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New book puts the cover on nine decades of flight research at NASA Langley
By Patrick Lynch   - 07/22/2007

Daily Press

More Info on This Book: Flight Research at NASA Langley Research Center

HAMPTON -- If you want contrast between NASA Langley's past and present, here it is.

Media materials distributed by the center recently include high-definition animation of astronauts roaming the moon, with a lunar settlement reflected in the astronaut's gold visor.

In a black-and-white photo in a new book recounting Langley's 90 years of flight research, a test pilot stands in front of a biplane. He's wearing dark goggles and is bundled up as if he's about to make a one-man trek to the South Pole. The 1928 image was taken just before the pilot began an early high-altitude mission.

At a time when Langley is making it clear that it's committed to space exploration - while maintaining its core function as an aeronautics research center - the new book serves a comprehensive benchmark by which to illustrate the transition.

"Flight Research at NASA Langley Research Center" is a collection of photos and short essays cataloging the center's broad contributions to flight in the 20th century. The book will hit local stores Monday.

Author Mark A. Chambers makes it clear: From fabric and wooden aircraft designs in the World War I era, to metal bodies and the memorable, sleek lines of fighters such as the P-51 Mustang, to Cold War-era jets and advances in commercial airline transportation, Langley engineers and pilots have been in the hangar and the cockpit.

Chambers, whose father worked at Langley for 38 years, is a former technical writer for the center.

He had long been keeping his own collection of historic Langley photos when he first saw a book on Hampton Roads' aviation history, published by Arcadia Publishing.

Arcadia specializes in regional history books.

"I decided, I bet I could do one of these on flight research at Langley," Chambers said.

He's broken the book up into historical eras at Langley, beginning with "The Formative Years" from 1915 to 1922, when the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory was created by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. The era saw early testing of military aircraft and the development of navigational aids.

"The Golden Age of Aviation" covered 1923 to 1941, Chambers writes. Engines were redesigned and refined. Wing configurations were changed. Tests on "autogiros" pointed toward the development of the helicopter.

In "Sowing the Seeds of Victory," Chambers covers Langley's contributions to the development of the U.S. World War II fleet.

Chambers was also able to weave in personal stories of some of Langley's longtime test pilots - stories he gleaned from personal knowledge through his family's long connection to the center and his personal interest in getting to know them.

"It goes with my family," Chambers said.

His father inspired his interest, he said. "He's always instilled in his boys an interest in aviation."


Buy It Now: Flight Research at NASA Langley Research Center $19.99




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