Volume 5, Number 5 September/October 1997
Aerospace Technology Development
EADERS OF THE ADVANCED GENERAL Aviation Transport Experiment (AGATE) Alliance are reporting impressive progress in their effort to revitalize the nation's light plane industry, developing technologies that promise safe, affordable and convenient personal air transportation. AGATE is a pact between government and the U.S. light plane industry to revitalize general aviation in this country, working to make airplanes as easy to operate as cars. The following are project examples of AGATE's efforts.
New Pilot Training Methods Develop
With support from NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is developing a training curriculum that will be integrated into AGATE glass cockpit training methods in the next few years. It calls for creating learning modules for glass cockpit multifunction displays and single-lever power control systems. It also includes a curriculum that could cut certification costs by 25 percent for nonpilots to obtain an instrument rating.
The project's cost will be evenly split between government and industry. NASA is funding the government's $1.5 million share the first year, while the FAA plans to fund the government's share for the remaining years of the effort.
Team members to date include Advanced Creations, Inc., Dayton, Ohio; Cessna Aircraft Company, Wichita, Kansas; Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, Florida; Jeppesen Sanderson, Englewood, Colorado; and Raytheon Aircraft, Kansas. Agreements are being negotiated with other potential members.
New Datalink Radio Demonstrated
An AGATE Alliance member company has successfully demonstrated a digital datalink radio using affordable technologies for retrofit and future general aviation aircraft. This could lead to reducing weather-related general aviation accidents, the leading cause of light plane fatalities.
The high-bandwidth, software-based digital radio, developed by NavRadio Corporation of Denver, Colorado, has the potential for quickly communicating weather, clearance, flight planning, maintenance and other data. It has enough capacity to bring national and regional aviation weather graphics into the cockpit of general aviation airplanes for display on computer screens.
Datalink radio technology is expected to be available commercially within the next 24 months. The technology is expected to play a key role in enabling the FAA's "free flight" concept for greater flexibility in user-preferred flight routings.
New Quiet and Efficient Propeller
A propeller made of space-age composite materials is being hailed as the first major improvement in fixed-pitch propellers for light planes since the 1930's. The propeller, an advanced "quasi-constant speed" propeller, permits a fixed-pitch propeller to perform similarly to a variable-pitch propeller, but without the complexity of a variable-pitch propeller.
As part of its work in the AGATE Integrated Design and Manufacturing Work Package, Global Aircraft of Starkville, Mississippi, took advantage of modern aerodynamic technology and advanced composite structural processes to design and develop a composite quasi-constant speed propeller suitable for a typical 150180 horsepower general aviation engine. The propeller will automatically change pitch by flexure of the propeller blade rather than mechanical rotation of the blade shank.
This technology makes it possible to develop a propeller that is both more efficient and quieter than current metal propellers. Production of the propeller is anticipated to begin in the fall of 1997.
Nonprofit AGATE Corporation Established
John F. Sheehan, president of Business Development Systems, Inc., has been named as executive director of the newly established AGATE Alliance Association, Inc. (AAAI). This nonprofit organization was established by the industry members of the AGATE Alliance as a means for conducting administrative and managerial business. The organization, created by the AGATE Executive Council, located in Hampton, Virginia, is expected to provide the AGATE Alliance with greater flexibility. AAAI also maintains the AGATE web site at http://agate.larc.nasa.gov
For more information, contact John F. Sheehan at AGATE Alliance Association, Inc. (AAAI).
or contact Keith Henry at Langley Research Center.
Please mention you read about it in Innovation.