NASA Celebrates National Aviation Day

Today the NASA family celebrates National Aviation Day, which was established in 1939 on the birthday of Orville Wright, the aviation legend who made that historic first flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903.

Since those early days of open air cockpits and fabric-covered airplanes, aviation has grown to become a critical component of our daily lives, no matter where we are in the world. Aviation enables us to stay connected with family and friends across the globe, and it has a major influence on our economy.

The spirit of the Wright Brothers’ pioneering work continues at NASA as our aeronautical innovators seek to drive technological breakthroughs that make aviation more fuel-efficient, and that reduce aircraft noise and noxious emissions.

Today we’re looking at how aviation fits into the big picture of global economic and population expansion, and how we can take advantage of technological innovation in areas not traditionally associated with aviation.

NASA Aeronautics has developed an exciting new strategic vision that clearly focuses our research on priority challenges in order to benefit society and our nation’s economy.

Technologies we’ve worked on recently include Precision Departure Release Capability, a software tool we transferred to the FAA last year. It identifies precisely when an aircraft needs to push back from an airport gate in order to make its slot in the overhead stream of traffic on time, improving traffic flow and saving fuel.

We’re also setting up a round of field tests for Dynamic Weather Routing, a tool that continually analyzes flight trajectories and weather conditions, and then suggests course corrections to avoid trouble and reduce delays.

Efficient Descent Advisor – another tool transferred to the FAA — has the potential to reduce local noise and emissions pollution, reduce flight time and save $300 million per year in wasted jet fuel.

Still other technologies continue to be developed. For example, NASA will be on board a Boeing 787 ecoDemonstrator aircraft this fall to flight test a technology designed to improve airborne spacing, and on a Boeing 757 ecoDemonstrator next year to test new ideas for reducing drag and improving fuel efficiency.

Making aviation greener for the long term is a major focus of our aeronautics research strategic vision, and we’re also continuing to lead research in documenting whether aircraft biofuels actually reduce emissions. (Preliminary results indicate they do).

As always, we’re looking to advance the state of the art in everything we do. Another key initiative we’re working on is to help bring back supersonic passenger flight by increasing our understanding of how to create quieter sonic booms. Our work could lead to new designs that alter how sonic booms are made by aircraft so that people on the ground might not even notice.

All of these innovations directly affect travelers and commerce worldwide. The President’s FY15 budget proposal sets the stage for NASA to continue our innovative work as we tackle the global challenges facing aviation as laid out in the strategic vision.

This Aviation Day, please join me in saluting our aeronautics researchers and the critical work they do.

Take a look at some great photos in a special Flickr album we’ve put together for this day.

In the spirit of Orville Wright, use social media to tell us about your first flight experience. What kind of airplane were you on? Where were you going? Did anything about the flight surprise you? Use the hashtag #myfirstflight.

Visit a local aviation museum. Or say “thanks” to someone who works in aviation as you embark on a trip.

We can all look forward to continued advances in Aeronautics, the first “A” in NASA — because NASA is with you when you fly, today and into the future.


NASA Gets High Marks on Small Business Scorecard

When we say that small business is big business here at NASA, it’s not a slogan, it’s ingrained in our culture.  I am especially proud of NASA’s record of support for small businesses, which is essential to our achievements in space and here on Earth.

Which is why I was so pleased today to join Small Business Administration head Maria Contreras-Sweet at an event unveiling our nation’s federal procurement scorecard for this past year, FY2013.  The scorecard outlines our progress toward using small business to achieve our nation’s goals in many areas.

NASA’s SBA Scorecard has moved from “C” to “A” in just three years.  We’re not perfect, and in some areas we have a ways to go, especially in meeting our goals with Women-Owned, HUBZone, and Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned small businesses, but we’re headed the right direction.  After all, we’re NASA – we’re in the business of shooting for the stars – and learning along the way how we can improve and get better.

Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy.  They employ about half of all private sector employees.  They account for 42% of the total U.S. private payroll and they are incubators of innovation, developing new products and new ways of solving problems that are benefiting communities nationwide and maintaining America’s leadership in the global economy.  

This is the first time in 9 years the federal government exceeded the overall 23% goal for small business procurement.  I commend the Obama Administration for its commitment to small business and for recognizing how crucial these entrepreneurs are to the health of our economy and for creating new jobs.

At NASA, we also take our commitment to small business very seriously, and I pledge to continue working diligently toward all of our goals.  I want to thank and commend Administrator Contreras-Sweet for her dedication and commitment to small businesses –for her work to keep this vital engine of our economy moving forward.

NASA is on a journey to Mars and there are already small businesses there supporting various aspects of the Curiosity rover.  As we implement our stepping stone approach to more challenging missions, eventually sending humans to the Red Planet, I know small businesses will be with us all along the way.