Colloquium Lectures 2002

How Well Did the “Flyer” Fly? – An Analysis of the Wright Brothers Flights, December 17, 1903

by Colin P. Britcher

Tuesday, January 8, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


An analysis of the flight performance of the Wright 1903 ‘Flyer’ is presented, based on recently available data for aerodynamic and propeller characteristics, together with accepted historical data for the engine, weather conditions, weights, and dimensions. It is found that the flight performance was extremely marginal, that the ‘Flyer’ may have been essentially limited to operation in ground effect, and that take-off may have been impractical without a headwind. Further, it is shown that commonly accepted values for in-flight engine/propeller RPM may be underestimates. This analysis highlights the Wright Brothers prowess at systems integration, which resulted in their successful achievement of flight with very little margin for error.


Dr. Colin P. Britcher currently serves as an Associate Professor of Aerospace Engineering at Old Dominion University (ODU). His duties include direction of research and academic programs at the Langley Full-Scale Tunnel, the largest University-operated wind tunnel in the world, and leadership of the master’s degree program in Experimental Methods. He was educated at the University of Southampton, England, earning Bachelor’s and Doctoral degrees in 1978 and 1983 respectively. After a two-year residence at NASA Langley Research Center as an NRC Associate, he joined ODU. He is active in research and teaching in experimental methods, aerodynamics, and magnetic suspensions. He has authored over 50 technical publications covering these areas and has received research funding totaling over $2 million. He is an Associate Fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a member of SAE and the American Society of Engineering Education.

Computational Combustion: from Molecular Processes to Combustor Design

by Stephen B. Pope

Tuesday, February 5, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Since the industrial revolution and before, combustion has been used as a source of heat, light and power. Engineers have been quite successful in increasing the efficiency of combustion devices while reducing the levels of pollutant emissions. However, these advances have been hard won, and depend on a large measure of empiricism. This talk describes progress that has been made in the development of computational approaches to combustion. These approaches aim at providing detailed quantitative predictions of the combustion process, and hence facilitate the design, optimization and control of combustion devices.

Recent work at Cornell has demonstrated the ability to combine a detailed (50-species) description of hydrocarbon combustion chemistry with a full description of the large property fluctuations due to turbulence. This methodology is successful in describing the phenomenon of local extinction (caused by rapid turbulent mixing) and the subsequent reignition of the partially burnt fluid, as well as the levels of major and minor species such as CO and NO.

The progress that has been made in this area in the past decades stems from research in a number of fields including chemical kinetics, turbulence modelling, laser diagnostics and computational algorithms. The importance of algorithms is emphasized. Algorithms developed in the last ten years have increased the capabilities of turbulent combustion models by a factor of 10,000, much more than the factor of 30 advance in computer hardware.


Professor Pope received his undergraduate and graduate education in the Mechanical Engineering Department of Imperial College, London. His Ph.D. research was concerned with turbulent flows and included measurements using Laser-Doppler anemometry, numerical calculation of turbulent flows, and the development of the PDF method for turbulent combustion. He received the Unwin prize, awarded annually for the best Ph.D. thesis in the College of Engineering.

After spending two post-doctoral years at Imperial College, Professor Pope came to the United States in 1977 as Research Fellow in Aeronautics in the Applied Mathematics Department of the California Institute of Technology. A year later he joined the Mechanical Engineering faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The three and a half years at MIT were spent primarily developing new Monte Carlo methods for solving PDF transport equations for turbulent reactive flows.

Since 1982 Professor Pope has been at Cornell University where he is the Sibley College Professor. In addition to PDF methods, his research activities include stochastic modeling of turbulence phenomena, direct numerical simulations of turbulence, and computational methods for combustion chemistry.

Professor Pope has published the textbook Turbulent Flows as well as over one hundred research papers and has presented his work in invited talks to national meetings of the Society of Industrial and Applied Mathematics, the Society of Engineering Science, and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers. He presented invited plenary lectures at the Twenty-Third Symposium (International) on Combustion, and at the Forty-Third Annual Meeting of the Division of Fluid Dynamics, American Physical Society. In 1986 he was awarded a Higher Doctorate (D. Sc. (Eng.)) by the University of London for “published work of a high standing containing original contributions to the advancement of knowledge and learning in the fields of fluid mechanics,combustion and turbulence.” In 1989 he was made an Overseas Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge and in 1999 he became a J.M. Burgers Center Professor at Delft University, Netherlands. Together with two former Ph.D. students, in 1990 he won the First Prize in the IBM Supercomputing Competition (Engineering Division) for research on material surfaces in turbulence.

