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

From Leadership Profile: Vertiflite Summer 2007

Barry R. Lakinsmith, Director (Acting), US Army Aeroflightdynamics Directorate

As the acting head of the Army’s Aeroflightdynamics Directorate (AFDD) at Moffett Field, California, Barry Lakinsmith oversees a Science and Technology (S&T) organization with deep expertise in rotorcraft aero performance, design, flight dynamics, and simulation. Since 1965, AFDD – in partnership with NASA – has performed fundamental and applied rotorcraft research. Ames remains the home of the National Full Scale Aerodynamics Complex wind tunnels. The Army Directorate (part of the Army’s Aviation & Missile Research, Development, and Engineering Center – AMRDEC) has nevertheless changed structure and emphasis in recent years. “We’re a little bit smaller,” explains Mr. Lakinsmith. “There’s a lot more emphasis on doing something relevant for our customers and partners today versus long-term.”

Current investigations include work with Boeing and the AMRDEC Aviation Engineering Directorate on the CH-47 in high-hot operations. The AFDD RASCAL (Rotorcraft Aircrew Systems Concepts Airborne Laboratory) Black Hawk is testing fly-by-wire control laws and tools for Sikorsky and the Army Utility Helicopter Program Manager to upgrade the UH-60M. Mr. Lakinsmith notes, “Right now we’re seeing major control system upgrades on every platform, and were involved in each of them.” Despite a formal separation, the Army Directorate continues its close working relationship with NASA aeromechanics specialists, including a Joint Research Program Office at Langley, concentrating on the configuration of aerodynamic performance, and acoustics. According to Mr. Lakinsmith, “We don’t get involved in pure civil things, but when you’re dealing with fundamentals, there’s no difference between military air and civil air in the way a helicopter performs.”

Barry Lakinsmith grew up in Sacramento, California with an Air Force role model and a deep interest in aviation. “I’ve loved aircraft all my life, probably because my dad was an Air Force B-25 pilot in World War II.” He recalls, “I used to draw airfoils in grade school and built countless models.”

The Air Force Academy promised to satisfy the urges to fly and learn. “It was a great school for aero engineering,” says Mr. Lakinsmith. “I chose it over other schools mainly because they paid me – I wanted to be on my own.” He adds, “They fostered a Renaissance Man concept, an emphasis on the whole person – academics, leadership, and athletics – that appealed to me”

Athletics quickly took a backseat to academics, and Cadet Lakinsmith majored in aeronautical engineering. “I just never really thought about another major. It fit me. I loved airplanes. The Air Force is about aircraft.” He observes, “They did not have any rotary wing classes, so I was pretty naïve about helicopters ‘til I got to Moffett Field.”

At the Academy, Barry Lakinsmith took part in wind tunnel tests of the canard control surfaces on the X-29 forward swept wing demonstrator. “That was my first publication,” he recalls. However, a senior-year engineering course provided broader exposure to a major project development with lasting impact. “It forced you to deal with the multi-disciplinary aspects that a lot of folks don’t see, and I guess I carried that with me,” says Mr. Lakinsmith. “An aircraft is a great example of a series of design compromises and trade-offs. Specialization is important, but you can’t ignore the multidisciplinary aspects that come into play, even when you’re designing just a wing or landing gear.” The course also provided a glimpse into how the Department of Defense buys weapons systems. “It forced me to deal with a lot of the ‘ilities’ and a lot of the things outside the core aero curriculum.”

Mr. Lakinsmith graduated as a commissioned officer with a degree in aeronautical engineering. “When my eyesight got worse, I knew I was not going to fly fighters,” he recalls. “I really liked engineering and decided I’d go that route, much to the chagrin of some of my officer advisors.” Assigned to the Aeronautical Systems Division and Deputy for Simulators at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, he evaluated simulated B-52 performance and flying qualities and led training device development for the B-1B.

Late in his tenure at Wright-Patterson, Mr. Lakinsmith began development of the Special Operations Forces Aircrew Training System (SOFATS) for the MH-60G and MH-53J helicopters, and the AC-130 gunship. The modular, mission-oriented training system tied different simulator cockpits to common visual and radar databases. “I was involved in the requirements definition phase for that. I got to visit Eglin and Hurlburt and speak with some of the SOF crews with special mission aircraft, and that left a real impression. They operate the most complex equipment in the Air Force for any mission. That assignment gave me a unique exposure to rotary wing stuff . . . The Army is similar in that they have incredibly difficult missions and equipment.”

Mr. Lakinsmith today chairs the AHS Crew Systems/Human Factors Engineering Committee and acknowledges the complexity of rotary-wing simulators. “I think it’s tough to get the math models to handle like the real thing. A lot of the work at AFDD has been in the real-time math model area. It’s gotten a lot better, but not at quite the pace of the dramatic improvements we’ve seen in visual systems and radar simulations.

“Lower-and-slower a lot of times demands more from your visual system and radar simulators.” Mr. Lakinsmith observes, “It’s unbelievable to me what you can buy today for real-time, out-the-window simulation versus what we spent many millions of dollar for back then.” SOFATS also marked a turning point in training systems procurement. “We weren’t trying to buy training devices. We were trying to buy a training factory and asked the contractor to provide qualified aircrew.”

