Here’s a photo of Dr. Werner Dahm from the Airman Magazine story Good, Clean Science: Top Scientist Directs Research to Save Money and the Environment:
Get a load of that painting of the XB-70. Click photo for a better look.
Recently, Dr. Dahm and members of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board showed striking impacts on fuel economy that can be obtained by flying aircraft in formation to take advantage of the vortex produced from each wing tip through flight.
He said by having as few as two aircraft fly in formation, a 14 percent improvement in fuel efficiency could be realized. What’s even more impressive is that it isn’t just the trailing aircraft that reaps the benefits, both aircraft benefit.
“If the trailing aircraft can fly in the ‘sweet spot’ produced from the lead plane it decreases the drag on both,” he said. “The main challenge is that sweet spot is constantly shifting, so pilot fatigue increases if they have to stay in that spot manually. Technology can solve that by relatively simple software that automatically uses trim adjustments find the sweet spot and stay in it.”
Dr. Dahm said the aircraft can be separated by a considerable distance and still see most of the benefit and that even dissimilar aircraft benefit from flying in formation.
“The benefit small aircraft see when they fly in formation with large aircraft can be so large that the fuel savings can actually equal the fuel those small aircraft would need flying solo.”
No bump drafting allowed, though.