At Cornell and MIT Professor Pope has taught fluid mechanics, heat transfer, thermodynamics and combustion as well as advanced courses in turbulence and turbulent reactive flows; and in 1996 he received the J.P. and Mary Barger Excellence in Teaching Award. He has been a consultant to Boeing, Exxon, General Electric, General Motors, MIT, Rolls-Royce and UTRC and is a director of TQ Group Ltd. Other outside professional activities include being: Associate Editor of Physics of Fluids and Combustion Theory and Modelling; being on the Editorial Advisory Boards of Progress in Energy and Combustion Science, and of Flow, Turbulence and Combustion and serving on the several committees of professional societies.

The Mars Odyssey Mission: An Epic Journey Back to the Red Planet

by David Spencer

Tuesday, March 5, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


On October 23, 2001, the Mars Odyssey spacecraft successfully achieved orbital insertion around Mars. This event marked the return of the American space program to the Red Planet following two successive failures in 1999. Odyssey’s four year development phase and one year of flight operations have closely followed the Webster definition for odyssey: “a long journey marked by many changes in fortune.” Mr. Spencer will describe the history of the Odyssey project, discuss the fundamental changes that were made in response to the previous mission failures, and provide current mission status.


David Spencer has been the Mission Manager for the Mars Odyssey project since its formulation in 1997. Prior to joining the Odyssey project he was the lead mission designer for the Mars Pathfinder mission, for which he received the NASA Exceptional Achievement Medal. Mr. Spencer began working at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 1991, after receiving B.S. and M.S. degrees in Aeronautics and Astronautics from Purdue University. He was born and raised in Indianapolis, Indiana, and now resides with his wife and two sons in La Canada Flintridge, California.

The Quest for Sustainability: Sustainable Development and Remote Sensing

by Thomas E. Lovejoy

Tuesday, April 2, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Is there a limit to growth and development on our planet? This is a major question that impacts both society and the environment on local, regional, and global scales. Sustainable development has been a central goal for society since the World Commission on Environment and Development (the “Brundtland Commission”) in 1987 and the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (the “Earth Summit” ) in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. Ten years since the latter, there still is a need to better understand what sustainable development really means. The presentation will center on this effort and the contributions remote sensing can make to sustainable development.


Dr. Thomas Lovejoy is Chief Biodiversity Officer for the World Bank. In April 2001, he received the Tyler Prize for Environmental Achievement, the equivalent of the Nobel Prize in the environmental sciences. Prior to his position at the World Bank, Dr. Lovejoy was Assistant Secretary for Environmental and External Affairs for the Smithsonian Institution. From 1989 to 1992, he served on the President’s Council of Advisors in Science and Technology (PCAST) and from 1992 to 1998 was Co-Chair for the Committee on Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) under the Executive Office of the President’s National Science and Technology Council (NSTC). He has authored or edited five books on the environment. Dr. Lovejoy received his B.S. and Ph.D. (biology) from Yale University.

Take This Gene and Call Me in the Morning: The Human Genome Project and the Promise of Gene Therapy

by Francis L. Macrina

Tuesday, May 7, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Living cells encode the instructions for everything they do in long, tape-like molecules called deoxyribonucleic acid, or DNA for short. Recently, the much-heralded human genome project presented us with a nearly complete version of that instruction manual. This event launched what some call the century of biology, and this nascent knowledge of the human genome is accompanied by unprecedented opportunities to probe deeply into cell and molecular biology, to diagnose, understand, and treat diseases, and to genetically engineer life forms. Ethical, legal, and social challenges also come with this territory. Dr. Macrina will explore the human genome project in terms of these areas, emphasizing specifically its impact on the emerging technology of gene therapy.


