Aircraft main landing gear

Figure 1-11 Main landing gear. conventional  type.

The tricycle gear is more stable during ground operations and makes landing easier, especially in crosswinds. It also maintains the fuselage in a level position that increases the pilot’s visibility. Nearly all Navy aircraft are equipped with tricycle landing gear.

A main landing gear assembly is shown in figure 1-11. The major components of the assembly are the shock strut, tire, tube, wheel, brake assembly, retracting and extending mechanism, and side struts and supports. The shock strut absorbs the shock that otherwise would be sustained by the airframe structure during takeoff, taxiing, and landing. The air-oil shock strut is used on all Navy aircraft. This type of strut is composed essentially of two telescoping cylinders filled with hydraulic fluid and compressed air or nitrogen.



NASA QAT – Quiet A/C Technology

NASA courtesy – Click on the link below to watch the video (+ script in the footer caption):

NASA quiet aircraft technology


F-8 Digital Fly-By-Wire Aircraft

The Digital Fly-By-Wire (DFBW) concept uses an electronic flight-control system coupled with a digital computer to replace conventional mechanical flight controls.

F-8 DFBW in flight

The first test of a DFBW system in an aircraft was in l972 on a modified F-8 Crusader at the Flight Research Center, Edwards, Calif. (now Dryden Flight Research Center). It was the forerunner of the fly-by-wire flight control systems now used on the space shuttles and on today’s military and civil aircraft to make them safer, more maneuverable and more efficient. It was safer because of its redundancies and because, for military aircraft, wires were less vulnerable to battle damage than the hydraulic lines they replaced. It was more maneuverable because computers could command more frequent adjustments than a human pilot and designers could do away with features that made the plane more stable and thus harder to maneuver. For airliners, computerized flight control could also ensure a smoother ride than a human pilot alone could provide. Finally, digital fly-by-wire was more efficient because it was lighter and took up less volume than hydraulic controls and thus either reduced the fuel required to fly with the extra weight and/or permitted carrying more passengers or cargo. It also required less maintenance than older systems.


In the first few decades of flight, pilots controlled aircraft through direct force – moving control sticks and rudder pedals linked to cables and pushrods that pivoted control surfaces on the wings and tails.

As engine power and speeds increased, more force was needed and hydraulically boosted controls emerged. Soon, all high performance and large aircraft had hydraulic-mechanical flight-control systems. These conventional flight-control systems restricted designers in the configuration and design of aircraft because of the need for flight stability.

As the electronic era evolved in the 1960s, so did the idea of aircraft with electronic flight-control systems. Wires replacing cables and pushrods would give designers greater flexibility in configuration and in the size and placement of components such as tail surfaces and wings. A fly-by-wire system also would be smaller, more reliable, and in military aircraft, much less vulnerable to battle damage. A fly-by-wire aircraft would also be much more responsive to pilot control inputs. The result would be more efficient, safer aircraft with improved performance and design.

The Aircraft

By the late 1960s, engineers at Dryden began discussing how to modify an aircraft and create a digital fly-by-wire testbed.

Support for the concept at NASA Headquarters came from Neil Armstrong, former research pilot at Dryden. He served in the Office of Advanced Research and Technology following his historic Apollo 11 lunar landing and knew electronic control systems from his days training in and operating the lunar module. Armstrong supported the proposed Dryden project and backed the transfer of an F-8C Crusader from the U.S. Navy to NASA to become the Digital Fly-By-Wire (DFBW) research aircraft. It was given the tail number « NASA 802. »

Wires from the control stick in the cockpit to the control surfaces on the wings and tail surfaces replaced the entire mechanical flight-control system in the F-8. The heart of the system was an off-the-shelf backup Apollo digital flight-control computer and inertial sensing unit which transmitted pilot inputs to the actuators on the control surfaces.

Pilot Gary Krier in front of F-8 DFBW

On May 25, 1972, the highly modified F-8 became the first aircraft to fly completely dependent upon an electronic flight-control system. The pilot was Gary Krier.

The first phase of the DFBW program validated the fly-by-wire concept and quickly showed that a refined system – especially in large aircraft – would greatly enhance flying qualities by sensing motion changes and applying pilot inputs instantaneously.

The Phase 1 system had a backup fly-by-wire system in the event of a failure in the Apollo computer unit, but it was never necessary to use the system in flight.

In a joint program carried out with the Langley Research Center in the second phase of research, the original Apollo system was replaced with a triple redundant digital system. It would provide backup computer capabilities if a failure occurred.

The DFBW program lasted 13 years. The final flight – the 210th of the program – was made April 2, 1985, with Dryden Research Pilot Ed Schneider at the controls.

Research Benefits

The F-8 DFBW validated the principal concepts of the all-electric flight control systems now used on nearly all modern high performance aircraft and on military and civilian transports. A DFBW flight-control system also is used on the space shuttles.

NASA 802 was the testbed for the sidestick-controller used in the F-16 fighter, the first U.S. high-performance aircraft with a DFBW system.

Among other electronic devices flown on the DFBW F-8 were an angle-of-attack limiter and maneuver leading- and trailing-edge flaps, features commonly used on today’s new generation of aircraft.

