Jet Engineer Whitcomb Dies

Richard T. Whitcomb, famed aviation engineer who developed the so-called “Area Rule” that overcame drag problems in transonic flight, died of pneumonia last week at age 88, reports the Los Angeles Times. Whitcomb, a National Advisory Committee for Aviation (predecessor to NASA), received the Collier Trophy in 1954 at the age of 34 and the Exceptional Service Medal from the Air Force in 1956. Convair was the first to take advantage of the Area Rule, redesigned an F-102 prototype with a “wasp-waist,” enabling it to zoom through the transonic zone with 25 percent less drag and increase its speed by 100 mph without a boost in fuel consumption. Other companies followed suit. (Read more in “The Man Who Put the Squeeze in Aircraft Design” from the January 1956 Air Force Magazine) (Also read NASA report on his death and NASA article on his inclusion in 2007 to the Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine)