NASA’s Tips for Celebrating National Aviation Day 2016
Aug. 15, 2016
It’s an exciting time for aviation, with potential NASA X-planes on the horizon and a lot of new technologies that are making airplanes much more Earth friendly. Use National Aviation Day to excite and inspire the young people you know about exploring aeronautics as a future career.
Credits: NASA / Maria C. Werries
Look! Up in the sky. It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s… National Aviation Day!
Ever since 1939, August 19 (this coming Friday) has been celebrated as National Aviation Day, the legacy of a presidential proclamation first made by Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Selected because it was Orville Wright’s birthday, the decision to revel in all things aeronautical came at an exciting time in aviation history.
Just 36 years after the Wright Brothers flew the first heavier-than-air flying machine in 1903, aviation was a growing – if not thriving – industry in the United States and around the world.
New world speed and distance records were being set, airlines that still exist today were being formed and, as World War II began, both Allied and Axis Powers sought new ways to beef up aviation’s role in warfare.
By 1939, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (N.A.C.A.) – NASA’s organizational predecessor – was 24 years old and already well established with the nation’s premiere aviation research laboratory in Virginia, and a brand new center just approved to be built in California.
Fundamental problems with flight were being solved on the drawing boards and in the wind tunnels of the N.A.C.A., enabling aircraft to fly faster, higher, farther and with more and more cargo and passengers.
Today, with the N.A.C.A.’s research heritage still alive and well at NASA, it can be said that every U.S. aircraft and air traffic control tower in operation today uses some kind of NASA-developed technology.
Post your pictures telling us #WhereIsOrville starting on August 19.
Credits: NASA / Marshall Murphy
Tomorrow’s aviation scene will look even more impressive as NASA’s aeronautical innovators refine existing designs and take advantage of new technology to make aviation greener by reducing fuel use and emissions and lowering noise levels.
The nation’s aeronautical research agency also is embarking on a 10-year plan called New Aviation Horizons that will see NASA field a number of experimental aircraft – X-planes – in order to demonstrate 21st century ideas for flight.
That’s a lot to celebrate any time of the year, but especially on National Aviation Day. So how can you get in on the party in the sky? Here are some ideas worth taking off with:
Print this “NASA’s with you when you fly” flier to help you identify the NASA-developed technologies on board an airplane.
1. Show us “Where is Orville?”
Thanks to aviation, we can fly anywhere in the world, and so can Orville the Squirrel, NASA Aeronautics’ official mascot. You can help us show how Orville gets around by downloading his picture, printing it and then taking a selfie with Orville wherever you are. There’s even a spot where you can write in the location. The place doesn’t have to be aviation-oriented, but a few pictures of Orville at an airport or next to an airplane would be fun. Once you have your image, share it on social media and include#WhereIsOrville in your post. Downloadable Orville Sign and Full Instructions
2. Remember that NASA is with you when you fly.
Heading to an airport soon? See an airplane flying overhead? Next time you do either, think about NASA. Why? Well it might not be immediately visible, but every U.S. aircraft and air traffic control tower in operation today use some kind of NASA-developed technology. It's true.
Modern airplanes are filled with the results of NASA research. A great example is "winglets” – the vertical extensions at the tips of some wings invented by NASA during the 1970s that reduce drag, fuel use and noise.
Another example can be seen on the jet engines powering Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. Those sawtooth-shaped edges near the engine's exhaust nozzle are called "chevrons." They help cut noise in half at cruising altitude by adjusting air flow at the back of the engines.
Want more? If you can, sneak a glance at the cockpit on your next air trip. See all the electronic displays? They make up what's called a "glass cockpit." NASA did early testing on using the displays to replace heavier and outdated dials and gauges.
Dozens of more examples are hidden throughout the airplanes, airports, and control towers that exist to keep air travel moving through the National Airspace System in a way that reduces delays and is as Earth friendly as possible.
NASA's aeronautical innovators are working to transform air transportation to meet the future needs of the global aviation community. Sounds like a big job, right? It is and there are many ways in which NASA is doing this. Improving an airplane's aerodynamics, reducing the amount of fuel used by airplanes, making airplanes of all sizes quieter, decreasing the amount of harmful emissions released into the atmosphere, working with the Federal Aviation Administration to improve the efficiency of air traffic control – the list could go on and on.