After serving at Wright-Patterson from 1983 to 1988, Barry Lakinsmith decided to leave the Air Force and settle down. “I didn’t want to have to move every four or five years,” he admits. “I’m from California, and I wanted to be somewhere West.” A contact at Wright-Patterson knew of openings at Ames Research Center, and an Army interview with the joint Army/NASA research activity led to a job in the San Francisco Bay area. Mr. Lakinsmith recalls, “At that time we were the Aeroflightdynamics Directorate, but I was one of those Army folks very embedded in a NASA organization, the Aerospace Human Factors Research Division. When I hired on, I didn't realize much about AFDD or Ames' long and deep history with rotorcraft.”

Mr. Lakinsmith went to Moffett Field as a project engineer for the Man-machine Integration Design & Analysis System (MIDAS). MIDAS was a 6.2 exploratory development effort to use 3-D human models to improve crew station design. “We were trying to go way beyond anthropometry and include models of human vision and cognition to close the loop.” AFDD worked with Boeing to apply MIDAS technology to the Apache Longbow cockpit displays. Though the Army ceased MIDAS funding 10 years ago, NASA continues the work today. “If I wanted to point to one thing that MIDAS pushed, it was involving human engineering early in air vehicle design.”

Mr. Lakinsmith earned a Master of Science degree from Stanford University in Engineering Management. “It was my first exposure to non-engineering coursework – finance, marketing, operations research – all the things it takes an organization to build something versus just design it.”

In 1997, the joint Army-NASA Rotorcraft Division was formed and Mr. Lakinsmith became a supervisor in the Flight Control and Cockpit Integration Branch. He also served as the technology area leader for the Army science and technology program in rotary wing flight control. He and a NASA colleague led 35 investigators in analysis, piloted simulation, and flight projects in the areas of rotorcraft handling qualities, flight control, and human-system interaction.

The Army Aeroflightdyanmics Directorate separated from NASA in 2005, and Mr. Lakinsmith became a Division Chief in the military organization. He moved to the Directorate staff in November 2006 and became Acting Director in January 2007. “At the working level we and NASA have fundamentally the same relationship,” he says. “NASA has a big emphasis going on in design tools. There’s lots of crossover with the Army aeromechanics division to validate the methods with full-scale testing from the wind tunnels.”

The relationship between the Army and NASA has improved with renewed NASA investment in subsonic and rotary wing aeronautics. “It’s had perturbations over the last years,” says Mr. Lakinsmith, “but it seems to be stabilizing. We have a huge amount of interchange with them daily in a way that’s positive for both sides.”

Mr. Lakinsmith explains, “A lot of our work is about trying to shorten the design cycle . . . It’s about developing technology and tools manufacturers can use and have less over-design in the vehicle. We have a hard time understanding before a vehicle is built how it’s going to perform, what the loads are in detail, how it’s going to fly. If you could do that perfectly, you’d avoid the natural tendency to over-design and be able to get the cost down.”

AFDD and NASA researchers have successfully coupled Computational Fluid Dynamics with comprehensive analysis to develop dynamic helicopter models. The Directorate is now flying an EH-60L Black Hawk to support its slung-load stabilization and modeling studies. “Right now, the Army flight-qualifies every sling and every load type for every vehicle, says Mr. Lakinsmith. However, AMRDEC colleagues in Huntsville, Alabama sought analytical methods to eliminate test flights. “We showed where you can and can’t predict load instability. It’s a pretty exciting area.” AFDD investigators also worked with Kaman on automatic load stabilization for the BURRO Unmanned Air Vehicle demonstrator, and they continue their work with Sikorsky for the Marine Corps CH-53K.

AFDD is also conducting small-scale wind tunnel research on Chinook retreating blade stall, and it is starting work with NASA on active flow control and on individual blade control for the UH-60. Mr. Lakinsmith says, “I think the US needs to have a major effort in advanced rotor technology – a demo program including flight tests. We’ve seen and heard about things they’ve been doing in Europe on active pitch links, active elements on the rotor itself. We’ve been doing that, but it’s small-scale or tunnel test only. The fundamental rotor technology guys have been languishing because we haven’t had a new 6.3 program in a long time.

“I think there’s enough going on in computational design methods, improved airfoils, and small, fast, and efficient actuators that the Army ought to push. I believe that’s essential if you’re going to build something like a Joint Heavy Lift. It also has application in something like a Joint Multi-Role vehicle where you may shape the flight controls and vehicle characteristics to the particular mission.”

AFDD is meanwhile replenishing its brain trust with new engineering talent. “I don’t see us growing per sé, given the S&T budgets, but we’re going to replace some really storied and valuable folks who will be retiring in the next few years. We have a lot of customer work on-going – a major program with the DoD High-Performance Computing Modernization Office – and projects with AATD, DARPA, PEO Aviation and industry.” Mr. Lakinsmith believes AFDD remains a unique center of rotorcraft expertise. “It’s one of the few places you can do personal, breakthrough work from analysis out to flight test. We’ve got some great senior folks who serve as mentors and foster connections with the universities, so we have a pipeline of rotorcraft-savvy folks. . . We attract people who are sort of rotorcraft nuts who value the type of work they can do here. It’s very energizing to do something that can make a difference for an Army aviator.”