Perhaps the most dominant building along the skyline of NASA Glenn Research Center, the Aircraft Operations Hangar is the primary hub for all of airplanes used by the center. The hangar houses anywhere between five and ten airplanes although only five are currently in flight condition. The tour was put on by several of the hangar’s ground crew who explained the ins and outs of four of the center’s aircraft: the twin otter, the Learjet 25, the T-34 C, and the S-3B Viking Fighter.
Glenn’s Twin Otter plays a vital role in conducting much of the icing research here at the center. The plane is designed to find and fly into ice storms to study the effects of ice formation on aircraft wings and propellers. It is powered by two turboprop engines with heated propellers to melt any ice formation. The leading edges of the wings are equipped with air bladders designed to quickly inflate and knock any ice off the wing that may have formed. The ground crew informed us this craft was one of the more famous planes at NASA Glenn and almost all in flight icing data can be traced back to this aircraft. The aircraft has been modified to hang instruments off the back. It can fly up to about 25,000 feet, but beyond that altitude, passengers need oxygen because the cabin is not pressurized. For each hour of flight, it has been estimated it takes about six hours of preparation to get the instrumentation and the aircraft ready.
The Learjet 25 is one of the more versatile research aircrafts at Glenn. It has been used to conduct solar cell research, sample air quality, calibrate instruments, and develop anti-icing techniques. It is powered by two GE Turbo Jet engines and has wet wings for extra fuel storage. The interior has been modified to accommodate a large number of experimental racks. The fuselage has also been modified with two 10 inch viewports out the top and a pod out the bottom for remote sensing hardware. It can reach an altitude of 45,000 feet and has a range of 12,000 nautical miles. Learjets also tend to want to Dutch roll, so Glenn has equipped this aircraft with a yaw damper for more steady flight. The Learjet 25 is one of the more used airplanes in the hangar, clocking about 100 hours each year.
The T-34 C in the NASA Glenn Hangar is a Navy training aircraft the center used to keep its pilots current on their required flight hours. The T-34 C has the same turboprop engine as the Twin Otter and can reach and airspeed of 240 miles per hour. It is exceptionally aerobatic and cheap to operation (about $200 per flight hour). The T-34 C at Glenn has also been modified with a pod for imagining equipment out of the plane’s aft. It can reach a range of 700 nautical miles and can carry a maximum weight of 4,400 pounds. Currently, the hangar has been working on ways to out-rig the airplane for UAV flight.
The Aircraft Operations Hangar at Glenn Research Center currently has three S-3B Viking fighter jets. These airplanes were once used for aircraft carrier operations and anti-submarine warfare, but have since been retired from military use and donated to NASA. The hangar currently has one of these fighters in working order, while the other two thus far have been primarily used for parts.
The working S-3B has had a complete overhaul of its avionics, replacing the original military hardware with new equipment to reduce the need for ground support for takeoffs and landings. The plane is propelled by two GE TF-34 turbofan engines. The plane has four seats which can eject through the canopy. The wings are designed to fold up and the vertical tail can fold down for storage during aircraft carrier operations. These planes are some of the higher flying aircraft at Glenn, being able to reach and altitude of 40,000 feet. The future research scheduled with these planes involves meteorological data collection, development of advanced aviation safety procedures, and ground to aircraft communication testing.