NACA is an acronym for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics. This was a research and policy organization formed in 1915 by President Woodrow Wilson in order to raise American aviation efforts and industry up from a perceived lag behind European state of the art. NACA operated with a very small staff and very low bureaucratic overhead; it was almost entirely self-directed down to the level of scientists choosing their own directions for research. Typically, it would issue reports called Technical Advisories regarding its proposed, ongoing and completed research programs, and make the information available to any and all who asked for it. In addition to performing basic science (NACA constructed the first full-scale wind tunnel, for example) members of the committee advised the Federal Government on policy as it pertained to aviation; the promotion of U.S. air transport via the establishment of an air mail system came from NACA.

Although its efforts were dual-use initially, once World War II broke out NACA became focused on military applications. By 1945 it was building test centers for rocket propulsion, and in the early 1950s built one of the first transonic wind tunnels for research into supersonic flight. Swept wing designs originated in the U.S. at NACA, before German research from the war was available for study. Turbine research, both in materials science and performance, was started there.

In 1958, NACA shut down, immediately morphing into the nascent National Aeronautics and Space Administration, which remains in operation to this day.


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