Flight Investigation of Natural Laminar Flow on the Bellanca Skyrocket II 830717
Two major concerns have inhibited the use of natural laminar flow (NLF) for viscous drag reduction on production aircraft. These are the concerns of achieveability of NLF on practical airframe surfaces, and maintainability in operating environments. Previous research in this area left a mixture of positive and negative conclusions regarding these concerns. While early (pre-1950) airframe construction methods could not achieve NLF criteria for waviness, several modern construction methods (composites for example) can achieve the required smoothness. This paper presents flight experiment data on the achieveability and maintainability of NLF on a high-performance, single-propeller, composite airplane, the Bellanca Skyrocket II. The significant contribution of laminar flow to the performance of this airplane was measured. Observations of laminar flow in the propeller slipstream are discussed, as are the effects of insect contamination on the wing. These observations have resulted in a new appreciation of the operational feasibility for achieving and maintaining NLF on modern airframe surfaces.