committee also considered information contained in the National Plan for Aeronautics Research and Development and Related Infrastructure (NSTC, 2007), which was released as this report was being finalized. As described below, this study considers how the principles contained in the National Policy and the National Plan might affect the ranking of R&T challenges in the Decadal Survey. However, it was beyond the scope of this study to validate the substance of the challenges contained in the Decadal Survey or to consider other R&T challenges not contained in that report, except in response to questions 2 and 3, above. Neither did this study attempt to assess the effectiveness of the management structure of the Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate (ARMD) or the current organization of ARMD research into various projects and programs, as described below.


The Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics (NRC, 2006) presents a set of strategic objectives that the next decade of research and technology development should strive to achieve. It also provides a set of the highest-priority R&T challenges—characterized by five common themes—and an analysis of key barriers that must be overcome to reach the strategic objectives. The purpose of the Decadal Survey is to develop a foundation for the future—a decadal strategy for the federal government’s involvement in civil aeronautics, with a particular emphasis on NASA’s research portfolio.

The Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics also includes guidance on how federal resources allocated for aeronautics research should be distributed between in-house and external organizations, how aeronautics research can take advantage of advances in crosscutting technology funded by federal agencies and private industry, and how far along the development and technology readiness path federal agencies should advance key aeronautics technologies. It also provides a set of overall findings and recommendations to provide a cumulative, integrated view of civil aeronautics R&T challenges and priorities.

The Decadal Survey focuses on five areas that encompass the R&T of greatest relevance to civil aeronautics:

  • Area A: Aerodynamics and aeroacoustics.

  • Area B: Propulsion and power.

  • Area C: Materials and structures.

  • Area D: Dynamics, navigation, and control, and avionics.

  • Area E: Intelligent and autonomous systems, operations and decision making, human integrated systems, and networking and communications.

The Decadal Survey then identifies and prioritizes within each area a set of key R&T challenges according to their ability to accomplish strategic objectives for U.S. aeronautics research. At the time the study was conducted, the federal government had yet to define what those strategic objectives should be. Therefore, in order to conduct the ranking, the authors of the Decadal Survey identified and defined six strategic objectives that, in their estimation, should motivate and guide the next decade of civil aeronautics research in the United States, pending the release of a national research and development (R&D) plan for aeronautics.2 The six strategic objectives from the Decadal Survey of Civil Aeronautics are as follows (NRC, 2006, p. 1):


In the same way, the research plans for the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NGATS) Air Traffic Management (ATM)-Airportal and ATM-Airspace Projects were prepared before the Next Generation Air Transportation System Joint Planning and Development Office (JPDO) had formally established R&D requirements. As a result the Airportal and Airspace Projects are a good-faith effort to meet expected JPDO requirements in both content and timing, pending release of an R&D

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