Richard T. Whitcomb
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|Richard T. Whitcomb|
Whitcomb in front of the area-ruled Convair F-106 used by NASA for flight research, on its retirement in 1991
February 21, 1921|
|Died||October 13, 2009
Newport News, Virginia
Whitcomb was born in Evanston, Illinois but grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts and earned his bachelors degree at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He spent most of his career at the Langley Research Center operated by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and its successor, NASA.
In the 1950s, Whitcomb proposed his area rule as regards the drag produced by aircraft on themselves when flying near the speed of sound. Its impact on aircraft design was immediate: the prototype Convair YF-102, for example, was found not to be capable of exceeding the speed of sound in level flight. This was rectified by re-sculpting the fuselage. For his insight, Whitcomb won the Collier Trophy in 1954.
In the 1960s, Whitcomb developed the supercritical airfoil. This was followed in the 1970s by his development of winglets, devices placed on wingtips to reduce the vortices produced there and the drag they induced. These improved the aerodynamic efficiency of wings and today are commonplace on airliners, where they reduce fuel consumption, as well as on sailplanes, where they improve glide ratio.
Whitcomb died in Newport News, Virginia.
Awards and honors
- USAF Exceptional Service Medal (1955)
- NASA Distinguished Service Medal (1956)
- ASA Exceptional Scientific Service Medal (1959)
- National Medal of Science in engineering. (1973)
- Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy of the National Aeronautic Association. (1974)
- member National Academy of Engineering (1976)
- Howard N. Potts Medal (1979)
- NAS Award in Aeronautical Engineering from the National Academy of Sciences. (2000)
- National Inventors Hall of Fame (2003)
- "J. C. Hunsaker Award in Aeronautical Engineering". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 14 February 2011.
- T. Rees Shapiro (October 16, 2009). "Richard Whitcomb, 88, Dies; Engineer Changed the Way We Fly". The Washington Post Obituary. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
- "Whitcomb's First Clue". Engineer in Charge. NASA History Division. January 1986.
- "NASA People: Aviation Pioneer Richard T. Whitcomb". NASA Langley Research Center. October 13, 2009.
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