Born: United States of America
Primarily active in: United States of America

Dr. John D. Berry, Deputy Director, U.S. Army Aviation Applied Technology Directorate

Dr. John Berry came to the Aviation Applied Technology Directorate (AATD) at Fort Eustis, Virginia last year with distinguished Army Science & Technology (S&T) credentials. He has twice received the Army Research and Development Achievement Award and he has been recognized for his service in various S&T assignments. “I knew about AATD. I had never worked here before,” explains Dr. Berry. “Since I got here, every day, every week, I find things that this place has done and continues to do that make a huge impact on the Army aviation fleet.”

AATD is part of the Aviation Development Directorate (ADD), itself within the Army Aviation and Missile Research, Development and Engineering Center (AMRDEC). Dr. Berry explains, “Our mission is to develop, demonstrate, and transition critical technologies that enhance and sustain Army Aviation.” The work goes beyond today’s high-profile Joint Multi-Role (JMR) Technology Demonstration. AATD engineers continue advances in aircraft armor, manned-unmanned teaming, and other high-payoff technologies. “We haven’t stopped all business except for JMR,” notes Dr. Berry. “We have a Sustainment Tech Area that’s continuing to fund ASTRO, which is our advanced technologies for sustainment. We’re looking at integrating the instrumentation – the sensors necessary to do Condition-Based Maintenance – and for early detection to give maintainers as well as fleet managers the visibility they need on their aircraft.”

Army Aeronautics
John Berry was born at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, the son of an Army lieutenant and electrical engineer then teaching at the Signal School. After Jack Berry left the Army, he and his family moved with successive assignments in AT&T or simply “The Telephone Company.” Dr. Berry recalls, “We must have lived in five different places before we settled in Atlanta. It was only the last part of elementary school, high school, and in college that I lived in Atlanta, but of course being in Atlanta made Georgia Tech a perfect place to get an engineering degree.”

The Civil Air Patrol (CAP) introduced John Berry to aviation in high school and early college years, and the Georgia Tech student chose an aerospace engineering major. “One of the side reasons that I went into aerospace as opposed to electrical engineering was I felt in some respects I was over-exposed to electrical. My dad was an avid amateur radio guy, and almost everything we wound up doing together involved my climbing trees and putting pieces of aluminum and copper in the air for him.”

Georgia Tech ROTC promised an Air Force commission, but cuts after Vietnam caused a change in plans. “I wear glasses, and being a pilot was not on the radar at all,” explains Dr. Berry. “They were not interested in additional engineering officers in my year-group. I wandered down the street and joined the Army ROTC program. Through the CAP, I met a Vietnam veteran [electrical engineering] student, Ron Bradford, who inspired a number of us to become career Army officers.

“My intention at that time was to take the most difficult assignments I could possibly find. When it came to the summer camp phase of the ROTC program, I volunteered to take the infantry school’s Ranger course – that’s several notches above normal.” John Berry received his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from Georgia Tech in 1974, and with a commission in the Signal Corps, a Ranger badge, and parachutist’s wings, joined the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg.

Army initiatives soon returned the young officer to Georgia Tech for a Master’s degree. “Normally, they would send captains back for advanced degrees. I went back as a lieutenant,” recalls Dr. Berry. Though undergraduate aeronautics made little mention of rotorcraft, the Army grad student found a powerful rotorcraft influence in Professor Robin Grey. “Once I met Robin Grey, everything sort of crystallized where I was going with a career. He just had a very rich rotorcraft history that began at NACA when he was a student at Princeton. He worked with Alfred Gessow in some of the early rotorcraft research. He assigned me to collect pressure data from a small rotating blade with pressure sensors embedded in the tip.”

Following a tour in Korea, John Berry returned to rotorcraft S&T. “The Army said, ‘You have to go to a laboratory to use this magical Masters of Science degree you’ve got.’ They assigned me to the Aerostructures Laboratory at NASA’s Langley Research Center. That’s where I started doing rotorcraft engineering work – as a researcher in a uniform.” The team assigned to the 14 by 22 ft subsonic wind tunnel at Langley developed powered models to study helicopter blades, airfoils, fuselage interactions, and drag reduction. “Pre-Comanche, the advanced blade work was very interesting, utilizing airfoils that were designed by members of the Army staff there and using technologies developed with NASA to optimize airfoil shapes for rotorcraft.”

John Berry became an Army civilian employee and Reservist in 1982. His Langley research helped earn a doctorate from Georgia Tech in 1990. Work with powered tunnel models also became especially important soon after the first flight of the RAH-66 Comanche in 1996. “They discovered a tail shake which turns out to be not unusual at all in development of rotorcraft. At that point, I had been the team lead in the wind tunnel and had put together a shell representing the Comanche.”

Computer-based Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) complimented wind tunnel experiments. “We were able to use some CFD models of the Comanche configuration to create a more stable flow environment downstream of the hub. In five weeks, we not only validated the results, we could see with dynamic instrumentation that we were very close to what we could see in flight tests. We did 139 configurations of different modifications that could potentially fix that buffet. With some additional refinement by Boeing, one of the cowling configurations that looked good in our wind tunnel investigation became the final Comanche configuration.”

Comanche work also introduced Dr. Berry to the head of Army Aeromechanics, Dr. Sam Crews. “I volunteered to go to Huntsville and help Sam with his Aeromechanics team. The Army Aviation Engineering Directorate (AED) in Huntsville needed aeroelastic models of current Army aircraft to predict vibration. “We were able to put together some fairly modern representative things with the program offices and prime contractors.”

AED was also interested in aircraft Health and Usage Monitoring Systems (HUMS). Dr. Berry recalls, “I just learned a lot from Sam. One of the things that he wanted me to work on was a Congressionally-funded program aimed at our ability to reduce principal vibrations on helicopters. If you don’t track and balance your rotor system to reduce your one-per-rev vibrations, you’ll shake like crazy, no matter what you do.” The Vibration Management Enhancement Program (VMEP) built a small, airworthy signal processor that replaced the Aviation Vibration Analyzer that first used modern signal processing methodology to reduce helicopter vibration.

VMEP was fielded by the South Carolina National Guard and later installed on other Army helicopters. Dr. Berry explains, “If you look at a hundred aircraft, you’re going to know an awful lot about the character of your entire fleet. Being able to pick out the one or two that are not behaving well becomes a lot easier if you have a large background in [what is] Normal, because every aircraft is a little different.” After VMEP proved its value, Boeing incorporated the technology into the Block III Apache. HUMS is the basis for Condition-Based Maintenance (CBM), but according to Dr. Berry, “The data itself only gives you indicators that are valuable if someone is watching them. The most valuable thing we could do right now is to give the first-line maintainers and supervisors tools to interrogate the on-board monitoring system.”

Collaboration and Community
AMRDEC, and Aviation Engineering Directorate (AED) chief Dr. Bill Lewis, subsequently assigned Dr. Berry to identify possible technology collaborations at the International Technology Center Atlantic in London. “I was acting as an agent for all of the AMRDEC researchers, both missile and aviation. The idea was for us to initiate the conversation – identify a technology; identify a researcher; give it an initial assessment; and pass that back to our principal researchers in our laboratories.” For example, Army and Air Force researchers worked with the Czech Technical University in Prague on software modules or intelligent agents used for airspace de-confliction.

A homecoming assignment back at NASA Langley in the Joint Research Program Office of the AMRDEC Aeroflightdynamics Directorate Research Center put Dr. Berry in charge of teams working on drag reduction. The office completed a major drag study for the OH-58F Kiowa Warrior Cockpit and Sensor Upgrade (CASUP) using a high fidelity, 37% scale model of the helicopter with all external stores and components in the NASA wind tunnel. “The aerodynamic flows of real helicopter configurations are much better understood today than in the past,” observes Dr. Berry. “However, first flight of any new configuration still brings surprises.” The Langley team also investigated innovative drag reduction techniques.” What look like very smooth, rounded, aft-facing parts of a fuselage really create a very large bluff and unsteady shedding if you don’t control the shedding. We found we could reduce the drag by 50 to 75% just by tickling the boundary layer and creating a separation where we wanted it, when we wanted it.” The Army/NASA/Bell Helicopter “Aerodynamics Improvement Team” was awarded AHS International’s 2013 Grover E. Bell Award for their groundbreaking research on the OH-58.

Early in his research career, John Berry helped set up Rotorcraft Centers of Excellence (RCOEs) at US universities. The competitively selected Centers (now called Vertical Lift Research Centers of Excellence, or VLRCOEs) assign graduate researchers Army-specific tasks or problems to solve. “Above all else, it’s given us the engineers of the future, the leadership of the future. You’ll find that not just in the Army, but everywhere that rotorcraft exist, in the universities, the companies, the [Department of Defense]. The kids who are going to be the leaders or are currently the emerging leadership are all graduates of these Centers of Excellence.”

In his current assignment at AATD, Dr. Berry remains active in AHS. “I joined AHS when I was in grad school in 1977,” notes Dr. Berry. “It’s a technical community almost like a family because of the relationships you build. Even though I lean toward the key aeromechanics areas which I would call very rotorcraft-centric technologies, the society is much broader than that. It looks at all of the areas that impact the development and operation of rotorcraft.” As a case in point, Dr. Berry is supporting the planned Helicopter Military Operations Technology (HELMOT) specialists’ meeting this October, which is sponsored by the local AHS Hampton Roads Chapter.

Leadership Profile: Vertiflite September/October 2014