In this episode I talk with NASA Armstrong’s chief scientist Al Bowers about the research projects he has been involved in during his long career at NASA. We cover deep stall research with a Schweizer sailplane, high-alpha flight and thrust vectoring with the X-29, X-31 and F-18 HARV, aero-tow of fast jets with the F-106, supercritical wings with the F-8, as well as space related projects using the SR-71 and the X-30. This is one of my favourite episodes of all time, since it is a bit of trip down memory lane for me personally, and Al perfectly hits the sweet spot between recounting facts and telling anecdotes.
The Perlan Project aims to fly gliders into the stratosphere by exploiting mountain waves in order to better understand those waves and to explore the edge of what gliders can do. In fact, last September, they broke the world altitude record for gliders. In this episode we chat about the project, the airplane and the flying with engineer Lars Bensch and pilot Jim Payne.
Quantum Systems designs, builds and sells unmanned air vehicles for professional use. Their particular specialty is VTOL designs, i.e., UAVs that take off and land vertically, but then switch to airplane mode for airplane-like speed and range. In this episode we chat with Quantum’s CEO Florian Seibel about their primary drone, the Tron. We focus on the motivation for developing the aircraft, the use cases, as well as design decisions and technical aspects.
Secondary surveillance radar (SSR) is the radar technology used in aviation to query transponders; it forms the backbone of today’s air traffic control infrastructure. Our guest in this episode is Mike Sharples who has been part of the development of the technology and is intimately familiar with the details. We discuss the importance of SSR today, the details of the protocol, the difference between and evolution from Mode A/C to S as well as the relationship to ADS-B.
As part of my trip to the US earlier this year I visited NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base. I conducted six interviews over two days, those concerning full scale (“real”) aircraft are in this episode. We start out with Kevin Weinert, with whom we talk about the Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge project, essentially a flap made of flexible materials to save fuel and reduce noise. Next up is Jim Less, one of NASA’s F-15 and F-18 pilots; we chat about his flying and various research projects where the jets are utilized (you can see this part as a continuation of Episode 73, where we chatted with Dick Ewers). Finally, we talk about flying the MQ-9 and RQ-4 unmanned aerial vehicles with the pilots Scott Howe and Hernan Posada.