Airplane Technologies Not Science Fiction:

There are innovative airplane technologies in development at the NASA Langley Research Center, Anna-Maria Rivas McGowan, project manager of NASA’s Aeronautics Research Directorate, told attendees Tuesday afternoon at AFA’s Air & Space Conference, but she said some are viable and some are not. Shape memory alloy, for example, which was created from nickel titanium, worked very effectively when chevrons of it were placed on the back end of engines to cut down on noise levels. However, the idea had to be scrapped because it ate up fuel. Another concept they have worked on is seamless control surfaces for aircraft. Researchers experimented with using 10 different segments of a rubber-like material to vary an airplane by changing its shape. They focused on making it seamless from end to end, and it worked. They tested it in a wind tunnel, with wind speeds of Mach 9. “We could do anything with the shape,” she said. “We didn’t even know what shape to create.” The biggest thing they learned, she noted, is wing re-design is essential.