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Frontiers December 2012/January 2013 Issue

Systems (now Boeing Defense, Space as his teaching assistant. For Liebeck, it is the continuation of & Security). NASA also continued to fund Vass has found the program to be an a journey that began some 20 years ago, the program. exciting opportunity to broaden his skills when he presented that conference paper In 2006, Boeing signed a contract and experience. After starting the program on what was then just an idea, a concept, with the U.S. Air Force Research Labora- running computer code, he was given an that perhaps there are alternatives to the tory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in opportunity to participate in wind tunnel traditional tube-and-wing airplanes. Dayton, Ohio. With the support of NASA, testing at NASA Langley—and then pro- “Boeing and NASA for more than two it funded research to apply Blended Wing cessing some of the wind tunnel data. He decades have been steadfast in exploring Body technology to military transports, then moved on to becoming a flight-test this technology,” Liebeck said. “It will be tankers and bombers. ground control system manager at NASA exciting to see how it develops over the In September 2005, a cooperative Dryden. This opened an opportunity for next 20 years.” n agreement was signed involving Boeing, him to serve as a test conductor, where william.j.seil@boeing.com NASA and the Air Force Research Labora- he coordinates multiple activities during tory to conduct the X-48B flight-test pro- flight test. To learn what it’s like to remotely gram. The following year, the two 21-foot “One of the strengths of the program “pilot” the X-48C, view a video at: (6.5-meter) wingspan prototype X-48B test is the trust they have in people to do www.boeing.com/Features/2012/12/ vehicles were built. The Air Force gave the their job,” Vass said. “It’s been very corp_x48ctestpilot_12_07_12.html program the “X” designation based on its challenging, because each of the jobs interest in designing a flexible, long-range, I’ve taken on has required a new skill high-capacity military aircraft using Blended set. Flight test is particularly rewarding, Wing Body technology. because it’s fast-paced and you have The X-48B flew for the first time on the responsibility to get the plane home July 20, 2007, and went on to complete safely. You’re also getting good data that the 92 successful test flights. At the con- will be used by teammates to advance clusion of this program it was converted the program.” to the X-48C configuration. The X-48C The Blended Wing Body research flew for the first time Aug. 7. aircraft recently completed the 100th flight Jonathan Vass, a 32-year-old engineer, since the X-48B model lifted off the dry has served as test conductor for both lake bed for the first time at the NASA the X-48B and X-48C test programs. Dryden center in California’s high desert He joined Boeing in 2005 after getting that July day in 2007. The Boeing-NASA his master’s degree from the University team expected to fly the X-48C approxi- of California, Irvine, where he took mately 20 more times through the end classes from Liebeck and later served of this year. 28 BOEING FRONTIERS / DECEMBER 2012–JANUARY 2013


Frontiers December 2012/January 2013 Issue
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