May 012011

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On October 5, 1955, R.J. Woods, an Airplane Design Consultant at Bell Aircraft Corporation, submitted 90 copies of a draft outline of a new “Proposed Supersonic Research Test Aircraft” to John W. Crowley, Associate Director for Research at NACA.  Woods had presented this proposal at a conference at NACA Headquarters the previous spring.  At the time, NACA was interested to some degree, but not wildly enthusiastic.  Woods sensed that he shouldn’t push the proposal more until NACA’s planned Advanced Research Aircraft was definitely committed for procurement.  As this was the case, Woods wanted to present his proposal at the next meetings of the Committee on Aircraft Construction, Aerodynamics and Power Plant.  If NACA was opposed to this, Woods would withdraw his suggestion of placing his proposal on the agenda.

The Proposal

In his proposal, Woods noted the development of a series of new military aircraft that had been placed with industry. Most of these new aircraft types were required to have sustained supersonic flight speed capabilities in specified combat missions.  Woods felt that these aircraft include as much research and development know-how as the state-of-the-art permitted when they came into existence.  This applied not only to the airframe but also to all the aircraft and weapons system components.

Woods noted that any piloted supersonic aircraft was a compromise of subsonic and supersonic utility.  He felt that the US aerospace industry needed as much supersonic full scale flight test experience as possible to rationalize the existing model test and calculation data and develop the prospective concept needed to apply these data to new aircraft design projects.

The Proposed Research Test Aircraft was described in an outline form as a rough draft to be critically edited and serve as a basis for discussion rather than a specific proposal.  He thought that there was an urgent need for such a “workhorse,” a research test aircraft to back up the programmed military aircraft.  Woods hoped that it would be considered and discussed by the NACA Committees on Aerodynamics, Aircraft Construction, and Power Plant.


Intended Use:  The proposed aircraft was intended to be designed, constructed, and equipped in the concept of a laboratory research tool rather than that of a military weapon for use by NACA and the armed services engineering and research organizations.  The aircraft was to have generated greater amounts of higher quality supersonic flight research data on a faster basis than could be obtained from military aircraft diverted for this purpose.  Just as the military aircraft is a better weapon because it is designed, constructed, and equipped with that concept in view, so the research test aircraft should be a better and more effective research and development tool when its design, construction and equipment is so specialized.

The proposed research test aircraft was to have assessed the problems and established the criteria and parameters for satisfactory flight and function of large, multi-engine, military aircraft with sustained supersonic flight endurance.  More specifically, this work in basic research was to have included flight test operation at supersonic speed in such areas as:

  1. Propulsive System Research
  2. Structural Integrity Research
  3. Dynamic Stability Research

In applied research and development, the aircraft was intended to be used as a full capability, flight test platform for the assessment, test, and evaluation of components, equipment, personnel, and systems intended for use in military aircraft of supersonic flight capability.

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