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Distinguished Lecture Series Featuring Fay Collier

Date: Mar 5, 2018
Time: 4:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Location: Min Kao Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Building

The Value and Challenges of Integrated Technology Demonstrations

Fay Collier

Project Manager
Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project

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The air transportation system is expected to continue to expand at an annual growth rate of about 2 percent globally. It is projected that over 40,000 new airplanes will enter the global fleet. This expansion will increase the contribution of aviation to climate change through emission of greenhouse gases, nitrogen oxides (NOx), water vapor, and particulates. These environmental impacts from aviation are in conflict with the ever-increasing awareness of the need to reduce the human impact on the environment, with a particular and heightened focus on global climate change. Similarly, the noise footprint of aviation is an impediment to the continued growth of the system, and more importantly is widely considered to be a health risk to the public at large.

NASA responded with a forward-looking aeronautics research program that enables a greener and more efficient air transportation system through investments in transformative and revolutionary aircraft designs and technologies to improve future performance of the subsonic commercial transport sector. In 2009, as part of Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate’s (ARMD) Integrated Systems Research Program, the Environmentally Responsible Aviation (ERA) Project was created to focus on reducing the carbon and noise footprint of commercial aviation.

Uniquely structured as a public-private partnership, the ERA Project had a finite life of 6 years, a fixed budget of $420M, and partner cost share of $230M.  Through cooperative agreements and contracts, NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center, Ames Research Center, Glenn Research Center and Langley Research Center, with a team of over 1000 civil servants, partnered with:

  • Aviation industry leaders (Pratt & Whitney, GE, Boeing, Gulfstream, Rolls Royce, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman);
  • Environmentally-focused federal labs (the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Air Force Research Laboratory, Air Mobility Command, Arnold Engineering and Development Center); and
  • Leading aviation academic institutions (Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, California Institute of Technology, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Universities of Arizona and Michigan).

The integrated team researched the feasibility, benefits and technical risk of advanced commercial transport vehicle concepts and enabling technologies to significantly reduce aviation’s impact on the environment, regularly reporting results and progress in national and international forums.

ERA focused on technology innovations and performance improvements targeting drag, structural weight, thrust specific fuel consumption, NOx emissions, fuel burn and noise reductions at the vehicle level.  Over the last three years of the ERA project, technical maturation was achieved for:

  • New embedded nozzles that blew air over the surface of a B757 airplane’s vertical tail fin (active flow control) to enable planes to be constructed with smaller tails to reduce weight and drag.
  • Strategies for reducing leading edge insect adhesion were matured for use with advanced laminar flow wings
  • New manufacturing process for stitching together composite materials to create more damage resistant aircraft structures was demonstrated, so that planes can be shaped differently to reduce overall weight and enable revolutionary lifting wing-body vehicles like the blended wing body or “double-bubble” with non-circular, pressurized fuselages.
  • New shape changing (morphing) wing designs of airplane flaps demonstrating noise reduction, increased cruise performance, and yielding aircraft level weight reduction for advanced designs.
  • Improved, highly-loaded, compressor designs of a turbine engine which improved thermal efficiency and to improve fuel burn.
  • Improved jet engine combustor designs, to further reduce the amount of nitrogen oxides produced to improve local air quality around airports.
  • New advanced fan designs for geared turbofan designs, demonstrating reduced fuel burn and reduced noise in jet engines.
  • New designs that reduced noise from wing flaps and landing gear.
  • The feasibility and the efficacy of the HWB concept in which the wings seamlessly join the fuselage for much improved lift to drag performance at cruise, and the engines are mounted on top of the rear of the airplane to shield engine noise.

On September 30, 2015, the 6-year Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project successfully completed, achieving all predefined technical minimum success objectives, and many of the full success objectives.  Extensive experimental databases obtained during the ERA project, were combined with detailed vehicle and fleet analysis to assess impacts.  By analysis, at the aircraft level, the impact of the matured technology suite was shown to simultaneously reduce fuel burn by 47%, reduce landing-takeoff oxides of nitrogen emissions by 79%, and reduce community noise 40.7 EPNdB below Stage 4. The performance improvements for an advanced hybrid wing body aircraft design were compared against the reference Boeing B777/GE90 aircraft.  Significant positive impacts have also been derived and published for advanced tube and wing aircraft at various seat classes.

The matured technologies are broadly applicable to many seat classes in the fleet, and when adopted by the aircraft and engine companies, they provide broad-based benefits by reducing community noise around airports and reducing the carbon footprint of aviation.  Local air quality will also be improved due to reduced LTO NOx emissions, even in the face of increasing numbers of operations at most airports. Published impact assessments show the economic savings to the US airlines could amount to $238-255 billion in operational savings between 2025 and 2050 through 76-85 billion gallons of fuel saved, making significant progress towards carbon neutrality while simultaneously reducing the community noise footprint by at least 50 percent.

In this lecture, Dr. Collier will highlight many of the successes, and some of the challenges associated with this 6-year project, and how the project laid the groundwork for a renewed focus on X-Plane demonstrations.


Fay Collier is currently the Associate Director for Flight Strategy, Integrated Aviation Systems Program. In this capacity, he leads flight demonstration activities associated with New Aviation Horizons Initiative. He is focused on development and execution of NASA’s Ultra Efficient Subsonic Transport X-Plane strategy.

Previously, from 2009-2016, Collier was the Project Manager of the Environmentally Responsible Aviation Project within NASA’s Integrated System Research Program.  In this role, he directed the formulation and execution of NASA’s integrated system research project focused on the subsonic transport sector, working in partnership with Industry, FAA, AFRL, and other government agencies. The technology development project was focused on research, development, and integration of engine and airframe technologies that enable dramatic improvements in noise, emissions, and performance characteristics of future subsonic aircraft operating in the air transportation system. The six-year, $420M project closed out in March 2016, meeting all technical objectives. The ERA Team was awarded the Aviation Week Laureate Award for Technology in 2016.

Collier is a graduate of Virginia Tech (Aerospace Engineering, BS/’81, MS/’82, PhD/’88) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MBA/’97) where he participated as a NASA Sloan Fellow. He serves on numerous committees for the Agency, including the AIAA Honors and Awards Committee, the AIAA International Activities Committee, and the AFRL Fixed Wing Executive Council, and he was a contributor to the development of the National R & D Plan for Aeronautics. Dr. Collier is a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society, and an Associate Fellow of the AIAA.

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