NASA aeronautics on display at Fiesta

Travis Bator views models of what future aircraft might look like. He especially liked the idea of supersonic commercial airliners.

Travis Bator of Minnesota came to 44th annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta to see a kaleidoscope of color in the skies.
After he saw what he came to see, he ventured to the NASA exhibit, which featured a collection of futuristic concept aircraft. Bator saw something that interested him that went a lot faster than the featured fiesta attractions.
“The supersonic jets are really interesting,” Bator said. “I remember the Concorde (a commercial supersonic airline). I would like if a supersonic commercial aircraft was available again.”
The two conceptual aircraft in the display that grabbed his attention included the Supersonic Twin-Jet and the Supersonic Tri-Jet, two different industry visions of how a supersonic airliner might look. To enable supersonic travel, NASA is studying supersonic aircraft noise as it breaks the sound barrier, called sonic booms, and ways to mitigate it.
Fast aircraft fascinated Bator, but Tyler Hamilton of Albuquerque, N.M., focused on a much slower one, an electric aircraft.
“I think that would be awesome,” Hamilton said. “It would be really quiet compared to jets.”
He learned about the concept of a future electric aircraft from the NASA display containing the Joby Aviation of Santa Cruz, Calif., motor and propeller. The two aircraft elements were from a 31-foot-span, carbon-composite wing section called the Hybrid-Electric Integrated Systems Testbed.
The research could lead to improved aircraft efficiency, safety, noise reduction and environmental and economic benefits and is another way NASA is working to verify and validate technology that will be with people when they fly.

Candance Owen of Belen, New Mexico, shows her daughter Eva an illustration of a futuristic concept aircraft that could fly cleaner, quieter and efficient on fuel.

As part of NASA’s Transformative Aeronautics Concepts program, development will begin later this year on a piloted experimental aircraft, or X-plane. The wings and engines will be removed from an Italian-built Tecnam P2006T and replaced with enhanced wings and motors. Using an existing airframe will allow engineers to compare the performance of the X-plane with the original aircraft. It will fly from NASA Armstrong Flight Research Center in California, where some of the previous tests were completed.
NASA Aeronautics Mission Directorate is focused on testing and integrating a number of new technologies designed to reduce aircraft noise and emissions, maximize fuel efficiency and improve air-traffic management.
DiAngelo Apodaca of Aldogones, N.M., was intrigued by the scientific balloon displays.
“The scientific balloons can be as big as a football stadium,” Apodoca said.
Scientific balloons fly in the stratosphere — at between 100,000 and 160,000 feet — to support science and technology investigations. The balloons can carry payloads of up to 8,000 pounds, or essentially the weight of two mid-sized vehicles. NASA’s Balloon Program Office, based at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va., manages the scientific balloon flights for the agency.
Apodaca is a middle school student, who said he was inspired to see the NASA exhibit when NASA Armstrong chief scientist Al Bowers visited the school a week before the fiesta. Bowers talked to students at multiple schools in New Mexico about students helping him in his aircraft research and encouraging them to work hard and apply for internships.
Something more Earth side interested Landry Boden, 9, of Rio Rancho, N.M. She sat in a simulated high-performance jet cockpit.
“I like flipping all the buttons,” she said with a wide smile.
Boden likes science, but struggles in math, said Tierney Boden, her mom.
“The cockpit is amazing and maybe it will help her embrace her math more,” Tierney Boden said.
NASA aeronautics hopes to help Landry Boden and young people like here to see a future with reduced aircraft noise and emissions and aircraft that maximize fuel efficiency. Through ongoing technology development efforts NASA intends to be there when they fly.

Kim Lewis-Bias assists a visitor to the NASA exhibit. In the background is part of the timeline of key events of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the precursor to NASA, which former 100 years ago.


Ron Strong explains elements of the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy, which carries the largest airborne infrared telescope in the world.


Jayden Carothers, 11, takes the “controls” of a simulated high performance jet cockpit.


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