- Press Release
- August 6, 2022
Senate Testimony on Aeronautics by NASA Administrator Dan Goldin
Statement of Daniel S. Goldin, Administrator
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Subcommittee on Science, Technology, and Space
Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
In late May or early June of this year, a B-52 that was designed in
the early 1950’s will take-off from Edwards Air Force Base in Southern
California and head to a test range over the Pacific Ocean. Mounted underneath
the starboard wing will be a Pegasus rocket that was designed in the 1980’s.
Fitted onto the Pegasus in place of the nosecone will be the X-43, a small
experimental scramjet (supersonic combustible ramjet)-powered vehicle designed
at the Langley Research Center in the mid-1990’s. Over the test range,
the B-52 will drop the Pegasus, which will fire its rocket engine and accelerate
to Mach 7. At that point, if all goes well, explosive bolts will fire and
a ram will push the X-43 into free flight. Shortly thereafter, its scramjet
will ignite and we will receive combustion data for ten seconds. When its
fuel is spent, the X-43 will continue on its flight path before plunging
into the Pacific Ocean.
Flight of the X-43 vehicles will be the culmination of over 20 years
of scramjet research and the first time a non-rocket engine has powered
a vehicle at hypersonic speeds. And while the concept of a scramjet engine
has been around for decades – nearly as long as the B-52 that is carrying
it to the test range – it has not been technically feasible until now.
The talent and vision of the people at our NASA Research Centers are making
it feasible, turning visionary possibilities into incredible realities.
NASA’s job is to envision the future and make it a reality. This is our
history and it is our future.
I am confident, even excited about the future we can create. It is incredible
and I will describe it to you. Dr. Creedon and I will explain how these
exciting possibilities can be made reality through revolutionary technologies
we are working on today. But let me be very clear, the aerospace industry
is facing serious challenges, our air and space transportation systems
are constrained and not meeting the needs of our society, and NASA must
transform itself to lead the transition to this new future by managing
within the resources provided to us by the American people.
The Importance of Aerospace
First, let me discuss why aerospace is so important. Aerospace is critical
to National security, transportation mobility and freedom, and quality
of life. Air superiority and the ability to globally deploy our forces
are vital to the National interest. The role of air power in winning the
Gulf War is a clear reminder of the importance of aircraft in major conflicts.
Aviation is a unique, indispensable part of our Nation’s transportation
system, providing unequaled speed and distance, mobility and freedom of
movement for our Nation. Air carriers enplane over 600 million passengers
and fly over 600 billion passenger miles, accounting for 25 percent of
all individual trips over 500 miles, 50 percent over 1000 miles and 75
percent over 2000 miles. Air freight carries 27 percent of the value of
the Nation’s exports and imports and is growing at over ten percent annually.
Global communications, commerce and tourism have driven international growth
in aviation to five to six percent annually, well beyond annual Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) growth.
Aviation employs 800,000 Americans in high quality jobs, second only
to trucking in the transportation sector. Driven by technology, annual
growth in aviation labor productivity over the past 40 years has averaged
4.6 percent, compared to two percent for U.S. industry as a whole. For
example, technological advances over the past 40 years, many of them first
pioneered by NASA, have enabled a ten-fold improvement in aviation safety,
a doubling of fuel efficiency with reductions in emissions per operation,
a 50 percent reduction in cost and an order of magnitude reduction in noise.
Aviation manufacturing is a consistent net exporter, adding tens of
billions of dollars annually to the Nation’s balance of trade. Aviation
produces and uses a broad base of technologiesófrom computing and simulation
to advanced materialsósupporting the high technology industrial base of
the country. Defense aviation provides fast, flexible force projection
for the U.S. Our military aircraft are unparalleled globally because they
employ the most advanced technology.
Aviation is central to personal freedom, security of the citizenry and
the global movement of people and goods in the new economy. Mobility is
a prerequisite for freedom. The ability to move freely and efficiently
from place to place is a right highly valued by U.S. citizens. Mobility
requires transportation that is inherently safe, available on-demand, and
affordable. National security and the economic health of the country are
heavily dependent on aerospace systems.
The U.S. is the global leader in aviation. From every aspectótechnology,
products, services, aviation standards and procedures, and National defenseóthe
U.S. sets the mark.
