WASHINGTON, March 23 /PRNewswire/—NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards AFB, Calif., hosted a U.S. Navy E-2C Hawkeye for structural loads tests. The tests for the carrier-based electronics aircraft were conducted at the Dryden Flight Loads Laboratory.
The tests were done to determine if increasing the aircraft's gross weight will affect its performance. The Hawkeye, distinctive with its 24-foot diameter rotating radome and quadruple vertical tails, is part of a fleet that has been operational for more than 40 years. The Navy is planning upgrades that will add weight to the aircraft, so officials asked Dryden to help formulate loads equations to determine how the changes would affect the aircraft's flight envelope.
"A loads calibration test is a primary part of the development of any new aircraft," explained Paul Lundstrom of Spiral Technology, Laguna Beach, Calif. He was the lead test engineer on the project. "It's also an important step in determining the flight envelope for any new configuration of an aircraft, because you absolutely have to know what the structural loads are when it's in flight. The only good way to determine that is by doing a test of this nature."
The tests applied force (loads) on the aircraft to develop equations, using a data-recovery system connected to instrumentation on the airplane. The resulting data allowed Navy flight test engineers to develop loads equations. Then they estimated loads, while test-flying the airplane. "This allows them to know when they're approaching in-flight loads that are too high for the structural capacity of the aircraft," Lundstrom added. "A loads calibration allows us to define the performance parameters of the aircraft while maintaining a safe structure."
An unmodified E-2C weighs about 42,000 pounds empty. The plane tested at Dryden had its weight beefed up with metal plates to simulate an empty weight of about 45,000 pounds, mimicking the latest configuration of the fleet's upgraded E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. Loads were applied to the aircraft's wings and tail.
The E-2C has an 80-foot wingspan, is about 58 feet long and 18 feet tall. Dryden's Loads Laboratory accommodated the aircraft with room to spare for equipment and fixtures necessary for the research. The E-2C research isn't the biggest project completed in the Loads Laboratory, but it is among the largest and could lead to similar future work.
Lundstrom said the tests on the E-2C illustrate one of the core competencies of the NASA Dryden Flight Loads Lab. "We're one of the few locations in the nation that can do this specific type of test," he said.
The aircraft arrived at Dryden last fall from its base at the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAVAIR) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. The work was completed in mid-March. "The Navy decided to use Dryden, because of the unique facilities and experience that was hard to find elsewhere. I am pleased with the support we received from Dryden," said NAVAIR project engineer Jason Brys.
The E-2A Hawkeye first entered service in 1961. The E-2C was introduced in 1973. Built by Northrop Grumman, the Hawkeye has extensive communication and long-range radar capabilities. It is considered the eyes and ears of the carrier battle group and manager of airborne operations. It can monitor six million cubic miles of airspace and more than 150,000 square miles of ocean surface, while detecting hundreds of ships, aircraft and missiles up to 200 miles away.
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