Look Ma, No Flaps

A NASA Gulfstream III recently flew for the first time with an experimental singe-piece pliable wing designed to reduce the weight and inefficiency of traditional control surfaces, according to a release. The Air Force Research Lab is testing the Adaptive Compliant Trailing Edge concept in a series of flights in collaboration with NASA’s Armstrong Research Center at Edwards AFB, Calif. “We have progressed from an innovative idea and matured the concept … to a final demonstration that should prove to the aerospace industry that this technology is ready to dramatically improve aircraft efficiency,” said Pete Flick, AFRL’s program manager. ACTE trailing edges could potentially be retrofit to existing aircraft or used to make future aircraft lighter, quieter, and more efficient, saving “hundreds of millions of dollars annually in fuel costs,” according to Thomas Rigney, NASA’s project manager. The ACTE-equipped Gulfstream’s maiden flight from Edwards was on Nov. 6. The Air Force and NASA experimented with a similar Mission Adaptive Wing concept using a specially modified F-111 in the 1980s.