The Aerospace Environment Today
Sustaining our leadership and the National benefits we derive from it
is far from assured. Both military aerospace research and development (R&D)
and procurement have declined, reducing the “technology pull” from the
military sector. In past decades, the primary motivation for advances in
aerospace technologies was dominated by military needs. The partnership
among NASA, Department of Defense (DoD) and industry rapidly advanced,
matured and integrated aerospace technologies. These technologies were
then appropriated for commercial use, with great success. Examples of this
process abound. The turbine engine introduced on the B-707 was originally
designed for military aircraft. The Pratt & Whitney J-57 and the General
Electric J-79 engines were also originally developed for military use before
leading to commercial derivatives. Beyond this, Boeing’s Model 367-80,
the “Dash 80,” was the prototype for both the KC-135 military tanker and
the Boeing 707. In the mid-1960’s, the U.S. Air Force initiated work that
led to the C-5A military transport. Shortly thereafter, the companies in
competition to develop the transport all introduced wide body civil transports
– the Boeing 747, McDonnell Douglas DC-10 and the Lockheed L-1011. In an
additional significant development, revolutionary fly-by-wire flight controls
were developed and first adopted for U.S. military aircraft and the Space
Shuttle, and Boeing is now incorporating fly-by-wire into its newest commercial
Although the increasingly competitive marketplace demands an accelerating
pace of technological innovation, the opportunity for commercial industry
to draw on defense-related R&D is decreasing. The military aerospace
sector is a much smaller share of the overall aerospace market. Furthermore,
recent military spending has been focused more on sustaining the current
fleet and less on research and technology. According to the Aerospace Industries
Association, in 1971, the military accounted for 55 percent of the overall
market and by 1998 it was down to 31 percent. For turbojet engines, the
decline is even more dramatic. For example, General Electric Aircraft Engines
shifted from 70 percent of their business being military to about 20 percent.
And for Pratt & Whitney the situation is very similar.
Furthermore, during the 1950’s there were 45 aircraft development programsóduring
the 1990’s there were only six. Far fewer developments with protracted
design and acquisition schedulesóan 80 percent increase in the development
time for major DoD systems from 5.2 years during 1965-69 to 9.3 years during
1990-94óare the result of increasing system complexity and inefficiencies
in design, development and manufacturing. With fewer aircraft developments,
there are fewer opportunities for the Nation’s declining engineering workforce
and experience base to develop design and production skills, crucial in
light of the increasing system complexity. A sharp decline in the enrollment
in our universities’ aerospace engineering departments has paralleled this
decline in aircraft development programs. The National Science Foundation
reported that between 1992 and 1997 enrollment dropped by 25 percent, and
while there has been a slight upturn since, this decline further exacerbated
the loss of engineering talent.
The market shift from the military to the commercial sector as the major
buyer of aerospace products dictates a corresponding shift in R&D strategy.
Industry consolidationófrom 25 aerospace corporations two decades ago to
four todayóhas contributed to the substantial reduction in the infrastructure
that supports aerospace research and technology. R&D in the aerospace
industry is typically in the range of three to five percent of sales. Much
is focused on evolutionary product development. This contrasts with other
industries. For example, in 1999, the pharmaceutical industry invested
10.5 percent of its sales in R&D and the computer industry invested
26.3 percent of sales. Therefore, at NASA, we shifted our technology development
toward revolutionary long-term, high-risk civil needs, while maintaining
strong partnerships with DoD and industry to ensure the sharing and application
of technologies across military and commercial requirements.
Commercial markets are projected to be extremely large over the next
decade. These projections are based on the assumption that the current
aviation system can support unconstrained growth. But, just as the Nation
(and the world) becomes more dependent on moving people and goods faster
and more efficiently via air, important obstacles have emerged. The air
traffic and airport systems in both the U.S. and overseas are reaching
full capacity. Delays are increasing. Experts agree that the congestion
and delay problems experienced throughout the U.S. last summer will only
get worse unless drastic action is taken. Each year, airlines must add
more “padding” to their schedules to maintain on-time performance and the
integrity of their scheduling systems, while facing more congestion in
the system. At the same time, legitimate concerns over environmental issues
(e.g., noise and emissions) are preventing additions to physical capacity.
In 1998, airline delays in the U.S. cost industry and passengers $4.5 billionóthe
equivalent of a 7 percent tax on every dollar collected by all the domestic
airlines combined. With demand projected to double over the next decade,
NASA estimates, based on a computer model of operations at the Nation’s
top 64 airports (80 percent of enplanements), that in the absence of change,
annual delay costs will grow to $13.8 billion by 2007 and $47.9 billion
by 2017. But growth in airport infrastructure that might offset this problem
is not likely in the foreseeable future. Several key airports are unable
to gain approval for projects to expand infrastructure because they are
in non-attainment areas, where National objectives to reduce emissions
have not been met. Therefore, we are seeing constraints to growth that
could threaten the commercial prospects of our aerospace industry as well
as impact the integrity of our transportation system.