To stay current with all the news, bookmark the NASA Aeronautics home page, follow us on Twitter @NASAaero, and “like” our NASA Aeronautics Facebook page.
4. Watch an aviation-themed movie.
There's no shortage of classic aviation-themed movies available to watch in whatever format (Blu-ray/DVD, streaming online, in the theater, etc.), from whatever source (Red Box, Netflix, your own library, etc.), and with whatever snacks (popcorn, nachos, Sno-Caps, etc.) are your favorite. We dare not attempt a comprehensive list because we wouldn't be able to satisfy everyone's tastes, but a few NASA aeronautics staff favorites include Jimmy Stewart's "The Spirit of St. Louis," Disney's "Planes," the documentary "One Six Right: The Romance of Flying," and the recent National Geographic IMAX spectacle "Living in the Age of Airplanes." (Check out some science, engineering and math activities in this educator resource guide NASA produced for the film.)
5. Explore the science, tech, engineering and math of flight.
Is your child curious about how things work? Does she or he like to work with tools and build things and organize friends to get things done?
We have a large selection of hands-on activities that you could download and work on yourselves with your children about the history of flight, parts of an airplane, the principles of flight, propulsion, and the airspace (weather, noise, pollution).
6. Visit your local science museum or NASA visitor center.
Exhibits about aviation and on how an airplane flies are popular staples of local science museums. Check out your local science center to see how they handle aviation, and even if they don't, it never hurts to spend some time learning about science. And if you live within a short drive of Norfolk, VA; Cleveland, OH; or San Francisco, CA, you might consider checking out the visitor centers associated with NASA's Langley Research Center, Glenn Research Center, or Ames Research Center, respectively. These major NASA field centers play host to the majority of NASA's aeronautics research. (NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center, the fourth of NASA's aeronautics centers, is located within the restricted area of Edwards Air Force Base, CA, so they do not have a public visitor center.)
7. Take an introductory flight lesson.
Pilots will tell you there is a wonderful sense of freedom in flying, not to mention the incredible views and the personal sense of accomplishment that comes from mastering the skills required to fly. At the same time being a pilot is not for everyone – but you won't know unless you try! Most general aviation airports in the nation have a flight school that offers an introductory flight lesson at a discounted price. Many airports have flying clubs that will introduce you to flight. You also might check to see if there is a Civil Air Patrol in your area. And if you want a taste of flight without leaving the ground, computer desktop flight simulators such as Microsoft Flight Simulator X or X-Plane 10 are popular choices and can get you into the virtual sky in short order.
Paper airplanes are effective, inexpensive ways to get kids to experiment with aerodynamics. There are many free designs online or try creating the look of one of our future X-planes.
Credits: NASA / Lillian Gipson
8. Build an airplane
Why not? It doesn't have to be big enough to actually fly in – although homebuilt airplane kits are available if you have the money, time and perseverance to complete the job. Putting together a smaller plastic model kit of one of the world's most historic aircraft can be just as rewarding and just as educational, especially for younger kids who might be thinking about a career as an engineer or aerospace technician. In fact, many astronauts will tell you their love of aviation and space began with putting models together as a child.
Another idea: Grab some LEGO bricks and build the airplane of your dreams, or perhaps one based on real NASA work like one of our possible X-planes.
Or make it easy on yourself, fold a paper airplane and shoot it across the room. Sometimes simple works best. There are many free, fold-able paper airplane designs available online.
9. Visit your local library or download a NASA e-book.
Aviation-themed books, whether fact or fiction, are all over the shelves of your local library – literally. That's because there's no single Dewey Decimal number for aviation. A book about aviation history will be in a different section of the library than a book about how to design an airplane. And fictional books such as the Arthur Hailey classic "Airport," or autobiographies such as Chuck Yeager's "Yeager," are off on yet another shelf somewhere else. Don't hesitate to ask your reference librarian for help. And when you get back from the library, or while still there, jump online and check out the NASA e-books you can download for free.