Francis L. Macrina earned his Bachelor of Science degree at Cornell University and his Ph.D. at Syracuse University. Following postdoctoral work at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, he joined the faculty of the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Virginia Commonwealth University in 1974. He served as the chair of VCU’s Department of Microbiology and Immunology for 12 years, and as the interim director of the Massey Cancer Center for 2 years. In 1998 he was appointed director of VCU’s Philips Institute of Oral and Craniofacial Molecular Biology in the School of Dentistry where he currently holds the Edward Myers Professorship. He served as interim vice president for research at VCU during 2000. Dr. Macrina is the author of Scientific Integrity: An Introductory Text with Cases. Both the first and second editions of this book have been widely adopted as textbooks for teaching responsible research conduct to scientist trainees. In 1987, Dr. Macrina was named Virginia’s Outstanding Scientist of the Year by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Shock Waves in Aviation Security and Safety

by Professor Gary Settles

Tuesday, June 4, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Terrorists have traditionally targeted commercial aviation. Small improvised plastic-explosive bombs concealed in checked luggage or beneath passenger clothing have caused disastrous loss of life. Blast overpressure, shock wave propagation, and hurled fragments can lead to rapid disintegration of an aircraft. An FAA-led program has addressed the feasibility of luggage-container and aircraft hardening to lessen the risk to commercial jetliners from such threats. Of course, this goes hand-in-hand with luggage and passenger screen to prevent explosives from being taken aboard aircraft.

In this presentation, optical imaging – the principal experimental tool for the study of blast wave propagation – is brought to bear on the issue of shock waves in aviation security and safety. (Previous studies have relied upon individual pressure transducers, which give limited insight into the nature of the blast.) The large scale demanded of any optical study of blasts in aircraft is provided by a special Full-Scale Focusing Schlieren flow visualization facility at Penn State, which is the largest in the world.

Blast effects are important in both aircraft passenger cabins and luggage holds. These are inherently internal rather than external blast situations. Complex wave interactions occur due to the internal geometry. We have examined scenarios including explosions of carry-on luggage beneath full-size aircraft seats, and luggage explosions inside a partially-filled standard luggage container. The presentation begins with an historical perspective on terrorist bombings of commercial aviation and measures to harden aircraft. Present experimental results are then illustrated by high-speed still frames and movies depicting shock wave motion in aircraft interior environments.


Gary Settles is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State University. His interest in fluid dynamics, optics, and experiments began as a teenager in east Tennessee with small subsonic and supersonic wind tunnel projects, which won awards at the 1967 International Science Fair. He held a summer job at NASA’s Ames Research Center in 1971, after having received a B.S. degree in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Tennessee. He earned his Ph.D. from Princeton in 1976. He was appointed Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Penn State in 1983 and was promoted to full professor in 1989. He established the Penn State Gas Dynamics Lab, now well-known for its work in high-speed viscous-inviscid interactions and optical flow diagnostics. Research by Settles and his students on these topics was honored by the Penn State Engineering Society with its 1986 Award for Outstanding Research and its 1992 Premiere Researcher Award. The strong visual and artistic nature of the optical flow visualization practiced by Settles has been used in many film and television documentaries, museum exhibits, books, encyclopedias, and magazines around the world. Settles has also presented many invited lectures and seminars in the US, Europe, Russia, China, and Japan. The emphasis of the Penn State Gas Dynamics Lab on non-traditional thermal science problems has resulted in several inventions, the world’s largest indoor optical flow visualization system, and a new aviation security screening portal based on the human thermal plume. Settles also recently wrote a book entitled Schlieren and Shadowgraph Techniques: Visualizing Phenomena in Transparent Media.

UAVs: It takes a Team

by Michael J. Logan

Tuesday, July 9, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs, are receiving intense interest from a variety of sources. The military is actively engaged in using UAVs to combat terrorism in Afghanistan. Commercial firms are investigating using UAVs for applications such as agriculture and communications. Many of these current uses involve large aircraft such as Predator, Helios, and Global Hawk. However, there is the potential for far more applications of smaller, more affordable UAVs, particularly for civilian use. This talk describes some of these potential uses and demonstrates some of the vehicles being developed by a team at NASA Langley Research Center’s Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Lab, or SUAVELab. Using humorous aphorisms from his native Texas, Mr. Logan describes how the team at NASA has overcome numerous challenges, both technical and institutional, to develop these remarkable vehicles.


Mr. Michael J. Logan, P.E. is currently Head of the Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Lab (SUAVELab) at NASA Langley Research Center. Mr. Logan has over twenty years of professional experience in both Private Industry and Government. Mr. Logan has worked with small companies as well as large organizations and has had the opportunity to learn first hand “what works” and “what doesn’t” in teams and organizations. Mr. Logan came to NASA Langley in 1990 after working at what is now Vought Aircraft. Mr. Logan has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in Aerospace Engineering and is a Registered Professional Engineer in his native Texas.

Evaluating the Effectiveness of Incident Reporting Systems

by Professor Chris Johnson

Tuesday, August 13, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


The popularity of incident reporting systems appears to be growing. For example, guidelines are currently being drafted in Europe for incident reporting in air traffic management, and the United Kingdom has a similar project to develop requirements for the reporting and analysis of control system failures throughout UK industry. Both of these projects raise the question of how to demonstrate the effectiveness of incident reporting techniques. This is a non-trivial problem. For example, an increase in the number of incidents reported might be a `good thing’ because it indicates increased participation in the system and suggests that more lessons will be learned. On the other hand, many regulators have interpreted such trends as an indication of an increased number of adverse events and hence as evidence of a fall in underlying safety standards. This talk will describe a range of techniques that have been developed and applied to help monitor the health of incident reporting systems in the UK rail, aviation, and healthcare industries.


Chris Johnson is Professor of Computing Science at the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He heads a research group that focuses on the investigation and reporting of technological failure in safety critical systems. He was responsible for writing guidelines that govern the reporting of human error, system failure, and managerial problems in European Air Traffic Management. His group have set up and help to run confidential, voluntary reporting systems in Scottish hospitals. This year, he has been commissioned by the UK government to help develop a framework for companies to report the failure of safety-critical computer systems. Regulators will use this information to identify common patterns of failure. He holds Masters degrees from the Universities of Cambridge and York. His D.Phil. was also awarded by the University of York. He is a Chartered Engineer and a Fellow of the British Computer Society.

Small Aircraft Transportation System: The Vision for Wings on America

by Dr. Bruce J. Holmes

Tuesday, September 10, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


An uneasy reality is emerging on the American transportation scene: existing air and ground infrastructures will not satisfy 21st century demands. The high costs of more capacity, strategies for demand management, and plans for managing security in our mass transportation systems will limit our ability to fulfill public expectations for freedom of movement inherent in our democracy. Failure to meet these challenges places our nation’s economic competitiveness and quality of life at risk. Clearly, new thinking about technology strategies for transportation innovations is essential. The NASA Small Aircraft Transportation System research program incubates technical innovation affecting the potential for use of smaller aircraft and smaller airports for public transportation.


Dr. Bruce J. Holmes manages the NASA Langley General Aviation Programs Office. He has led the technological revitalization of the U.S. General Aviation industry through the creation of the Advanced General Aviation Transportation Experiments (AGATE) and the Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) partnerships. Many of his early technical innovations appear in aircraft today. The Peninsula Engineers Council honored him as Engineer of the Year for 2002. Holmes has a Doctor of Engineering Degree (1976, with Honors), Master of Science in Aerospace Engineering (1973), and Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Engineering (1972) from the University of Kansas.

Emergency Preparedness: Emergency Response Before and After September 11th, 2001

by Scott M. Solomon

Tuesday, October 1, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


This talk describes our nation’s emergency preparedness capabilities before and after the tragic events of September 11th, 2001. Key questions to be considered include the following: How have the public’s perceptions changed since 9/11/01? How have the perceptions, skills and attitudes of emergency responders changed since 9/11? How has training for emergency response, hazardous materials response, and counter-terrorism response changed? How can new technologies improve emergency response efficiencies? How can we address public expectations and best prepare for the future? The talk will also present a comparison of fire service preparedness before and after 9/11 in several cities, including New York and Los Angeles.


