Boeing and NASA to use C-17 aircraft for intelligent vehicle research project

DECEMBER 21, 1200 EST

SEAL BEACH, Calif. -- Experts at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., have awarded a $50 million cost-plus-fixed-fee contract to Boeing Phantom Works in Seal Beach, Calif., to modify a C-17 Globemaster III flight test aircraft as part of the Intelligent Vehicle Research Initiative.

"We're looking forward to getting airborne and demonstrating our new capabilities on a current front-line transport aircraft and eventually transitioning that technology directly to various operational aircraft," says J.B. Peterson, vice president of Advanced Aircraft & Missiles for Phantom Works.

As part of the effort, Boeing will establish a Research Flight Control System (REFLCS) to look into such potentially life-saving technologies as intelligent flight controls to keep damaged aircraft controllable.

"Dryden looks forward to developing REFLCS as a valuable toolset for both the Air Force and NASA to do more advanced flight control research, such as Intelligent Flight and Propulsion Control," NASA Intelligent Vehicle program manager Jerry Henry says.

Henry says one possible future research subject is an emergency autopilot system that would take over an aircraft heading toward imminent danger or obstacles.

Flight tests of engine monitoring systems began at Edwards in October. REFLCS will be installed on the C-17 next year, with flight tests scheduled during the third quarter. In early 2003, Dryden will begin C-17 flight tests to demonstrate damage adaptive technologies and the transition of NASA technologies to operational aircraft.

The first generations of prognostic sensor groups already have been installed on the C-17 test aircraft's number three engine to monitor potential ingested debris and engine distress. Other systems tests will monitor high frequency vibration, stress wave analysis and wireless sensing.

Initial research on Intelligent Flight Control software developed by the Boeing Phantom Works began in 1995 on simulators at NASA Ames Research Center, Calif. During a series of Boeing MD-11 test flights at Dryden, only engine thrust was used for aircraft control during landing operations. This concept evolved into the selection of the C-17 as the next candidate aircraft.

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