Front Page
Boeing Frontiers
April 2004
Volume 02, Issue 11
Boeing Frontiers
Main Feature

Bill Bower
Mastering air flow control

Bill BowerThe start of the U.S. space program excited the world—and sparked Bill Bower's lifelong interest in aerospace.

Mercury and Apollo astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space, was Bower's particular inspiration. He and his high school classmates in Munster, Ind., watched the historical Cape Canaveral, Fla., launch in 1961 on a TV brought in especially for the occasion.

"That's when I knew I wanted to work on technologies that would move us into the space age," said Bower, a Phantom Works scientist who works in Flight Sciences in St. Louis and is one of the five new Senior Technical Fellows.

Bower's passion for space continued when he went to Purdue University, where 22 graduates have been selected for space flight. They included Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, and Gene Cernan, the last to do so. "I am in awe of those early astronauts for the enormous risk they took," Bower said. "They were all professional test pilots, quite a group."

Those memories are a powerful driver for Bower, who now puts his energy into fluid dynamics applications for expanding the ability to control the flow of air around aircraft—"active flow control." He currently leads five Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, U.S. Air Force, and Boeing programs devoted to this research topic. He also has developed computational tools for fluid dynamics predictions.

Bower is "a nationally recognized expert in the development and application of active flow control technologies," and serves as the leader of the Boeing-wide active flow control team, said Jim Mark, manager of Propulsion and Configuration Synthesis/Integration at Boeing Integrated Defense Systems and a long-time colleague. "He also combines exceptional technical leadership with strong people skills in his approach to moving Boeing forward in advanced technology development."

A dynamic man
Career field: Fluid Dynamics
Organization: Aerodynamics and Flight Controls, St. Louis
Company service: 32 years
Education: Doctorate in mechanical engineering, Purdue University, 1971; master’s degree in mechanical engineering, Purdue University, 1969; bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering, Purdue University, 1967
Publications: 36
Bower recently has been involved in breakthrough work in the use of active flow control as an enabling technology to solve difficult aerodynamic problems. Active flow control looks at the replacement of mechanical surfaces to affect the flow of air around an aircraft with fluidic devices that use air energy instead. Research programs on which Bower has worked have resulted in wind tunnel demonstrations of safe weapon release from a weapons bay at supersonic speeds, the mitigation of flow structures that degrade high-energy-laser weapons on aircraft, the suppression of weapons bay acoustic loads, and reduction of jet noise.

"Mechanical means of air flow control don't always achieve desired goals," said Bower. "Fluid-based actuators can more readily adapt to changes in the flow environment." In the past this technology was demonstrated only at laboratory scale, but now it is being demonstrated at full scale. In July 2003, a successful flight demonstration of an active flow control concept developed by Boeing in Philadelphia was conducted with the XV-15 as a precursor to a V-22 application. A full-scale weapon release concept applicable to the Long Range Strike Aircraft will be demonstrated next summer.

—William Cole


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