Finding: NASA’s research goals in aeronautics are not currently closely aligned with the aerospace industry’s needs.
Finding: NASA does not effectively communicate the results and impact of its flight research programs to its key stakeholders.
Finding: NASA aeronautics’ current organization, which relies on program management from NASA Headquarters, drives behaviors that inhibit collaboration, stifle innovation and risk-taking, and limit the organization’s ability to effectively prioritize its programs to a critical few.
Finding: Full cost recovery rules can inhibit collaboration with other government agencies as well as industry and universities. Similarly, lack of flexibility for center directors to leverage their center’s resources limits their effectiveness.
Finding: NASA currently has no “flagship” air vehicles that are capable of exciting the next generation of engineers and scientists.
Finding: NASA aeronautics’ current approach to education and public outreach is marginally effective and could be significantly improved in order to help inspire the next generation to study math, science, and engineering.
Finding: NASA aeronautics currently operates a broad fleet of research aircraft, many of which appear to be underutilized, from four different NASA centers.
Recommendation: NASA aeronautics should aggressively pursue collaboration with the Department of Defense, the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. aerospace industry, and international aeronautics research agencies. NASA should adopt management practices to facilitate effective collaboration and treat external organizations as customers and partners. NASA leadership should develop a formal process for regularly soliciting input from the U.S. aerospace industry and universities as well as key government agencies to ensure the relevance of its flight research programs to national needs.
Recommendation: NASA aeronautics’ leadership should study designating Dryden Flight Research Center as the primary flight research organization of NASA, with responsibility for the efficient use of NASA flight research aircraft, facilities, and other support resources. Dryden should adopt a customer-focused approach to flight research sponsored by NASA and external partners.
Recommendation: NASA aeronautics should become the nation’s repository of flight research data and flight test results and should make these archival data readily accessible to key stakeholders—the engineers and scientists in industry, academia, and other government agencies. NASA should also require principal investigators in flight research projects to publish their results and provide funding for them to do so.