NASA is not only known for sending man and machine into outer space, but they are also known for providing solutions that make aviation more safe. In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s they were doing some pretty interesting research on spins and how aircraft design affects them.
At the time, general aviation was becoming increasingly popular, and as a result, loss of control and spin accidents were on the rise. The Federal Aviation Administration and NASA, along with select industry partners, set out to rectify this issue, and their research was quite interesting.
When most people think of NASA we think of rockets, and what better way for NASA to conduct spin testing than by putting actual rockets on the tip of a light general aviation airplane! That’s what NASA did and their logic for doing so makes some sense.
What NASA was testing was whether the increased drag as a result of the retro rockets firing (whether simultaneously or separately,) in addition to the pilot applying proper spin recovery inputs, would be enough to overtake the yawing motion of a developed spin.
While the testing was definitely exciting, the desired outcomes weren’t enough to justify a “wingtip rocket kit” to be installed on every make and model of general aviation aircraft. Additional experimental tests, such as spin recovery chute tests, were deemed to be more successful and economical for aircraft owners to operate.
Some of the many tests NASA conducted were conducted in an aircraft that looks remarkably familiar, eh? Check out some of NASA's research documentation here or watch the video below to learn more about these tests.
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