Milestone-Proposal:Shuttle Training Aircraft

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Docket #:2017-05

This is a draft proposal, that has not yet been submitted. To submit this proposal, click on the edit button in toolbar above, indicated by an icon displaying a pencil on paper. At the bottom of the form, check the box that says "Submit this proposal to the IEEE History Committee for review. Only check this when the proposal is finished" and save the page.

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? No

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? No

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? No

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? No

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

Space Shuttle Training Avionics and Controls, 1976

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

In 1976, NASA’s first Shuttle Training Aircraft was built by Grumman Aerospace Corporation and Sperry Flight Systems. A Sperry 1819B flight control computer and modified control surfaces gave the aircraft the approach profile and handling characteristics of a Space Shuttle. Each Shuttle pilot performed at least 1000 airborne simulations before landing a Shuttle. After 12,000 flight hours, N946NA retired at the Texas Air and Space Museum in Amarillo.

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

Region 6 - Phoenix AZ

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Steve Warford
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):


Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. The Sperry flight Systems campus (Now Honeywell) in Phoenix, AZ

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

TBD - Based on selection of site.

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?


Who is the present owner of the site(s)?


What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

The Space Shuttle program and vehicle grew out of NASA's 1969 Space Transportation System (STS) which was charged with producing a low-earth orbit reusable spacecraft. The concept, and reality, of a highly reusable transportation and supply vehicle were magnitudes more complex than any previous space craft program. That included a controlled dead-stick landing on conventional runways, but at much steeper approach angles and much higher speeds than conventional aircraft. The Shuttle Training Aircraft was the vehicle that needed to train the astronauts for actual shuttle landings. A high degree of fidelity in the ability of the STA to give the astronauts a realistic sense of shuttle landings was paramount. (ref. 3)

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

Compared to the crew capsules of prior manned space missions, the shuttle was a completely different bird. It was very large and designed for reuse with minimal rework between missions. On re-entry, dropped out of the sky like a brick with short wings. Go-arounds or correcting for short-fall approaches to the runway were not an option. (ref 2) The potential and kinetic energy within the terminal area, had to be accurately computed, closely monitored, and managed (Terminal Area Energy Management - TAEM). In the TAEM phase, a closed loop, computer controlled landing approach took the shuttle to a point where the pilot took control to complete the landing and roll-out. The STA was critical for developing these new skills in a shuttle commander prior to their landing the actual shuttle. Each commander had to complete hundreds of simulated landings in an STA before landing an actual Shuttle. (refs 3,4)

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

In earlier advancements of powered aircraft, conventional or experimental, the differences in aircraft behavior were incremental, not monumental. Most any pilot with sufficient flight hours could transition to a different aircraft with minimal instruction and hours. The shuttle, and, hence the Shuttle Training Aircraft, would require pilot skills well beyond any those required for the T-38 Talon that was the standard for maintaining flying skills of the astronauts. Earlier considerations for the STA included the Boeing 737. It met all the requirements for performance in the demanding approach and landing phase, but was deemed too expensive. The Grumman Gulfstream II was chosen instead, amid concerns for the GII's ability to withstand the forces that would result from shuttle emulation.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation. The Shuttle Training Aircraft (STA) was a NASA training vehicle that duplicated the Space Shuttle's approach profile and handling qualities, allowing Space Shuttle pilots to simulate Shuttle landings under controlled conditions before attempting the task on board the orbiter.

The original Flight control system was a Sperry Flight Systems 1819B with all of the associated peripheral ATR boxes that became all too familiar.

The STA was particularly critical for Shuttle pilots in training because the Orbiter lacked atmospheric engines that would allow the craft to "go around" after a poor approach. After re-entry, the Shuttle was a very heavy glider (it was sometimes referred to as a 'flying brick') and as such had only one chance to land.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.