Beyond these numbers lies another serious problem. Because of the networked
nature of air transportation, as the system gets closer to its capacity
limits, it has less flexibility to deal with unexpected but inevitable
events. When the system is operating at its limits, an isolated problem
within the system, such as a thunderstorm, creates missed connections,
severe delays and canceled flights that ripple throughout the system. This
loss of flexibility to deal with unexpected events cuts to the heart of
the National imperative to have a dependable transportation system.
Today, these problems are even more acute than in the past. Shortfalls
in capacity (i.e., airports, air traffic control and vehicle capability)
and problems with the environment are not easily addressed in the private
sector. The resulting delays, and noise and emissions pollution are not
priced in the market place. These problems are termed “externalities” since,
unlike other costs, no market participant pays directly for them. As a
result, the private sector has inadequate incentives to address the very
real problems imposed by aviation on third parties. NASA is making progress
in a number of programs, including Aviation Safety and Aviation Systems
Capacity that directly address these externalities.
As the long-haul jet transport has in effect become a commodity in the
marketplace, commercial operating margins have become razor-thin. And,
although the dollar value of the U.S. share of the world aerospace market
has been increasing, from $84 billion in the mid-1980’s to $114 billion
in the late-1990’s, the U.S. share of the total market has been markedly
declining. From about 70 percent in the mid-1980’s, it is about 50 percent
today, in part because of the development of new programs overseas. Future
market share could decline even further as European competition becomes
more aggressive. The Aerospace Industries Association recently announced
that the aerospace trade balance is down $14.8 billion, or almost 35 percent
from the record high in 1998 of $41 billion. This includes a drop of $6
billion in civil transport exports and a $2 billion increase in the imports
of civil transports.
America should not be lulled into the false security that the U.S. will
continue to be the leader in aerospace. The Europeans have reached parity
in civil transports, and have laid out a potential path to forge ahead
of the U.S. The Japanese have shown significant interest in supersonic
transports. If we lack the vision, we run the risk of: constraining our
ability to meet the demands on our Nation’s aviation system, losing the
premier position of our civil industry, fighting battles with out-dated
technology, and relying on foreign transports for our personal and business
Anyone who doubts this should read the European plan for aeronautics.
The following is an excerpt from “European Aeronautics: A Vision for 2020”:
are celebrated brands, renowned for the quality of products that are winning
more than 50% shares of world markets for aircraft, engines and equipment.
They enjoy the considerable benefits flowing from Europe’s fully integrated
single market, especially the access to efficient capital markets and the
ability to recruit from Europe’s pool of well educated and trained professionalsÖ.For
the European aeronautics industry, gradual realization of our ambitious
vision must be facilitated by an increase in public funding. European aeronautics
has grown and prospered with the support of public funds and this support
must continue if we are to achieve our objective of global leadership.
Although it is a preliminary estimate, total funding required from all
public and private sources over the next 20 years could go beyond 100 billion
A Vision and Strategy for the Future
Evolutionary technology is not the solution to these problems. The manufacturers
and airlines that do not grasp the impact of constrained markets and revolutionary
technologies will not survive. This is not meant to be a harsh criticism;
it is simply reality. When markets are large and develop constraints, opportunities
arise for new companies or companies that can reinvent themselves to utilize
new, revolutionary technologies to breakthrough the market barriers and
create a new playing field. This is the history of innovation in the United
States. It happened when semiconductors replaced vacuum tubes. It happened
when airlines replaced railroads. And it will happen in aerospace.
In this environment, NASA’s job is not to perpetuate the past and help
industry better compete within a constrained market that does not meet
National needs. NASA’s job is to focus on the National good and enable
a future that can continue to meet the needs of our Nation – for transportation,
mobility, and security. That means pioneering revolutionary technologies
that break through today’s market barriers.
But NASA has its own challenges. Like any Government agency, we are
responsible to the taxpayer and seek the highest return with the resources
we have available. For the past several years, NASA has had to live within
a relatively flat budget. This has required hard decisions about research
priorities. Since the mid-1990’s, the hard decisions we made resulted in
the cancellation of the High Speed Research Program, the Advanced Subsonics
Technology Program, and, most recently, the Rotorcraft Program.
