Aeronautics engineer Richard Whitcomb–whose research at NASA produced the area rule, supercritical wing and winglets–was posthumously inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame earlier this month. He died in 2008 at the age of 88. During Whitcomb’s almost four decades at NASA his “fundamental insight into aerodynamics and his practical solutions led to three of the most significant and practical contributions to aeronautics in the 20th century,” said NASA Langley Research Center director Lesa Roe.
With White House budget cuts restored by Congress, NASA is returning to its roots by restructuring its aeronautics research mission directorate to emphasize cutting-edge fundamental research, as well as protecting its far-flung test facilities as national assets.
Proposed funding cuts that could affect NASA’s ability to conduct aeronautics research–including work on the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS)–continue to draw fire from lawmakers, aerospace officials and academia.
Michael Griffin reported to work late last month as the 11th administrator of NASA. By his own admission, Griffin will be “spending a good deal of my time reviewing our progress toward returning the space shuttle safely to flight,” so it remains to be seen if his experience as a flight instructor and instrument-rated multi-engine pilot will result in a renewed emphasis on aeronautics research.