NASA 803 was the designation of this PIK-20E sailplane flown at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, California, between 1981 and 1991. It was used as a research aircraft on projects calling for high lift-over-drag and low-speed performance. In recent years, NASA 803 had been used to study the flow of fluids over the aircraft's surface at various speeds and angles of attack as part of a study of air flow efficiency over lifting surfaces.
The single-seat aircraft, with a wingspan of just under 50 feet, was used to develop procedures to collect sailplane glide performance data in a program carried out by Dryden for the Soaring Society of America. It was also used to develop control systems for remotely piloted vehicles, for stall-spin and wake vortex studies, and to study high lift aerodynamics and laminar flow on high lift airfoils.
NASA 803, built by Eiri-Avion in Finland, is a fiberglass sailplane with a two-cylinder 54-hp engine. In this unique configuration, it takes off and climbs to altitude on its own. The engine is then shut down and folded back into the fuselage and the aircraft is then operated as a conventional sailplane.
The construction of the PIK-20 series is rather unique. The factory used high-temperature epoxies cured in an autoclave, making the structure resistant to deformation with age. Unlike today's practice of laying glass over gelcoat in a mold, the PIK 20 was built without gelcoat. The finish is the result of smooth glass layup, a small amount of filler, and an acrylic enamel paint.
There were 160 copies of the combined 20 and 20B models produced, and 178 of the 20D. Series production ended around 1978, although this motorglider version (PIK-20E, a PIK-30 with 17m wings) was produced for a few years afterward.