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January 10, 2013
By Jim Moore
Turbofan engines that reduce fuel consumption and noise, composite materials that reduce weight while preserving strength compared to traditional materials, and flaps and landing gear designed to reduce noise are among eight innovations chosen for further testing, including flight testing, by NASA as the Environmentally Responsible Aircraft program embarks on a new phase.
NASA announced Jan. 7 that the selected projects will move from the laboratory to the real world, with flight and ground tests planned for systems that aim to reduce weight, drag, noise, and fuel consumption through various approaches. The ERA program was launched in 2009 to leverage private and public investment and create new technologies that make air travel more efficient, and reduce its environmental impact.
"With these demonstrations we will take what we’ve learned and move from the laboratory to more flight and ground technology tests," said Fay Collier, ERA project manager based at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., in a news release. "We have made a lot of progress in our research toward very quiet aircraft with low carbon footprints. But the real challenge is to integrate ideas and pieces together to make an even larger improvement. Our next steps will help us work towards that goal."
The selected projects were chosen as the most promising of dozens of submissions and proposals. All are aimed at transport aircraft, though many of the concepts may be applied to general aviation in years to come. NASA has a long history of supporting aviation innovation, helping to create a number of improvements and technologies in widespread use today.
AOPA Online Associate Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot who enjoys competition aerobatics.
Alaskan aviators now have 221 cameras scattered across the state that can be accessed online, offering a real-time picture of fast-changing conditions during daylight hours.
A metal detector enthusiast recently unearthed fragments of a legendary World War II aircraft, and the U.S. Navy deployed a team to investigate in February.
New Zealand helicopter company Composite Helicopters is moving from kit to certified carbon fiber rotorcraft.
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