In the case of High Speed Research, the program was cancelled on its
merits. Our largest industrial partner, The Boeing Corporation, concluded
that the program was not going to lead to a market-viable design and essentially
canceled its investment. The facts are that the program was not addressing
one of the most critical issues – supersonic flight over land. Without
the technology to reduce the overpressure of the sonic boom, the vehicle
would be limited to over water operation, restricting the market and limiting
the viability of the aircraft.
Additionally, jet noise reduction for take-off and landing operations
was not going to meet the likely Stage 4 noise limits. While the vehicle
would beat current Stage 3 limits by a reasonable margin, the vehicle would
have to meet the ever more stringent noise rules. Moreover, to achieve
the Stage 3 noise levels required large “box car” nozzles to diffuse the
jet noise. These nozzles added weight and cost, further limiting the viability
of the vehicle.
So, while we were rightfully proud of the progress the program was making,
we had to agree with Boeings conclusions. We made the hard decision to
cancel the program.
In the case of the Advanced Subsonics Technology Program, we took the
program apart, cancelled the nearer-term elements and transitioned the
longer-term, public good elements to other programs. In this way, we maintained
our efforts in noise reduction, emissions reduction and aviation system
Most recently we canceled the Rotorcraft Program. It was cancelled because
it was too near-term and not sufficiently focused on the advanced concepts
that might allow vertical flight to play a critical role in our future
air transportation system.
I do not want anyone to conclude from this that these vehicle-classes
are not important or that NASA is not pursuing some research in these areas.
For example, in the area of supersonics, we have developed a new partnership
with DARPA to aggressively address the most significant challenges to sustained
supersonic flight over land. Rather than a big, point-design program that
characterized the High Speed Research Program, this is a pre-competitive
study to address the core issues – efficiency, engine jet noise, sonic
boom overpressure, and emissions. The approach is to consider revolutionary
technologies that address the fundamental physics of these issues. Once
we have a sufficiently explored a broad range of promising technologies,
we’ll work to develop and fund a more substantial industrial partnership.
There are those that for the health of the industry want us to fund
a multi-billion dollar initiative now. This may provide short-term gain
to the industry, but that is not NASA’s role. And I will not agree to that
Let me be crystal clear – we aren’t going to look out the back window
of the bus dreaming fond memories of the way things were. Fond memories
do not get us to the future. Instead, we will be driving the bus – looking
forward, making tough decisions and determining our future.
So, let me describe our strategy for moving forward. First, we will
focus on aerospace. We must solve the most critical problems across the
board in aerospace – but do it once. We are not going to maintain separate
technology efforts, in structures and materials for example, for both aeronautics
Second, we are focusing on the public good – not the maintenance of
yesterday’s industrial base. When we do this we create new opportunities.
For example, NASA is focusing on the mobility of the U.S. people in our
Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) program. Let me describe SATS.
Over 90 percent of the U.S. population lives within 30 miles of an airport.
However, most of the airports are small, non-towered and without radar
surveillance. We also do not have a very small, smart, safe and efficient
fleet of aircraft to use this network of airports. In other words, most
of the U.S. airport infrastructure falls outside the modern air transportation
system. But this does not have to be the case. Utilizing GPS, a relatively
inexpensive suite of electronics and sophisticated software we can turn
these “dumb” airports into “smart” airports that would allow them to actually
leapfrog into a new era of intelligent, flexible airport facilities. It
is also possible to enable a new generation of aircraft that can support
this network of intelligent small airports. The first steps down this path
are being made by new companies like Eclipse Aviation using NASA technologies
to produce inexpensive, safe small jets that will provide air taxi service
point-to-point to small airports. The SATS program is focused on enabling
this future. So, in focusing and innovating on mobility NASA is creating
new opportunities for U.S. industry and we are already seeing new companies
being formed. The future is unfolding before us if we choose to look.
Third, we are focusing on revolutionary “leap-frog” technologies – this
means integrating radical new technologies such as information technology,
nano-technology and biologically-inspired technologies into the traditional
aerospace sciences to open up new pathways for innovation. For example,
we can now envision a wing that “morphs” its shape, a structure that heals
itself, and a control system that senses and controls its own operation
down to the molecular level.
Fourth, we will develop a new era of engineering tools and processes.
