NASA Tests Flexible Flap Design
By Pia Bergqvist
NASA has started flight testing a new flap design that has the potential to make flying quieter and more fuel-efficient. The Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge (ACTE) project is a collaborative effort between NASA as part of its green aviation project and the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to determine whether flexible trailing edge flap surfaces can improve aerodynamic efficiency and lower noise levels produced by jet airplanes during takeoffs and landings.
The flap design is a variable geometry airfoil system called FlexFoil, which was designed and built by Ann Arbor, Michigan-based FlexSys Inc. The FlexFoil has already been installed and the first flight test has been completed on a Gulfstream III test airplane.
“The first flight went as planned – we validated many key elements of the experimental trailing edges,” said Thomas Rigney, ACTE project manager at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California. “We expect this technology to make future aircraft lighter, more efficient, and quieter. It also has the potential to save hundreds of millions of dollars annually in fuel costs.”
During the initial flight test, the flaps were locked at one setting, but future flights will test the flaps to their full capability. If the new flap design proves successful and achieves certification, NASA says it will be available as a retrofit or be incorporated into new airplane designs.
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