June 22, 2007
On Friday, June 22, the NASA Glenn Academy was given a tour of the flight simulator laboratory. The explanation and demonstration of the flight simulator was presented by Shane Sowers and Jonathan Litt. The flight simulator is primarily used to test how aircraft engines react in flight.
It is essential that an aircraft’s engines deliver the same amount of thrust; however, due to slow and uneven degradation of the engines, the thrust becomes uneven. This imbalance gives way to unwanted yaw of the aircraft, which can throw off navigation and decrease fuel economy.
Traditionally, pilots compensate for the lack of thrust in one engine. Since fan speed is directly related to the amount of thrust, pilots will usually control the engine’s fan speed to even out the delivered thrust. A new type of automatic adjustment was being tested in the flight simulator. The new technology uses thrust control instead of flight control. The thrust is directly measured and adjusted for each engine, in order to maintain a correct balance. Two simulations, one with thrust control and one without, clearly demonstrated the effectiveness of auto-correcting for thrust imbalance.
After these simulations, the Academy was invited to “test out” the flight simulation by flying the plane ourselves. Several of the Research Associates managed to keep the plane in the air, while others struggled to keep it above the ground. Either way, the flight simulator was a great way to see how simulation testing is done while getting some hands on fun flying a realistic aircraft in a 30 by 20 foot room.