Assured safety, high mission confidence, fast development times, and efficiency
in developing revolutionary aerospace systems must become the benchmarks
of our future engineering culture. To meet these needs, NASA will develop
the tools and system architecture to provide an intuitive, high-confidence,
highly-networked engineering design environment. This interactive network
will unleash the creative power of teams. Engineers and technologists,
in collaboration with all mission or product team members, will redefine
the way new vehicles or systems are developed. Designing from atoms into
aerospace vehicles, engineering teams will have the ability to accurately
understand all key aspects of its systems, its operating environment, and
its mission before committing to a single piece of hardware or software.
We will drive the design cycle time back down from the nine plus years
it takes today to three to four years while increasing the quality of design.
Fifth, we must train the next generation of scientists and engineers.
If we are to truly develop an entirely new approach to aerospace engineering
and our aerospace transportation systems, we must motivate our students
by focusing on the incredible range of innovation and opportunity that
is possible and educate them so they can make it reality.
So, let me reiterate – we’re not interested in yesterday, we are here
to create tomorrow. This is not your father’s or your mother’s NASA. So,
even with a tight budget, we are reinvesting for the future. We have a
vision for a 21st Century Aerospace Vehicle to focus our investments
on the new functionality and performance enabled by the revolutionary technologies
I described. We have augmented our Aviation Capacity Program to focus on
new aviation system architectures and the sophisticated modeling and simulation
required to support it. And we have consolidated efforts to create a new
Computing, Information and Communication Technology Program to focus on
more revolutionary information and nano-technologies and their application
to aerospace systems.
So, let me now describe what is possible when you focus on the issues
of mobility and transportation and apply this new technology paradigm.
Improving and Ultimately Revolutionizing Air Traffic Management
– While the addition of new airport infrastructure will be limited and
costly, the existing system can be improved by leveraging technology advances
in digital communications, precision navigation, and computers. Currently
the FAA is replacing aging computer, display and navigation equipment in
an effort to modernize the infrastructure upon which the ATC architecture
operates. Within that architecture, air traffic controllers need improved
computer aids to help them plan and manage air traffic more efficiently.
As an example, through the FAA Free Flight Program, the FAA implemented
the NASA developed Center-TRACON Automation System (CTAS) at the world’s
busiest airport, Dallas-Fort Worth, to support daily operations in all
weather conditions, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. CTAS provides computer
intelligence and graphical user interfaces to assist air traffic controllers
in the efficient management and control of air traffic. The system has
allowed a 10 percent increase in landing rate during critical traffic rushes.
These improvements have translated into an estimated annual savings of
$9M in operations cost.
In fact, NASA and the FAA have a long-standing partnership on air traffic
management systems. NASA uses its unique technical expertise and facilities
to develop advanced air traffic decision support tools, improve training
efficiency and cockpit safety through human factors research, and develop
advanced communications, navigation and surveillance systems. The FAA defines
system requirements and applies its operational expertise to ensure that
the technically advanced airborne and ground equipment, software and procedures
developed by NASA are operationally useful, efficient, safe and cost effective.
The FAA performs complementary research in the application of new technologies
in addressing airborne and ground-based communications, navigation, and
surveillance needs and in new decision support tools for strategic management
of the system.
Overall, NASA is currently working on a suite of 16 technologies, of
which CTAS is a subset, to improve gate-to-gate air traffic management
to increase capacity and flexibility and to overcome airport capacity constraints
due to weather. Most of these are Decision Support Tools that increase
the efficiency of operations within the current infrastructure. And while
these tools will add critical capacity and improved flexibility over the
next several years, the capacity increases they provide will soon be outstripped
by increasing demand. They will not fundamentally solve the capacity crisis,
reverse the rise in delays or prevent the disruptive, chaotic behavior
of the system.
The remaining technologies that NASA is working on add new capability
beyond the current system for the worst delay problem: airport delay in
adverse weather. These technologies rely on transitioning to satellite-based
surveillance and navigation utilizing the National Airspace System (NAS)
implementation of DoD’s Global Positioning System (GPS). This implementation
is under development but has not yet been achieved for full system operation.
A critical element of this deployment is implementing a Wide Area Augmentation
System (WAAS) to ensure reliable signal availability over the entire U.S.
Realistically, however, it will be several more years before the current
issues associated with FAA’s required WAAS can be solved. Therefore, this
suite of tools will not be available until GPS / WAAS is available.
NASA models indicate that these technologies fully implemented across
the system would increase operational capacity by about 30 percent and
reduce future predicted delays by about 50 percent. However, we should
note that full implementation of the entire suite of technologies is not
within the scope of the FAA Free Flight Program.
