by Air Force Research Laboratory Aerospace Systems Directorate
5/11/2015 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- A
team of researchers from Air Force Research Laboratory, NASA and
FlexSys, Inc., accomplished a long sought goal in aviation research
April 22 with the last flight of the Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge
Flight Research program.
A radically new morphing wing technology called Flexfoil TM exceeded all
expectations in flight testing. The ACTE program completed 22 research
flights between Nov. 6, 2014, and April 22 at NASA Armstrong Flight
Research Center at Edwards AFB, Calif.
Positive results from the flight tests indicate that Flexfoil TM, which
can be retrofitted to existing airplane wings or integrated into
entirely new airframes, is ready to revolutionize aircraft wing design.
The technology enables engineers to reduce wing structural weight and to
aerodynamically tailor the wings throughout the flight envelope to
promote improved fuel economy and more efficient operations, while
reducing environmental and noise impacts.
AFRL began work with FlexSys, of Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1998, through the
Small Business Innovative Research program. AFRL and FlexSys developed
and wind-tunnel tested several wing leading and trailing edge designs
for various aircraft configurations through 2006.
In 2009, AFRL and NASA's Environmentally Responsible Aviation project
agreed to equip a Gulfstream III jet with new flap surfaces designed and
built by FlexSys, incorporating its proprietary Flexfoil Variable
After seeing a morphing wing demonstration, AFRL Commander Maj. Gen. Tom
Masiello said, "Here's another example of a successful government
research partnership with small business to advance a very exciting
aerospace technology for transition."
Flight-testing was key to proving the concept's airworthiness. The G-III
was flown with its experimental surfaces at flap angles ranging from -2
degrees up to 30 degrees. Initial ACTE flight testing supported one of
ERA's eight integrated technology demonstrations to explore design
improvements for reducing drag, weight, noise, emissions and fuel
"The purpose of these tests," said ERA project manager Fay Collier, "was
to see if flexible trailing edge wing flaps could improve aerodynamic
efficiency and reduce the noise generated during takeoffs and landings."
Pete Flick, AFRL Program Manager at Wright-Patterson AFB, added, "We are
thrilled to have accomplished all of our flight test goals without
encountering any significant technical issues. These flights cap 17
years of technology maturation. The technology is now ready to
dramatically improve aircraft efficiency for the Air Force and the
commercial aviation industry."
Sridhar Kota, inventor of FlexFoil technology and founder of FlexSys Inc., was equally enthusiastic.
"Thanks to AFRL for its vision and leadership in recognizing the merits
of our technology 17 years ago and supporting the development all the
way through these flight tests, and thanks to NASA for its expertise and
contributions in conducting the flight test," said Kota, who is also a
professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan.
Armstrong project manager Thomas Rigney said, "Our success was the
result of a terrific partnership with the Air Force and FlexSys to
flight test this promising new technology. I'm very impressed with the
hard work and dedication of the team that made this possible, and I look
forward to continuing our research."