Dr. Richard T. Whitcomb

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Dr. Richard T. Whitcomb

Inducted in 2007

“Area Rule” & “Winglets” Impact us Today

1921 – 2009

A graduate of Worcester Polytechnic Institute with a BS in mechanical engineering (high distinction) in 1943, Dr. Whitcomb went to work for NACA – now NASA – at Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory from 1943 until his retirement in 1980. During his 37 years at NASA, he celebrated many accomplishments. One that most of us can relate to is the “area rule” that allowed aircraft to break the sound barrier, which earned hi the 1954 Collier Trophy. Another is “winglets” devices used at the wingtips, normal to the wingspar, extending both upward and downward, which reduce wingtip vortices and the induced drag such vortices create, improving the aerodynamic efficiency of the wing and seen frequently in modern airliners, in which they reduce fuel consumption.

In addition to the Collier Trophy, Dr. Whitcomb is the recipient of the USAF Exceptional Service Medal 1955, NACA Distinguished Service Medal 1956, NASA Exceptional Scientific Service Medal 1959, National Medal of Science in 1973, NAA Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy 1974, National Academy of Engineering 1976, and was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2003.