It is absolutely critical to aggressively pursue this approach in the
near term. However, we must go beyond the near-term and achieve transition
to a new system that is revolutionary in its scope and capacity. The current
system structure, where most passengers and cargo are carried by tens of
air carriers through tens of airports, must be revised to permit the continued
long-term growth of the system. The thousands of airports distributed across
this country are a true National asset that can be tapped with the right
technology and the right Air Traffic Management (ATM) system. Also, “airspace,”
one of the nation’s most valuable national resources, is significantly
underutilized due to the way it is managed and allocated. Therefore, the
airspace architecture of the future must increase the capacity of the Nation’s
major airports, fully tie together all of our Nation’s airports into a
more distributed system, and create the freedom to fly in a safe, controlled
environment throughout all of the airspace.
One thing that will remain constant is that free market forces will
drive the air transportation system. Therefore, the future system architecture
must be flexible to respond to various transportation system possibilities,
not constrain them. The airline industry must have the flexibility to move
and expand operations to be responsive to transportation demands. This
is the highest level guiding principle for the future ATM system. The next
tier of system requirements are robustness (a system that can safely tolerate
equipment failures and events such as severe weather) and scalability (the
ATM system automatically scales with the traffic volume). One possibility
for achieving scalability would be achieved by building the ATM system
into the aircraft, so that as you add aircraft to the fleet the ATM system
would automatically scale to accommodate them.
The system will be built on global systems, such as GPS, to allow precision
approach to every runway in the Nation without reliance on installing expensive
ground-based equipment, such as Instrument Landing Systems at every airport.
However, the robustness of the global communication, navigation and surveillance
(CNS) systems must be such that the system can tolerate multiple failures
and still be safe. This is a significant challenge upon which the new architecture
If we are successful at meeting the challenge of a robust global CNS,
then with precise knowledge of position and trajectory known for every
aircraft, it will no longer be necessary to restrict flying along predetermined
“corridors”. Optimal flight paths will be determined in advance and adjusted
along the way for weather and other aircraft traffic. This fundamental
shift will allow entirely new transportation models to occur. For example,
with precision approach to every airport in the U.S. and a new generation
of smart, efficient small aircraft, the current trend of small jet aircraft
serving small communities in a point-to-point mode could be greatly extended.
Airborne self-separation will become the dominant method of operation.
Each aircraft will become capable of coordinating and avoiding traffic.
They will have full knowledge of all aircraft in their area and will be
able to coordinate through direct digital communication with other aircraft.
The pilot will be able to look at his flight path at different scales –
from a strategic view of the entire origin to destination route showing
other aircraft and weather systems, to a tactical view showing the immediate
surroundings and flight path over the next few minutes. Aircraft will employ
synthetic vision – which uses advanced sensors, digital terrain databases,
accurate geo-positioning, and digital processing – to provide a perfectly
clear three dimensional picture of terrain, obstacles, runway, and traffic.
By empowering the pilots to control their own flight paths, the system
can operate at maximum efficiency and will change the role of the air traffic
controller to more of an airspace manager who will manage the traffic flows
and system demand. The air traffic “manager” will have a full three dimensional
picture of all aspects of the airspace system. The highly compartmentalized
“sectorization” of the airspace would be largely eliminated. Through direct
interaction with the three dimensional, high-fidelity representation of
the system, they will dynamically reconfigure the airspace based on weather
systems, equipment failures, runway outages, or other real-time problems.
Intelligent systems will provide expert support to such decision making.
This real-time airspace redesign will be uplinked to aircraft to recompute
flight trajectories. They will also manage the allocation of scarce resources,
such as runways when there are conflicts that cannot be resolved between
Eventually, the entire system will be fully monitored for faults and
other risks. The system will move from a paradigm of being “statistically
safe” to real-time knowledge of risk and safety. In addition, with pilots
and air traffic managers having full data and situational awareness of
the system, a new level of collaboration can occur allowing them to work
in close partnership to correct anomalous situations.
The future system will truly be “revolutionary” in scope and performance,
but it must also be implemented in a mode that allows continuous safe operations
to occur, even in the face of unpredicted events. In designing the future
airspace system, a systems engineering approach must be used to define
requirements, formulate total operational concepts, evaluate these operational
concepts, and then launch goal-oriented technology activities to meet requirements
and support the operational concept.
This is an extremely complex problem. The system is dynamic and real-time.
At the same time, system integrity is absolutely essential. It can not
be turned off and it is highly interconnected. At the present time, we
believe it will take a substantial public-private partnership to tackle
such a large and difficult problem. And yet the payoff from a capacity,
efficiency and safety perspective is absolutely enormous.
A Revolution for Aerospace Vehicles – Revolutionizing the airspace
system alone is not enough. An entirely new level of vehicle efficiency,
functionality and environmental compatibility must be achieved to meet
the challenges of safety, noise, emissions and performance required in
this new aviation system. The aircraft of the future will not be built
from multiple, mechanically connected parts. The aircraft will have “smart”
materials with embedded sensors and actuators. Sensorsólike the “nerves”
of a birdówill measure the pressure over the entire surface of the wing
and direct the response of the actuatorsóthe “muscles.” These actuators
will smoothly change the shape of the wing for optimal flying conditions.
The control surface will be integrated with, instead of an appendage of,
the wing, as they are today. Intelligent systems made of these smart sensors,
micro processors, and adaptive control systems will enable vehicles to
monitor their own performance, their environment, and their human operators
in order to avoid crashes, mishaps, and incidents. Distributed as a network
throughout the structure they will provide the means for embedding a “nervous
system” in the structure and stimulating it to create physical response
and even change shape. They will also serve as the means for sensing any
damage or impending failure long before it becomes a problem.
These future structures rely on an emerging technology that builds the
systems from the molecular, or nano-scaleóknown as nanotechnology. Revolutionary
carbon nanotubes have the promise to be 100 times stronger than steel and
only 1/6 the weight. We are at the leading-edge of this technology, transitioning
from fundamental physics to building actual macroscopic materials. Much
work remains to be accomplished. If we are successful, an aircraft made
from this material could weigh as little as half a conventional aircraft
manufactured with today’s materials and be extremely flexible allowing
the wing to re-form to optimal shapes, remain extremely resistant to damage,
and potentially “self-heal.” The high strength-to-weight ratio of these
nano-materials could enable new vehicle designs that can withstand crashes
and protect the passengers against injury.
The application of high temperature nano-scale materials to aircraft
engines may be equally dramatic. Through successful application of these
advanced lightweight materials in combination with intelligent flow control
and active cooling, thrust-to-weight ratio increases of up to 50 percent
and fuel savings of 25 percent are possible for conventional engines. Further
advances in integrating these technologies might result in novel engine
concepts that simplify the highly, complex rotating turbomachinery. Other
future concepts include alternative combustion approaches and the potential
to move toward hybrid engines. Combined with intelligent engine control
capability, such approaches may enable integrated internal flow management
and combustion control. It also has the potential to integrate both the
airframe and engine systems for unprecedented efficiency and directional
To take full advantage of nano-materials, new computational tools using
advances in information technology are required. Tools that take advantage
of high-speed computing will enable us to develop large-scale models and
simulations for the next generation of vehicles. High-fidelity, collaborative,
engineering environments with human interfaces will enable industry to
accurately simulate an entire product life cycle, dramatically cutting
development costs and schedules. The increasing performance demands and
system complexity require new tools to adequately predict the risk and
life cycle costs of new aircraft. New computing techniques and capabilities
can be exploited to develop robust designs by capturing knowledge and identifying
trends to anticipate problems and develop solutions during design rather
than after development. These simulations require tools that deal with
the increasing complexity of future systems and could offset the diminishing
design team experience base in this country. No longer will we design the
engine and airframe independently, but rather the computational tools could
allow fully integrated vehicle-engine design, integrated health management,
and management of the total vehicle air flow both inside the engine and
outside the aircraft. These new integrated propulsion and vehicle technology
advancements could not only optimize subsonic flight regimes, with twice
the thrust-to-weight ratios, but also enable sustained supersonic flight
with minimal impact due to sonic booms or other environmental concerns
for both civilian and military applications.
In the very long term, comparable advances in electrical energy storage
and generation technology, such as fuel cells, could completely change
the manner in which we propel aircraft. Future aircraft might be powered
entirely electrically. In one concept, thrust may be produced by a fan
driven by highly efficient, compact electric motors powered by advanced
hydrogen-oxygen fuel cells. However, several significant technological
issues must still be resolved to use hydrogen as a fuel, such as efficient
generation and storage of hydrogen fuel and an adequate infrastructure
necessary for delivering the fuel to vehicles. Success in this effort could
end the Nation’s dependence on foreign sources of energy for transportation.