Get excited again about aviation! There are some really cool things happening. Watch this short video.
It’s National Aviation Day on August 19. Use social media to tell us where your Orville is on the day we celebrate flight.
Credits: NASA / Loura Hall
Print me! Write in your location, take a photo and post starting August 19.
Credits: NASA / Maria C. Werries
Where Is Orville?
Take a selfie with Orville, or a regular photo of him in your location. Be sure to write in where you are.
Credits: NASA / Karen Rugg
On National Aviation Day, August 19, the nation celebrates the anniversary of the birthday of Orville Wright.
Starting this Friday, NASA invites you to join the celebration of flight and everything it makes possible by taking our Orville flying squirrel along with you and posting a picture with the hashtag #WhereIsOrville.
Our heritage in aviation research goes back more than 100 years. We’ve helped air travel become a safe, reliable form of transportation. But we’re not finished. We’re working to transform aviation into something even better by perfecting new technologies, including those that could lead to shape-shifting wings, electric propulsion and the return of commercial supersonic flight.
Every U.S. commercial aircraft and every U.S. air traffic control tower has NASA-developed technology on board.
NASA is with you when you fly!
1. Download and Print Your Orville
Click here to download your Orville and print him out. We recommend printing a few copies so that you can post pictures from several different locations if you want!
Use the entire sheet in your photo, or, cut along the dotted line to release Orville from the page.
2. Starting Friday, August 19, take photos.
Are you going to be at an airport? Are you already on vacation at a place that you reached by air? Do you work in the aviation community – at a company, organization or agency that has something to do with flight? Are you at school for aeronautics or aerospace? Are you a pilot or member of a flight crew? Do you work at an airport?
On the “@” line, write where you are and then take a selfie or regular photo while holding your Orville.
3. Post, and be sure to tag your posts with #WhereIsOrville.
4. Watch NASA Aeronautics social media accounts to see if we like your post.
Power of Pink Provides NASA with Pressure Pictures
An aircraft design that could reduce fuel use, emissions and noise is set up for a test in a wind tunnel at NASA's Ames Research Center in California in which pink-colored pressure-sensitive paint is applied to the vehicle. The pink paint shines when exposed to blue light, glowing brighter or dimmer depending on air pressure in the area.
Pressure-sensitive paint covers the blade tips of a helicopter being tested in a wind tunnel at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia.
They say you show your true colors when you’re under pressure.
Turns out the old saying works for models being tested in wind tunnels as well, specifically those coated with a unique Pressure-Sensitive Paint (PSP) that NASA engineers have used for more than 25 years.
Today the bright pink paint is helping NASA’s aeronautical innovators test new aircraft designs that could cut fuel use in half, pollution by some 75 percent and noise to nearly one-eighth of what it is today.
“PSP is great because as long as you can apply paint to the area you want to test, illuminate it with a lamp, and view it with a camera, you can gather data you might not otherwise be able to get,” said Nettie Roozeboom, an aerospace engineer with NASA’s Ames Research Center in California.
Engineers need to know how pressure is distributed across an airplane’s surfaces as it moves through the air so they can ensure, among many other critical variables, that they understand the loads the vehicle is experiencing at given wind tunnel conditions.
When testing scale models of aircraft designs in wind tunnels, pressure readings are traditionally taken using pressure taps, little plastic tubes that are strung through the model’s interior up to the surface through a small hole in key places.
“The challenge is you can only install so many of these taps, otherwise your whole model becomes one big pressure tap,” Roozeboom said. “And in some models, there just isn’t enough room inside the model to accommodate the taps.”
Case in point: Recent tests of a transonic truss-braced wing aircraft design, part of Boeing’s Subsonic Ultra Green Aircraft Research project, involved a model in which some of the parts were too tiny for documenting air pressure any other way than PSP.
“The wing struts in particular were very thin, and it was difficult to machine taps where the wing met the fuselage, so PSP really was the ideal solution,” Roozeboom said.
NASA engineer Nettie Roozeboom checks out a generic launch vehicle model covered with pressure-sensitive paint that shines when exposed to blue light. The test article is seen mounted in a wind tunnel at NASA's Ames Research Center in California.
