Monday, October 6, 2014

Fits Like a Glove

Greetings, fellow aviation historians, the Blog is finally returning to (somewhat) active duty! For now, my posts won't be quite as frequent as they once were, but we're back up and running. And as you might expect, the first post back is something of a mystery....
This photo is an original Douglas Aircraft print (stamp on the back says it's from the El Segundo plant), and there's a hand-written notation that reads "Laminar Flow Airfoil Glove". The plane shown, Northrop A-17A serial 35-122, at some point was turned over to NACA for a laminar flow reseearch program, which was operated out of Langley.

Unfortunately, I could find very little information about the test program (and no other photos of the plane in this configuration), and there are only a few snipets of information about it on the web, one of which mentions that the small added propellers were intended to add airflow over the wing. The primary source for information on NACA's history of laminar flow research is the paper A History of Suction-Type Laminar-Flow Control with Emphasis on Flight Research. Written by pioneering researcher Albert Braslow (who has since, sadly, passed away), this paper makes no mention of tests using the A-17A. The paper, on page 3, implies that the first laminar-flow flight tests took place in 1941 and utilized a surplus B-18 bomber. Either Braslow was unaware of the use of the A-17A (improbable, in my view), or this particular part of the larger research effort yielded little or no data of note. Joe Baugher's database indicates that 35-122 was returned to the Army in August of 1943.

If anyone has additional information on the modifications, when the test program took place, and any data that resulted from it, I would very much like to hear from you!


  1. Welcome back. The world is a better place now. Eric

  2. So glad to see this blog back in action. This A-17 is new to me. It makes me think of the much more recent F-16XL SCAMP laminar flow flight tests.