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X-36 Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Tested [press release]

From: (Glenn Campbell, Las Vegas)
Date: Thu, 22 May 1997 12:29:43 -0800
Subject: X-36 Remotely-Piloted Aircraft Tested [press release]


Date: Wed, 21 May 1997 12:35:48 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:  Remotely-Piloted Tailless Aircraft Completes First Flight


     A NASA/McDonnell Douglas remotely piloted, tailless aircraft
successfully completed its first flight on May 17 at NASA's Dryden
Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA.  The lack of vertical tails
greatly enhances the stealthy characteristics of the airplane, and
holds promise for greater agility than is currently available in
existing military fighter aircraft.

     Called the X-36, the subscale research aircraft lifted off
from Rogers Dry Lake at 7:08 a.m., PDT. The aircraft flew for five
minutes  and reached an altitude of  approximately  4,900 feet. An
additional 24 test flights of the X-36 are scheduled at Dryden
during the next six months.

     "We thought the flight was outstanding; we are beginnning to
show what the fighter aircraft of the future will look like," said
Rod Bailey, X-36 program manager.  When we saw this airplane lift
off, we saw the shape of airplanes to come."

     NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, CA, leads the X-
36 program, and has technical responsiblity for continued
development of some of the critical technologies needed for future
tailless, stealthy fighter aircraft.

     There are two 28-percent-scale X-36s, which are remotely
piloted jets built by the McDonnell Douglas Corporation's Phantom
Works division in St. Louis, MO, and are designed to fly without
the traditional vertical and horizontal tails found on most
aircraft.  Each aircraft measures 18 feet long, 3 feet high, has a
10-foot wing span, and weighs 1,250 pounds.  Each aircraft is
powered by a Williams Research F112 turbofan engine that provides
700 pounds of thrust.

     The X-36 aircraft are remotely controlled by a pilot in a
ground station cockpit, complete with a heads-up display.  The
pilot-in-the-loop approach eliminates the need for expensive and
complex autonomous flight control systems. The design reduces
weight and drag of the aircraft and explores new flight control
technologies.  The aircraft use split ailerons to provide yaw
control, as well as raising and lowering in a normal fashion to
provide roll control.  The X-36 also incorporates a thrust
vectoring system.

     "The flight control system functioned flawlessly and we look
forward to subsequent flights to demonstrate the full range of
manuverability of the aircraft," said Mark Sumich, X-36 project

     "We knew within five to ten seconds into the flight that we
had a good flying airplane," said Gary Jennings, McDonnell Douglas
X-36 program manager. "Flying in a simulator is one thing, but
until you actually fly the airplane, you don't really know how it
will handle.  Today we found out that it handled extremely well."

     NASA Ames and McDonnell Douglas developed the technologies
required for a tailless fighter beginning in 1989.  In 1993,
McDonnell Douglas proposed the remotely piloted aircraft
technology demonstration to validate the technologies in a real
flight environment.  In 1994, McDonnell Douglas began fabrication
of the two aircraft in their rapid prototyping facility in St.
Louis.  The project was jointly funded under a roughly 50/50 cost-
sharing arrangement between NASA and McDonnell Douglas.  The
combined program cost for the development, fabrication, and flight
testing of the two prototype aircraft is approximately $20 million.

     "The first flight went very well; it was just textbook
perfect," said Larry Walker, X-36 Project pilot.  "It was a nice
takeoff and the handling was great.  I knew instantly that it was
a nice flying airplane.  I see no obstacles in the future for this
type of technology."


Photos are available from NASA Ames Research Center's Public
Affairs' homepage at URL:


and also are available from the NASA Dryden Photo Archive on the
World Wide Web at URL:

RELEASE:  97-106

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