Power of Pink
Here’s how PSP works:
A thin coat of the special paint, about one-and-a-half thousandths of an inch thick, is sprayed on to the model that will be tested in the wind tunnel and allowed to dry.
The model is then installed in the wind tunnel, which also is equipped with a series of blue LED lights and a complement of specially equipped black and white cameras to record the test.
With the wind tunnel active, air flows over the model resulting in varying surface pressures. The blue lights excite molecules known as luminophores within the paint causing them to fluoresce, or shine.
At the same time, due to the nature of the paint’s chemistry, oxygen molecules quench the luminophores. High-pressure areas have more oxygen, so the pink shines dimmer. Lower pressure areas have less oxygen, so the pink shines brighter.
These differences in how much the paint fluoresces or shines is recorded by the cameras, and the resulting black and white images are analyzed. The intensity of the different shades of gray are converted to a color scale indicating the varying pressure levels.
Researchers use PSP as one of many tools to better understand how a new aircraft design might perform. It also can be used to help make other tools, such as the computer modeling tool known as CFD, more accurate.
“When you start to marry all these technologies to arrive at the best answer, I think you can walk away knowing more,” Roozeboom said.
Astronaut Janet Kavandi, part of the STS-104 space shuttle Atlantis crew, is seen here aboard the International Space Station in 2001. Kavandi's work on her doctoral thesis during the late 1980s helped develop the pressure-sensitive paint used by NASA today.
It was early in the 20th Century when the idea of correlating the luminescent properties of a coating to varying pressure levels was first developed. By 1935 a German scientist, Hans Kautsky, first deduced that the quenching of luminescence was caused by oxygen.
As the concept evolved through the years, it was during the 1960s that a potential use was explored in the field of medicine, with some success realized in using the idea as part of a tool for measuring oxygen content in blood.
Much of the work that led to biomedical applications of the concept was located at the University of Washington. It was there that during the 1980s a Boeing researcher turned to further develop an idea for using the concept in aviation, and then successfully demonstrated PSP in a wind tunnel.
NASA joined the story not long after, still during the 1980s, when an Ames researcher, Blair McLachlan, was doing some work on fluorescent dyes and was referred to the researchers at the University of Washington.
Realizing the tremendous potential value of PSP to NASA’s work in both aviation and space, McLachlan began the process of bringing that tool to the agency.
Interestingly, a key figure in those efforts turned out to be former astronaut Janet Kavandi, a three-time space shuttle veteran who is now director of NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.
Kavandi was a PhD chemistry student at the University of Washington and, while waiting for a flight at the Seattle airport, happened to meet the researchers from her school who were working with NASA on PSP, which led to her joining the embryonic team.
By early 1989, Kavandi and others had developed a desirable PSP recipe, essentially creating the first generation of the pink paint used today. They drove down to Ames from Washington with the lighting, cameras and a painted wing segment to try out in a wind tunnel.
NASA engineer Nettie Roozeboom measures levels of roughness on a launch vehicle model as part of the process of applying pressure-sensitive paint before wind tunnel tests can begin.
Today, NASA uses PSP as a research tool in the wind tunnels at Ames, Glenn Research Center in Ohio, and Langley Research Center in Virginia, and engineers continue to look for ways to make PSP even more effective for testing both aeronautical and space vehicles.
Roozeboom said the next big thing for PSP is to perfect a new version of the paint in which the luminophores molecules get excited faster and are less sensitive to temperature – work sponsored by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate.
Known as Unsteady PSP, the paint would reveal changes in pressure at the microsecond level, providing a more detailed look at what is happening on the surface of an aircraft or launch vehicle being subjected to high stress during a high-speed flight or launch.
But one thing that is not expected to change is the bright pink color of the specialty paint.
That means one thing for Roozeboom, who at Ames is currently the “go to” person for all things PSP, including procuring the Pepto Bismol-colored paint – not available in a hobby store – painting the models and leading the test analysis:
“Everything that’s pink ends up in my office.”
Jim Banke NASA Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate