|Experimental Aircraft||page 1|
There are two areas of experimental aircraft. Homebuilt aircraft and professional research aircraft. First we'll look at the homebuilt catagory.
Thousands of people work in their garages and workshops building airplanes. Some are building their own design (idea), others are building a kit-plane (a plane that comes in a box ready to assemble). Many of these people belong to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).
Through the EAA home-airplane builders can find support. They can talk to other people who are building airplanes at home. They can find parts they might need. The EAA also sponsors a huge airshow each year in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Thousands of people come to watch or to show off their airplanes. Everyday planes fly over the show and do tricks.
The EAA also sponsors local clubs to help builders with their projects. Many of the local clubs have "fly in's", which are very small local airshows. The members have meetings and support each other. Most people in the EAA build airplanes at home for fun, but a few spend thousands of hours (and dollars) to build an airplane of their own design. Some of these airplanes take up to 10 years to complete.
Most of the airplanes are tested and flown by their builders. These airplanes cannot be used for any other purpose, except flying for fun. Many new designs and ideas are tested by home aircraft builders.
Another group that designs, builds and tests airplanes is the National Aeronautics and Space Association (NASA). This is much different than the EAA. These airplanes will be used by commercial airlines and the military. The planes are usually built by a group of engineers and mechanics (rather than just one or two people at home). The costs are much higher and the test standards much stricter.
Sometimes a model of a proposed aircraft is made that can fly around and be controlled from the ground (remote control). This method is less expensive and safer. If the design is a good one a full size airplane is made and flown by a test pilot. A test pilot must be highly trained to be able to overcome any problems in flight.
NASA, at the Dryden Flight Research Center, has been involved with high speed aircraft since 1946. In 1947 Captain Chuck Yeager was the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound (about 700 mph). Ever since then planes have been going faster and faster!
Today, we have the space shuttle. This aircraft can be taken into space and it can return to earth and land on its own. This is possible because of the many new airplanes tested since 1947. Each one helped us design better aircraft. This line of airplanes were called X-planes. Here are few that helped develop the space shuttle:
Today, NASA is experimenting with computer systems that "learn" as the pilot flys the plane. This will help pilots if an airplane is in trouble in the air. The computer will know what to do about a problem before the pilot!
NASA and EAA have a long history of helping aviation improve. They are
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