NASA 515 - The Boeing 737 Prototype at NASA

Departing Boeing Field in 1973, headed east to it's new home, Langley Research Center in Langley, Virginia.

NASA 515

Flying over her new home.

    Joe Chambers

After several years of Boeing flight test work, PA099 was placed in storage by Boeing for several years, until sold to the U.S. Government -  National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) as a flight test airplane on  July 26, 1973.  It had accumulated only 979 flying hours. .  NASA had two blue and white color schemes over the life of the airplane.  Their call sign was simply NASA 515.  As a public use airplane,  PA099 voluntarily became N515NA on the FAA registry.


NASA 515 was involved in numerous pioneering flight investigations including control systems, 3D and 4D navigation, in-flight energy management, computerized flight management systems, electronic displays, Microwave Landing System (MLS) development (overrun in late development by the advent of GPS,), slippery runway studies, and clear air turbulence and wind shear detection and warning.

  The airplane has a second flight deck, fully functional, installed in the main cabin, that was used for much of the flying.  Control systems used included the original Boeing control column/wheel, Brolly handles (like bicycle handlebars), and the current side-stick controllers.  Numerous glass cockpit CRT display configurations were tried, that attacked many questions regarding display arrangements, colors and symbology.

Much of this work wound up on Boeing, Douglas, and Airbus airplanes as well as the Space Shuttle.  The airplane has a unique fourth hydraulic system with a reservoir, pump and filter system.

Other studies were perfomed of drag-reducing external coatings, cockpit displayed traffic information, takeoff performance monitoring, and precision flare guidance (during landing touchdown.)

For a superb in-depth discussion of all these flight test studies, and many more, please refer to the outstanding book Airborne Trailblazer, written by Lane Wallace and released by NASA.  This book is entirely devoted to the NASA flight tests performed using this historic aircraft, and it is available for reading on-line here.

After about 23 years in NASA service, the airplane flew its last research flight from its base at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia on June 27, 1997.  The airplane was placed with the Museum of Flight in Seattle, and was flown to Moses Lake, Washington for interim storage in September 1997, pending creation of a permanent display location at Boeing Field.  NASA stipulated that the airplane be maintained in an airworthy condition.  They also retained title to the airplane until such time as it was placed on permanent display.  They continue to hold title to the airplane as of this date.

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