Revolutionary technologies such as these are prime areas for significant
If we are successful, what will the vehicle of the 21st Century
look like? It will be radically different from the commercial transport
of today whose basic configuration has not changed since the introduction
of the Boeing 707 and turbojet engines in the late 1950’s. The design flexibility
that the revolution in materials and computing technologies provides could
enable aircraft whose shape could change to meet a range of performance
requirements, for example, range, maneuverability and radar cross-section.
With new fuel cell power systems, zero emissions may be possible, and the
only noise would be that generated by the air flowing over the vehicle.
The wing shape may be changed during flight to control the vehicle, eliminating
the need for flaps and conventional control surfaces and their associated
drag, weight and complexity. These aircraft could be flown in an air transportation
system with unparalleled safety that allows hassle-free, on-demand travel
to any location. The beneficial variations are potentially limitlessótruly
revolutionizing air vehicles, not only commercial and military aircraft,
but also personal air vehicles and the utilization of more of the 5400
airports thus providing service to small communities and rural regions
that today do not have easy access to air travel.
The NASA Challenge
So, now I return to where I started. NASA’s job is to envision the future
and make it a reality – that is, to make the possible feasible. This is
our history and our mission. It is about America’s future. The vision I
described is possible and we at NASA are focusing our technology program
We take this very seriously – we believe it is our responsibility and
will do everything within the resources we are allocated to make it happen.
I’m not here to claim this is easy or without risk. But the American people
expect NASA to take that risk and be pioneers.
We are taking the following actions. We must partner with the FAA
and the Department of Transportation to improve and ultimately revolutionize
air traffic management – NASA is a key partner with the FAA in the
future of the air transportation system. Through the unique talents and
history of the Agency, we have become the National leader for research
and technology for air traffic management. NASA is prepared to continue
this leadership and to be a catalyst for positive change. We will also
ensure a smooth hand-off through product development and certification.
We will work with the FAA to get the maximum capacity out of the current
system. We believe it is absolutely essential that the Nation take a long-term
perspective and begin now to enable the high capacity, distributed system
we need for the future. Within the next few weeks, FAA Administrator Jane
Garvey and I will reaffirm this partnership in a joint letter to Secretary
of Transportation Norm Mineta, who is providing bold leadership in addressing
We must invest our available resources in the revolutionary technologies
that will enable this vision for aerospace vehicles – The government’s
role is not to subsidize industry. However, it is unreasonable to expect
the private sector to make the necessary high-risk, long-term, decadal,
investments to achieve the vision. Government will need to reinvest existing
evolutionary aeronautics research and technology resources in the basic
research necessary to enable a 21st Century aerospace vehicle.
Government aerospace research will focus on public good and leap-frog technologies.
We must strengthen our public-private partnership – The reinvestment
of evolutionary technologies to revolutionary technologies results in significant
changes in NASA and will cause disruptions in our current partnerships.
Therefore, we must restructure our partnerships to ensure appropriate cooperation
and technology transfer. This is imperative if we are solve the problems,
remove the constraints to growth and break through current market barriers.
We must form partnerships with academia and the entrepreneurial sector
to reverse the decline in expertise – There is a looming crisis in
U.S. expertiseófrom relatively inexperienced design teams to reductions
in research and development to reduced enrollments at universities. Leadership
is required to reverse this trend. We, in partnership with the academic
community, must begin developing a new generation of scientists and engineers
that blend traditional competencies, such as aerodynamics, material and
structures, and guidance and controls, with the emerging competencies in
nanotechnology, biotechnology and information technology. We must also
develop the design tools and environments that will allow us to integrate
fewer and more specialized scientists and engineers into effective teams
capable of designing highly complex integrated aerospace systems. Very
soon, we will establish several university engineering research centers
to provide the environment and learning required for this next generation
to be ready.
We must identify the National facilities that support this vision
and eliminate the rest – Over the past several years many reviews have
been performed relative to our National aeronautical facilities. There
have been closures and changes. However, more needs to be done to avoid
the perpetuation of marginal facilities through small, evolutionary change.
We are optimistic that looking to the future and a revolutionary vision
will provide the framework necessary to define the facilities, new and
existing, integrated together with computational tools in virtual space
will enable a new era in aerospace.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee. I commend you
for taking on this issue, and appreciate the opportunity to testify today
and describe our vision and the actions we are taking for the future of
this Nation in aerospace technology.