F-8 DFBW Apollo computer interface box

In addition to pioneering the Space Shuttle’s fly-by-wire flight-control system, NASA 802 was the testbed that explored pilot induced oscillations (PIO) and validated methods to suppress them. PIOs occur when a pilot over-controls an aircraft and a sustained oscillation results. On the last of five free flights of the prototype Space Shuttle Enterprise during approach and landing tests in 1977, a PIO developed as the vehicle settled onto the runway. The problem was duplicated with the F-8 DFBW and a PIO suppression filter was developed and tested on the aircraft for the Shuttle program office.

The aircraft was used to develop a concept called Analytic Redundancy Management, in which dynamic and kinematic relations between various dissimilar sensors and measurements are used to detect and isolate sensor failures.

In another series of successful tests, a software back-up system (Resident Backup System) was demonstrated as a means to survive common software faults that could cause all three channels to fail. This system has been subsequently used on many experimental and production aircraft systems.

The Dryden project also worked with the British Royal Aircraft Establishment using the DFBW F-8 to produce ground-based software to use when researchers are investigating flight controls in high-risk flight environments. During contingencies, pilots can disengage the ground control software and switch to backup on-board controls. DFBW research carried out with NASA 802 at Dryden is now considered one of the most significant and successful aeronautical programs in NASA history.

Digital fly-by-wire is now used in a variety of airplanes ranging from the F/A-18 to the Boeing 777 and the space shuttles.


The F-8 aircraft was originally built by LTV Aerospace, Dallas, Texas, for the U.S. Navy, which made it available to Dryden as a test vehicle.

F-8 DFBW 3-view drawing

  • NASA 802: Navy Bureau #145546
  • Powerplant: Pratt and Whitney J57 turbojet
  • Wingspan: 35 feet 2 inches (350 square feet)
  • Overall length: 54 feet 6 inches and height is 15 feet 9 inches
  • Flown as the DFBW testbed by NASA from 1972 to 1985.
  • Fleet F-8s were the first carried based planes with speeds in excess of 1,000 mph. LTV won the Collier Trophy for its design and development. Total production was 1,261.

NASA courtesy (


Charles « Chuck » YEAGER – 65 years ago !


Supersonic aircraft X-1 in flight
Photo: NASA

Captain Charles « Chuck » YEAGER broke the sound barrier with the help of his friend Jack RIDLEY on a 14th of October 1947 – He did it 61 years ago!

Brigadier General Charles Chuck Yeager next to his X-1 aircraft

(U. S. Air Force illustration/Mike Carabajal)

Supersonic aircraft X-1
Photo: NASA

Supersonic aircraft X-1 pre-flight inspection

Photo: U.S.Air Force Link


Birth of Manned Rocket Research Airplanes: 1946 to 1975

The first reliable, effective rocket engine that would provide boost for experimental research aircraft was produced by four members of the American Rocket Society (ARS) who combined forces to form Reaction Motors Incorporated (RMI) (Rockaway, New Jersey) for developing the Experimental Liquid Rocket (XLR-11) rocket motor. The XLR-11 engine had four separate rocket chambers. Each chamber provided 1500 lb of rated thrust and could be operated independently as a means of throttling thrust in quarters, up to 6000 pounds. The XLR-11 possessed remarkable longevity, powering an impressive fleet of rocket aircraft for more than a quarter of a century (1946 to 1975). This fleet of vehicles were the first rocket aircraft devoted solely to high performance experimental flight research. They were not constrained by military or commercial demands and ranged from being the first to break the sound barrier (XS-1), to the first to reach Mach 2.0 (D-558-II [fig. 5]), to the first to exceed the X-2 Mach 3.2 record (X-15 with two XLR-11 engines).

D-558-II airplane on Rogers lakebed

Figure 5. The D-558-II airplane on Rogers lakebed.

The X-1E – Early Development of Energy Management

Design efforts to extend aircraft performance produced increased wing loadings, W/S, and decreased lift-to-drag ratios, L/D. These design changes were beneficial in reducing drag to achieve supersonic and hypersonic speeds, but were also detrimental in that they reduced the area of the maneuvering footprint and presented difficulties in the approach and landing.

As L/D values decreased, the glide slope angle and the rate of descent increased, making it more difficult for pilots to estimate distances and times required for acceptable landings. The X-1E (fig. 6) was modified with a low-aspect-ratio wing having a thickness-to-chord ratio of four percent – the only aircraft of the X-1/D-558 series to have sufficiently low L/D values to require unique energy management techniques. This X-1E was the first to experiment with approach patterns designed to give
the pilot more time in the traffic pattern to manage energy.

The landing pattern was approached in a conventional manner except that altitudes and speeds were somewhat higher than for
powered aircraft. The initial reference point was established at 12,000 ft (mean sea level) on a downwind heading (180 deg remaining to turn). The downwind leg was offset some four miles from the centerline of the landing runway. On downwind, abeam the touchdown point, landing gear and partial flaps were deployed at a speed of 240 knots. Full flaps were usually deployed on the final approach. At the initial reference point the pilot had almost three minutes until touchdown – additional time for handling increased speeds and sink rates.7,8

X-1 supersonic aircraft on Lakebed

Figure 6. The X-1E airplane on Rogers lakebed.

X-1E supersonic aircraft under B-29 Mothership

Secret declassified USAF pilot Charles Chuck Yeager after breaking the sound barrier on X-1

Report from

X-1 supersonic aircraft instrument panel

(Text from the NASA at: