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JOURNAL OF PROPULSION AND POWER Vol. 21, No. 5, September–October 2005
Technology for Jet Engines: Case Study in Science and Technology Development
William S. Hong∗
Institute for Defense Analyses, Alexandria, Virginia 22311-1882 and
Paul D. Collopy†
DFM Consulting, Urbana, Illinois 61803-0247
Large jet engine research and development in the United States from the 1960s through the establishment of the Integrated High Performance Turbine Engine Technology Program in the late 1980s and the role of development in advancing fielded airbreathing propulsion capabilities are examined. The focus is on science and technology man- agement principles employed during that period and how they impacted the process by which technologies were introduced into production aircraft. Literature on the history of aircraft engine development through the 1980s was researched, and a number of current and retired personnel from U.S. government organizations and large engine companies who were active during the period were interviewed. The positive results of small focused teams with minimal oversight and strong leadership are shown. Programs also benefited from technically competent gov- ernment managers with long job tenures, joint programs between government agencies, and personal, trust-based relationships between government and industry. The Integrated High Performance Turbine Engine Technology Program is shown to be an aggressive evolutionary technology development program with many attributes that have been copied by other science and technology management efforts.
THE purpose of this paper is to examine the management of scientific research and technology development, using turbine engine development in the United States as a case study.
The first section of the paper addresses the period from about 1960 to 1985. This period was distinguished by a large number of new aircraft platforms of great variety and, consequently, a large and varied number of opportunities to design new aircraft engines (Fig. 1). Technology development of jet engines was on a steep trajectory: Most of the key technologies to modern aircraft engine performance were matured during this period.
The second section focuses on 1985–2000 when the Integrated High Performance Turbine Engine Technology (IHPTET) Program was the primary U.S. government vehicle for coordinating turbine engine science and technology research. It addresses the impact of management culture on technology development during both peri- ods and the changes brought about by the IHPTET program man- agement process.
The third and final section analyzes historical data and the IHPTET process, especially with respect to the general issue of radical vs incremental innovation in research programs.
Management of Turbine Engine Research Development from the 1960s to the 1980s
Before the 1960s, research into engine phenomena in the United States was generally carried out in the context of engine procure- ment programs. Requirements for the engine were established, and
Presented as Paper 2004-6236 at the AIAA 4th Aviation Technology, In- tegration and Operations (ATIO) Forum, Chicago Hilton, 20–22 September 2004; received 21 October 2004; revision received 14 January 2005; accepted for publication 20 January 2005. Copyright ⃝c 2005 by the American In- stitute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc. The U.S. Government has a royalty-free license to exercise all rights under the copyright claimed herein for Governmental purposes. All other rights are reserved by the copyright owner. Copies of this paper may be made for personal or internal use, on condition that the copier pay the $10.00 per-copy fee to the Copyright Clear- ance Center, Inc., 222 Rosewood Drive, Danvers, MA 01923; include the code 0748-4658/05 $10.00 in correspondence with the CCC.
∗ Assistant Director and Member of Research Staff, Science and Technol- ogy Division, 4850 Mark Center Drive. Member AIAA.
†Engineering Economist, Post Office Box 247. Senior Member AIAA.
technology development was part of the process of designing a new engine. The time leading up to the 1960s saw significant advances in turbine engines because of the sheer number of different aircraft being developed and the attendant empirical findings that came with that experience. Every program provided opportunities to develop new components, explore new material temperature capabilities, and work in new aerodynamic regimes.
The following observations were made by Koff1:
Engine programs were defined setting goals for performance, weight, reliability, cost and schedule. Contracts were let to indus- try upon evaluation of a proposal and based on perceived capability in meeting requirements. The Air Force and Navy set up Program Offices at Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) and the Naval Air Station in Trenton, NJ, to coordinate, monitor and eval- uate progress on engine development contracts. Both the Naval Air Station in Trenton and WPAFB had laboratories to develop specific technologies to support engine components. The Trenton facility also tested engines, and Navy personnel, using limited resources, worked with industry on improved technologies for fleet engines.
Key engine development programs often fell short of meeting requirements in terms of performance, weight, cost and schedule. The compressors encountered blade fatigue failures and low stall margin causing engine instability in flight maneuvers; the combus- tors would burn out, flame out and send hot streaks to the turbine; while turbine blades would suffer oxidation, over-temperature and premature failure. Maintenance and lack of durability of the engine cores at Air Force bases was a major issue to be addressed.1
Nevertheless, the sheer number of engines developed in the 1950s and 1960s indicates that opportunities for technology advancements were plentiful (Fig. 2). According to Ray Standahar, these procure- ments addressed a full spectrum of sizes and classes, but had a ten- dency to be very scattered in terms of any technology developments.
The advancements were significant as a whole. For example, tur- bine engines became economically and technologically viable for use in commercial passenger aircraft at this time. However, in this period engines were frequently designed without specific applica- tions in mind; instead, according to James Nelson, aircraft tended to be designed around available engines and the propulsion capabilities they represented.
The modern history of more formal scientific research programs for gas turbine engines in the United States started around 1960,
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