THE HIGH SPEED
- CHAPTER I
-  Previous writings
about NACA research achievements, for example G. W. Gray's
Frontiers of Flight,
contain generally excellent
descriptions of the problems of aeronautics and the solutions
developed. To anyone personally involved in these programs,
however, there are serious omissions, particularly the absence of
vital information on how the solutions actually evolved. More
often than not the solutions seem to have emerged
automatically-the inevitable result of wise management, inventive
researchers, and unparalleled facilities. In the four programs
considered here the previous treatments passed over so much of the
important action I had seen as a participant that I was inspired
to undertake this effort to complete the record.
- To provide fundamental insights into
NACA's technical accomplishments the record should include the
doubts and misconceptions that existed in the beginning of a
project, the unproductive approaches that were tried and
abandoned, the stimulating peer discussions that provided new
insights, and the gradual evolution of the final solution. This
kind of information is hard to find. Only bits and pieces of it
appear in the written records in NACA files. Most of it is stored
in the minds of those who participated in the NACA programs. A
participant-author can draw on obvious major assets in
establishing this part of the record-his personal knowledge of the
fertile areas to probe, the roles played by the others, and the
profitable questions to ask. The true facts can be learned through
the process of pooling and editing the recollections of all the
principal participants. In the present study I drew heavily on the
help of many former colleagues who are identified in the
acknowledgments and elsewhere throughout the text.
-  Three other
historical documents have recently been authored by former NACA
engineers: E. P. Hartman's Adventures in Research: A History of Ames Research
Center, 1940-1965 (NASA SP-4302);
J. A. Shortal's A New Dimension.
Wallops Island Flight Test Range: The First Fifteen Years
(NASA RP-1028); and J. L. Sloop's
Liquid Hydrogen as a Propulsion
Fuel, 1945-1959 (NASA SP-4404).
These works had different objectives than the present study and
each covers vastly larger territory, dealing extensively with
management and administrative operations in addition to research
activities. Beyond any question each of these books contains
innumerable important contributions to the record which would
otherwise have been lost if these knowledgeable
participant-authors had not taken up their pens.
- From the large body of NACA's total
contribution to high-speed technology the particular programs
treated here were selected for two
reasons: first, because of their
quite inadequate coverage in previous writings, and second,
because of my intimate personal involvement with each of them
either as a researcher or as a supervisor. All of the programs
fall in the category variously referred to as "general,"
"fundamental," or "basic" NACA research. They are typical of what
was done in this category; only one, the slotted tunnel, became a
celebrated NACA achievement. (Each of the programs involved a
number of different research authorizations and none appears
consistently in agency records under the titles I have used. The
term "high-speed" is used here in the same sense that it was used
during those programs to mean high-subsonic and transonic speeds
up to about Mach 1.2.) Most of the work was completed by 1950
and all of it by 1958; an interesting renaissance of the airfoil
program in the mid-sixties is also covered briefly.
- In the prospectus for the study I proposed
to attempt some hindsight analysis, which is rare in NASA
literature but a potentially useful device for improving the
R&D process (ref. 1). My experience in a previous study (ref. 2) suggested that, insofar as possible, hindsight
observations should be separated from the historical narrative.
Accordingly, I have located them under the heading "Commentary" at
the ends of the appropriate sections.