NBAA: Aerion details second phase of supersonic wing tests

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Aerion's phase two supersonic laminar-flow flight tests will use an 80x40in (203x101cm) test article mounted beneath a Boeing F-15B, and are due to get underway this week from NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center.

The trials were delayed since late last year due to a lack of aircraft availability.

The article will be flown at speeds of up to Mach 2.0 to measure the real-world robustness of supersonic natural laminar flow, a vital element in the company's design for the world's first SBJ. The tests are also intended to help define future SBJ manufacturing standards for surface quality and assembly tolerances.

"What we're really doing is moving the technology more to the practical issues of building the wing in a factory, and then flying the airplane in normal operational profiles and ensuring that the laminar flow that has been designed is in fact achieved over time," says Aerion chief operating officer Douglas Nichols.

An earlier phase of tests - using a flat-plate calibration fixture onboard an F-15 - was completed around two years ago.

"We spent a fair amount of time using that data to try to calibrate a CFD model of the F-15," says Aerion test manager Jason Matisheck. "We were pretty successful with that, and then we sort of reverse-designed the current fixture based on the information from CFD."

"We'll start a series of flights up to about M2 and 40,000ft, looking at how the test article is performing, and then we'll start adding discrete roughness to extend the existing laminar flow roughness tolerance criteria that exists for subsonic airplanes up into the transonic and supersonic regimes to see if it changes at all," says Matisheck.

Around 6-10 flights are expected, over 1-2 months. One supersonic run provides 30-40min of flight time.

"We look at the test article with an infrared camera, says Matisheck. "You can see where the laminar and turbulent boundary layer is because they have different rates of heat transfer."

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