Mr. Scott M. Solomon is the Director of Hazardous Materials Training for the International Association of Fire Fighters, and is in charge of all training activities that affect member health and safety. These training activities include hazardous materials, weapons of mass destruction, infectious diseases, and emergency response. He has testified at more than two dozen congressional hearings and federal panels, and has crafted testimony, delivered keynote speeches, and written advocacy articles and political presentations. Mr. Solomon is certified in all levels of hazardous materials emergency response (Operations through Incident Commander) and he has authored or co-authored 17 texts addressing health and safety. Mr. Solomon has a Master of Science in Engineering, a Master of Business Administration, and a Bachelor of Arts from West Virginia University.

The Aerodynamics of Bird Flight

by Professor Geoffrey R. Spedding

Tuesday, November 5, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. in the ** Pearl Young Theater. **


The recent increased interest in constructing autonomous, micro-scale, air vehicles (MAVs), has led to a corresponding increase in the number of potential reasons to be interested in the mechanisms of natural flight. The flight of birds especially has long been the source of inspiration for the earthbound human, and some birds appear to possess an array of desirable or necessary characteristics for successful MAV development. These include the ability to manoeuvre in confined spaces, adjust to significant amounts of atmospheric turbulence and to run for considerable distances or times between refuelling stops.

So – how do birds work? Due to the complexity of the wing geometry, kinematics and mechanical properties, the more successful and general theories of bird flight concentrate not on the animal, but on its wake, inferring the aerodynamics from the assumed or measured wake flow. Recent experiments suggest that current models are not in fact very good at predicting wake flows, either quantitatively or qualitatively. Despite this gloomy conclusion, forward progress can be made though the judicious use of comparatively crude models, and engineering decisions can be made. The merits of basing MAV design on birds and their flight mechanics will be examined in this light.


Geoffrey Spedding received his Ph.D. from the University of Bristol, England in 1981, and joined the Departments of Aerospace & Mechanical Engineering at the University of Southern California. He was appointed Associate Professor in 1998. His current research interests include the origin and structure of late wakes in stratified fluids, unsteady aerodynamic mechanisms in natural and engineered flight, and the initial development of surface waves by wind over water. Prof. Spedding has been first or sole author of sixteen (16) refereed journal publications, three (3) book chapters, and four (4) technical reports that are freely-distributed to the scientific community. His wavelet analysis, interpolation and flow estimation computer codes include novel algorithms, and have been extensively documented in publications and technical reports, and commercial product manuals. They are in use in laboratories worldwide.

From Kitty Hawk to the Stars

by Gentry Lee

Tuesday, December 17, 2002 at 2:00 p.m. in the H.J.E. Reid Auditorium.


Ninety-nine years ago the Wright Brothers successfully flew the first airplane at Kitty Hawk. Since that time, almost one century ago, humankind has extended its sphere of influence not just to the atmosphere above the surface of the Earth, but also into space. Human beings have landed on the moon. Robotic spacecraft have investigated almost all the planets of the solar system. Homo sapiens is now ready for another leap, toward the stars themselves.

In the next century our horizon will continue to expand. We will discover other earths orbiting other stars, establish a permanent presence on the Moon and Mars, and perhaps even learn unambiguously that we are not the only sentient beings in the universe. It was during the death throes of stars that many scientists believe the basic elements of our physical bodies were first created. Now it is the stars that are our ultimate destination.


Gentry Lee is Chief Engineer for the Planetary Flight Systems Directorate at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California. In that position Mr. Lee is responsible for the engineering integrity of all the robotic planetary missions managed by JPL, including the twin Mars Exploration Rovers (MER) to be launched in the late spring and early summer of 2003 and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) that is slated for launch in the late summer of 2005.

Mr. Lee’s previous positions have included Chief Engineer for the Galileo project, and Director of Science Analysis and Mission Planning during the Viking operations activities. Galileo sent a successful probe into the Jovian atmosphere, went into orbit around Jupiter, and then mapped the major Jovian satellites with repeated close flybys during a decade of mission operations. The two historic Viking missions touched down on Mars in the summer of 1976.

In addition to his engineering work, Gentry Lee has been an active novelist, television producer, computer game designer, media columnist, and lecturer. Gentry Lee received a B. A., Summa Cum Laude, from the University of Texas at Austin in 1963 and an M. S. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1964. He also attended the University of Glasgow in Scotland on a Marshall Fellowship for one year.