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NASA Meatball NASA Dryden F-8 Super-Critical Wing (SCW) Aircraft banner
F-8 SCW on ramp with test pilot Tom McMurtry F-8 SCW on ramp with test pilot Tom McMurtry

Photo Number: ECN-3442
Photo Date: December 20, 1972

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A Vought F-8A Crusader was selected by NASA as the testbed aircraft (designated TF-8A) to install an experimental Supercritical Wing (SCW) in place of the conventional wing. The unique design of the Supercritical Wing reduces the effect of shock waves on the upper surface near Mach 1, which in turn reduces drag.

In this photograph the TF-8A Crusader with Supercritical Wing is shown on the ramp with project pilot Tom McMurtry standing beside it. McMurtry received NASA's Exceptional Service Medal for his work on the F-8 SCW aircraft. He also flew the AD-1, F-15 Digital Electronic Engine Control, the KC-130 winglets, the F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire and other flight research aircraft including the remotely piloted 720 Controlled Impact Demonstration and sub-scale F-15 research projects. In addition, McMurtry was the 747 co-pilot for the Shuttle Approach and Landing Tests and made the last glide flight in the X-24B. McMurtry was Dryden’s Director for Flight Operations from 1986 to 1998, when he became Associate Director for Operations at NASA Dryden. In 1982, McMurtry received the Iven C. Kincheloe Award from the Society of Experimental Test Pilots for his contributions as project pilot on the AD-1 Oblique Wing program. In 1998 he was named as one of the honorees at the Lancaster, Calif., ninth Aerospace Walk of Honor ceremonies. In 1999 he was awarded the NASA Distinguished Service Medal. He retired in 1999 after a distinguished career as pilot and manager at Dryden that began in 1967.

The F-8 Supercritical Wing was a flight research project designed to test a new wing concept designed by Dr. Richard Whitcomb, chief of the Transonic Aerodynamics Branch, Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia. Compared to a conventional wing, the supercritical wing (SCW) is flatter on the top and rounder on the bottom with a downward curve at the trailing edge. The Supercritical Wing was designed to delay the formation of and reduce the shock wave over the wing just below and above the speed of sound (transonic region of flight). Delaying the shock wave at these speeds results in less drag.

Results of the NASA flight research at the Flight Research Center, Edwards, California, (later renamed the Dryden Flight Research Center) demonstrated that aircraft using the supercritical wing concept would have increased cruising speed, improved fuel efficiency, and greater flight range than those using conventional wings. As a result, supercritical wings are now commonplace on virtually every modern subsonic commercial transport. Results of the NASA project showed the SCW had increased the transonic efficiency of the F-8 as much as 15 percent and proved that passenger transports with supercritical wings, versus conventional wings, could save $78 million (in 1974 dollars) per year for a fleet of 280 200-passenger airliners.

The F-8 Supercritical Wing (SCW) project flew from 1970 to 1973. Dryden engineer John McTigue was the first SCW program manager and Tom McMurtry was the lead project pilot. The first SCW flight took place on March 9, 1971. The last flight of the Supercritical wing was on May 23, 1973, with Ron Gerdes at the controls.

Original wingspan of the F-8 is 35 feet, 2 inches while the wingspan with the supercritical wing was 43 feet, 1 inch. F-8 aircraft were powered by Pratt & Whitney J57 turbojet engines. The TF-8A Crusader was made available to the NASA Flight Research Center by the U.S. Navy. F-8 jet aircraft were built, originally, by LTV Aerospace, Dallas, Texas. Rockwell International’s North American Aircraft Division received a $1.8 million contract to fabricate the supercritical wing, which was delivered to NASA in December 1969.

NASA Photo by: NASA photo

Keywords: TF-8A; F-8A Crusader; Supercritical Wing; Dryden Flight Research Center; LTV Aerospace; Rockwell International; Pratt & Whitney; J57 engine; turbojet; transonic; Dr. Richard Whitcomb; John McTigue; Tom McMurtry; Ron Gerdes.

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