Click for next page ( 2


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 1
Executive Summary The National Research Council (NRC) of the Na- tional Academies was asked by NASA and the Office of Management and Budget to perform a detailed, in- dependent assessment of NASA's Aeronautics Tech- nology Programs. To conduct this review, the NRC established three panels, one for each of the compo- nent programs within the Aeronautics Technology Pro- grams. The NRC also established a parent committee consisting of the chairman and a subset of members from each panel. The committee and panels began their activities in early 2003. The NRC committee and its three subordinate pan- els conducted an independent peer assessment of the Vehicle Systems Program (VSP), the Airspace Systems Program (ASP), and the Aviation Safety Program (AvSP), the three elements of NASA's Aeronautics Technology Programs. NASA specifically asked the committee and panels to address four questions: 1. Is the array of activities about right? 2. Is there a good plan to carry out the program? 3. Is the program doing what it set out to do? 4. Is the entire effort connected to the users? The committee developed findings and recom- mendations at three different levels. At the top level, it created a list of 12 key crosscutting recommenda- tions for the overall Aeronautics Technology Pro- grams on issues that span the entire set of programs. These recommendations are appropriate for guiding Congress, NASA Headquarters, and the White House in prioritizing NASA's aeronautics research and de- velopment programs. At the second level of detail, the committee provided program-level recommenda- tions appropriate for the NASA Research Centers' program and project managers. Finally, the commit- tee developed findings and recommendations at the task level that are designed to assist the individual principal investigators in improving the quality of their research. These third-level recommendations are numerous and detailed and are not included in the Executive Summary. OVERALL ASSESSMENT The committee's simple answer to the four ques- tions posed by NASA is that, in general, the Aeronau- tics Technology Programs are very good but could be greatly improved by following the committee's 12 top- level recommendations. The array of research activi- ties is about right, although a few additions and dele- tions are recommended in various areas. There are good plans to carry out the programs and they are accom- plishing much of what they were established to do, but some changes in the plans for execution could improve results significantly. In addition, the programs are rea- sonably well connected to the users, but here again the committee recommends some improvements. These

OCR for page 1
2 issues scope, planning, achievement, and ties to us- ers are addressed more completely in the specific rec- ommendations themselves: Top-Level Recommendation 1. The government should continue to support air transportation, which is vital to the U.S. economy and the well- being of its citizens. Top-Level Recommendation 2. NASA should pro- vide world leadership in aeronautics research and development. .. . .~ AN ASSESSMENT OF NASA 'S AERONA UTICS TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS Top-Level Recommendation 11. NASA should seek better feedback from senior management in indus- try and other government organizations. Top-Level Recommendation 12. NASA should con- duct research in selective areas relevant to rotorcraft. ASSESSMENT OF THE VEHICLE SYSTEMS PROGRAM Top-Level Recommendation 3. NASA has many excellent technical personnel and facilities to achieve its aeronautics technology objectives but should improve its processes for program manage- ment. Top-Level Recommendation 4. NASA should eliminate arbitrary time constraints on program completion and schedule key milestones based on task complexity and technology maturity. Top-Level Recommendation 5. NASA should re- duce the number of tasks in its aeronautics tech- nology portfolio. Top-Level Recommendation 6. NASA should pur- sue more high-risk, high-payoff technologies. Top-Level Recommendation 7. NASA should re- constitute a long-term base research program, separate from the other aeronautics technology programs and projects. Top-Level Recommendation 8. NASA's aeronau- tics technology infrastructure exceeds its current needs, and the agency should continue to dispose of underutilized assets and facilities. Top-Leve! Recommendation 9. NASA should implement full-cost accounting in a way that avoids unintended consequences harmful to the long-term health of the aeronautics program. Top-Level Recommendation 10. NASA should de- velop a common understanding with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of their respective roles and relationship. The Vehicle Systems Program contains seven projects: Breakthrough Vehicle Technologies. Develops high-r~sk, high-payoff technologies to dramati- cally and substantially improve vehicle effi- . ~ . . clency and emissions. Quiet Aircraft Technology. Discovers, devel- ops, and verifies, in the laboratory, technolo- gies that improve quality of life by reducing . society's exposure to aircraft noise. Twenty-first Century Aircraft Technology Proj- ect. Develops and validates, through ground- based experiments, the aerodynamic, structural, and electric power technologies that will reduce by 20 percent the fuel burn and carbon dioxide emissions from future subsonic transport air- craft. Advanced Vehicle Concepts. Develops ad- vanced vehicle concepts and configurations to reduce travel time, expand commerce, and open new markets. Flight Research. Tests and validates technolo- gies and tools developed by NASA in a realis- tic flight environment. Ultra-EJ9ficient Engine Technology. Identifies, levelops, and validates high-payoff turbine en- gine technologies that would reduce emissions. Propulsion and Power. Researches revolution- ary turbine engine technologies, propulsion concepts, and fundamental propulsion and power technologies that would decrease emis- sions and increase mobility. The committee noted that VSP has a clear mission statement with a set of fully linked goals and products, but it believes that NASA needs a better understanding of the core competencies required to meet these goals. The committee also believes that the current invest- ment strategy of VSP appears to be ad hoc, with too

