Supersonic flight pioneer to be honored

Dec. 12, 2007 at 5:05 PM
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 (UPI) -- U.S. aeronautics engineer Richard Whitcomb, whose research made supersonic flight possible, is to be inducted into the First Flight Shrine.

Whitcomb will join other aerospace pioneers such as Orville and Wilbur Wright, Charles Lindbergh and Neil Armstrong when he's inducted during a Monday ceremony at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk, N.C.

The First Flight Society recognizes people who have made the most significant contributions to flight science and technology.

"Dick Whitcomb's intellectual fingerprints are on virtually every commercial aircraft flying today," said Tom Crouch, aviation historian at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.

Among Whitcomb's accomplishments, he created and experimentally verified a revolutionary aircraft design principle that has been applied to nearly every U.S. supersonic aircraft since 1954. He also invented winglets -- now commonly used devices that reduce drag and improve aircraft fuel performance, officials said.

In addition, Whitcomb's supercritical wing revolutionized the design of jet aircraft during the 1960s.

"The First Flight Society is proud to honor Richard Whitcomb, a man who literally changed the shape of the airplane and altered the course of the history of flight in the process," said Bill Harris, president of the First Flight Society.

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