number of books and many articles for both popular magazines and scholarly journals. Most of his work has been on aspects of the history of flight technology.

Tom Crouch has won a number of major writing awards, including the history book prizes offered by both the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and the Aviation/Space Writers Association. He received a 1989 Christopher Award, a literary prize recognizing “significant artistic achievement in support of the highest values of the human spirit”, for The Bishop’s Boys: A Life of Wilbur and Orville Wright.