Grumman X-29a This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Early one frosty morning at Edwards Air Force Base, a jet aircraft taxis down the runway. But there is something strange about this plane. Its wings point toward the nose of the plane, instead of toward the rear. The jet, now airborne, streaks skyward, performing aerial stunt maneuvers that would tear the wings off any normal plane. Only those unusual wings give this plane the ability to perform death-defying loops and rolls. Grumman built this plane, code named the X-29A, to out-perform any plane in the world today. Utilizing the extra lift generated by the FSW (Forward Swept Wings) design, the X-29 prototype aircraft soars to new heights.

This plane is not the first to try to utilize the FSW design. The first to leave the ground in Europe in 1906 brought the FSW design with it. The Germans also tried it in World War II. The reason this design works is because the wings direct air toward the body of the aircraft instead of away from it, the conventional wing designs. This transforms the body of the plane into a third "wing" and gives the plane the ability to gain maneuverability and speed. And the canards in the front of the plane provide even more wing surface, which in turn provides more lift and more maneuverability. The only reason this design wasn't more prevalent in the past was because the plane is very unstable and tends to twitch, comparable to when you drop a thin strip of paper to the ground. To overcome this problem, Grumman installed three high-tech Top Secret computer systems to sense and correct the slightest twitch before even the pilot can. This system is called digital-fly-by-wire.

After the engineers solved the problem of instability, another loomed. The required sized wings using conventional materials would be far too heavy. So to solve the problem, they made a "sandwich" of carbon fiber sheets glued to a core of titanium and aluminum. The result is many times stronger than steel and much lighter. These super-light wings allow this aircraft, with 16,000 pounds of thrust generated by the General Electric power plant to streak along at speeds in excess of Mach 1.5 (one and a half times the speed of sound).

Over the years man has made many achievements in his quest to soar among the heavens. From the Wright brothers and their flight in 1903 to today's space shuttle, man has always tried to fly higher, farther, faster than anyone before him. And now with Grumman's two X-29 prototypes, mankind can soar far into the twenty-first century. u


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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