OCR for page 1
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY many unprioritized projects and tasks and no apparent methodology to determine which areas will provide the greatest benefit. The committee recommends that NASA identify and prioritize technologies with respect to their potential benefit to aviation. The committee was concerned that the recent tran- sition to full-cost accounting will have an unintended effect on certain facilities and infrastructure that are national assets and will compromise the research pro- gram by reducing the number of full-scale tests for con- cept validation. The committee was also concerned that NASA does not always get the benefit of industry involve- ment at the appropriate management level and suggests that NASA reexamine the composition of its advisory groups. The committee evaluated a total of 172 tasks in the VSP portfolio. The committee determined that more than 80 percent were of good quality or better, with 30 per- cent (51 tasks) rated as world-class. The committee identified 91 tasks that were good quality, 6 that were marginal, and 24 that were poor and should be redirected. ASSESSMENT OF THE AIRSPACE SYSTEMS PROGRAM The ASP is organized into four projects: . . . . Advanced Air Transportation Technologies. Develops air traffic management tools to im- prove the capacity of transport aircraft opera- tions at and between major airports. Small Aircraft Transportation System. Devel- ops and demonstrates technologies to improve public mobility through increased use of local and regional airports. Virtual Airspace Modeling and Simulation. De- velops models and simulations to conduct trade-off analyses of concepts and technologies for future air transportation systems. Airspace Operations Systems. Develops better understanding, models, and tools to enhance the efficient and safe operation of aviation systems by human operators. The committee was concerned that NASA's ASP research was generally too focused on short-term, in- cremental payoff work. NASA should plan ASP re- search based on a top-down understanding of the air transportation system. Research should focus on areas 3 of greatest payoff that is, areas that relieve choke points and other constraints to a more efficient air trans- portat~on system. The committee noted that many existing airspace research tasks will not be completed before the expira- tion of the projects under which they are currently funded. NASA is establishing a new project, NASA Exploratory Technologies for the National Airspace System (NAS) NExTNASto continue some ongo- ing research tasks and start some new tasks. The com- mittee recommends that NASA incorporate many on- going tasks in the NExTNAS project so they can be completed. The committee determined that the ASP also should support basic research relevant to long-term objectives and other research with a farsighted vision. More specifically, the committee observed that the portfolio was primarily directed at improving ground- based air traffic management. The committee recom- mends that NASA continue distributed air-ground re- search for autonomous separation, with increased effort on the airborne side. The committee developed a series of findings and recommendations regarding the FAA-NASA relation- ship. First, the committee noted that two different tools, Research Management Plans and Research Transition Plans, were being used to facilitate the transition of technology from NASA to the FAA.i The committee believes that there are worthwhile elements in the Re- search Transition Plans that could be included in Re- search Management Plans. In addition, NASA and FAA program directors should vigorously adhere to the Research Management Plan process, with reviews and updates at regular intervals. If either agency determines that the research results will not be implemented, the Research Management Plans should be cancelled and NASA should formally reassess the merits of continu- ing to develop a product that will not improve the op- eration of the NAS. The committee also had recommendations about how NASA should measure the success of its research. Currently, it tends to view success in terms of the abil- ity to mature technology and get the FAA to implement it for operational use. Some FAA users, however, be- lieve this view of success leads NASA to focus too iThe FAA's Free Flight Phase II Office uses Research Transi- tion Plans, which are similar to the Research Management Plans used by other FAA offices.

OCR for page 1
4 much on implementation issues, which NASA may not be qualified to address given its limited operational experience. The committee recommends that NASA and the FAA develop a common definition of what consti- tutes the successful completion of an applied ASP re- search task. Success of NASA applied research tasks should not be defined solely in terms of implementation. ASSESSMENT OF THE AVIATION SAFETY PROGRAM The AvSP consists of three projects: Vehicle Safety Technology. Strengthens aircraft to mitigate vehicle system and component fail- ures, loss of control, loss of situational aware- ness, and postcrash or in-flight fires. Weather Safety Technology. Researches and de- velops technologies to reduce the frequency and severity of weather-related accidents and inju- ries. . System Safety Technology. Reduces the fre- quency and severity of aviation accidents and incidents by proactively managing risk in a systemwide approach. The committee found several examples of work of outstanding quality in AvSP, notably the Aircraft Icing subproject (Weather Safety), the Crew Training task (System Safety), the structures health management subtask (Vehicle Safety), the mode confusion subtask (Vehicle Safety), and scale-model development and testing work (Vehicle Safety). The committee was concerned about recent changes it observed in the quality of the human factors research in AvSP, partly because the number of in- house human factors personnel was decreasing and those who remained were primarily managing the work of contractors. In addition, the committee noted that AN ASSESSMENT OF NASA 'S AERONAUTICS TECHNOLOGY PROGRAMS human factors work did not appear to be well-inte- grated across the program. The committee recommends that AvSP strengthen in-house human factors research with federal employees who have outstanding human factors expertise. In addition, NASA should consider human factors requirements early in the design phase of all aeronautics technology research projects. The committee believes AvSP health would be Improved if 5-year lifetimes were not imposed on ev- ery project. Instead, a project should endure for the natural lifetime of the research activity, which would allow basic research efforts to extend beyond 5 years. In addition, the committee found the AvSP research portfolio to be too product-or~ented and recommended that it include more basic research. The committee also found that NASA's existing management structure obscures the lines of responsi- bility and accountability within the program, to the point that it is difficult to trace project, subproject, and task goals to the vision and goals of the program as a whole. The committee recommends that AvSP develop a hierarchy of goals and improve its management pro- cesses to create clearer accountability. The committee believes that several products un- der development in AvSP duplicate similar products being developed in industry. The committee recom- mends that AvSP improve its user connections and benchmark its products against similar work performed elsewhere. NASA should not be working in a specific technical area unless it is leading the field. An outside advisory committee structure of some sort could assist AvSP in determining which technical areas it should address. Finally, the committee noted a large gap in the pro- gram portfolio in the area of rotorcraft. NASA could significantly contribute to improving rotorcraft safety without substantial additional investment, particularly in the areas of decision aids, synthetic vision, pilot train- ing, workload reduction, and situational awareness. .