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Robert T. (Bob) Jones, (May 28, 1910 – August 11, 1999), was an aerodynamicist and aeronautical engineer for NACA and later NASA. He was known at NASA as "one of the premier aeronautical engineers of the twentieth century".[1][2]



One of Jones' first jobs was with the Nicholas-Beazley Airplane Company. Jones developed the Pobjoy Special air racer prior to the company shutting down in the depression.


Jones was a researcher at NACA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. As a self-trained aerodynamicist and mathematician, he had built up a national, if not international, reputation through his perceptive and original work at Langley. For this work he was given the IAS Sylvanus Albert Reed Award in 1946. Jones spent much of his time at Langley working in the Stability Research Division, which pioneered many concepts that were incorporated into U.S. aircraft.

In January 1945, Jones developed a theory of the delta wing, based on thin-airfoil theory. Others at Langley were extremely skeptical until supersonic testing of models was done by Robert Gilruth and in April by Theodore von Karman. His theory was not truly accepted until that summer, when Von Karman's team of investigators found that German experts had been working on swept-wing designs for several years. Jones thin-wing design ultimately proved superior to thick airfoils developed by Alexander Lippisch in Germany.[3][4]

In August 1946, Jones transferred to Ames. The genius of Bob Jones seemed, in part, to lie in his remarkable ability to extract the essence of a problem and express it in understandable and useful terms. His approach to problems was always of a fundamental character and often yielded results of broad significance. In addition, Jones' wife Doris, an accomplished mathematician, also joined the Ames staff.[5]

Later, still at Ames, Jones promoted the idea of an oblique wing. (The first known oblique wing design was Blohm & Voss P202, proposed by Richard Vogt in 1942.[6]) His wind tunnel studies indicated that such a wing design on a supersonic transport might achieve twice the fuel economy of an aircraft with conventional wings. The concept was flight tested successfully on the NASA AD-1. This unique plane had a wing which pivoted about the fuselage, remaining perpendicular to it during slow flight and rotating to angles of up to 60 degrees as aircraft speed increased. Analytical and wind tunnel studies that Jones conducted at Ames indicated that a transport-sized oblique-wing aircraft flying at speeds of up to Mach 1.4 (1.4 times the speed of sound) would have substantially better aerodynamic performance than aircraft with conventional wings.[7] A current DARPA project that has been awarded to Northrop Grumman, called the Switchblade is being developed to provide a more efficient UAV for the Air Force.



  • Properties of Low-Aspect-Ratio Pointed Wings at Speeds Below and Above the Speed of Sound. NACA Report Nº 835, 1946
  • The Minimum Drag of Thin Wings in Frictionless Flow, Journal of the Aeronautical Sciences, Feb. 1951
  • Theoretical Determination of the Minimum Drag of Airfoils at Supersonic Speeds, Journal of the Aeronautical Sciences, Dec. 1952
  • Possibilities of Efficient High Speed Transport Airplanes, Proceedings of the Conference on High-Speed Aeronautics, Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, Jan. 1955
  • Aerodynamic Design for Supersonic Speed, Advances in Aeronautical Sciences, Vol.1, Pergammon Press, 1959
  • With Cohen, D., High Speed Wing Theory, Princeton University Press, 1960
  • New Design Goals and a New Shape for the SST, Astronautics and Aeronautics, Dec. 1972
  • With Graham, A., and Boltz, F., An Experimental Investigation of an Oblique Wing and Body Combination at Mach Numbers Between .6 and 1.4, NASA TM X-62207, Dec. 1972
  • With Graham, A., and Boltz, F., An Experimental Investigation of Three Oblique Wing and Body Combinations at Mach Numbers Between .6 and 1.4, NASA TM X-62256, April 1973
  • With Graham, A., and Summers, J., Wind Tunnel Test of an F-8 Airplane Model Equipped with an Oblique Wing, NASA TM X-62273, June 1973
  • With Nisbet, J., Transonic Transport Wings -- Oblique or Swept? Astronautics and Aeronautics, Jan. 1974
  • With Smith, R., and Summers, J., Transonic Wind Tunnel Tests of an F-8 Airplane Model Equipped with 12 and 14-percent Thick Oblique Wings, NASA TM X-62478, Oct. 1975
  • With Smith, R., and Summers, J., Transonic Longitudinal and Lateral Control Characteristics of an F-8 Airplane Model Equipped with an Oblique Wing, NASA TM X-73103, March 1976
  • The Oblique Wing — Aircraft Design for Transonic and Low Supersonic Speeds, Acta Astronautica, Vol. 4, Pergammon Press, 1977
  • With Nisbet, J., Aeroelastic Stability and Control of an Oblique Wing, The Aeronautical Journal of the Royal Aeronautical Society, Aug. 1986
  • The Flying Wing Supersonic Transport, Aeronautical Journal, March 1991.
  • Wing Theory, Princeton University Press, 1990.


  1. ^ NASA - NASA Celebrates 90 Years Of Aeronautics Excellence
  2. ^ Vincenti WG (2005) Robert T Jones: One of a Kind, Annual Review of Fluid Mechanics 37, 1-21.
  3. ^ Von Karman, Aerodynamics: Selected Topics in the Light of their Historical Development, 1954
  4. ^ Richard Hallion, Lippisch, Gluhareff and Jones: The Emergence of the Delta Planform, Aerospace Historian, March 1979.
  5. ^ NASA Ames History
  6. ^ A Summary Of A Half-Century of Oblique Wing Research Archived 2007-06-14 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ ECN-17954 Archived 2011-07-19 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "J. C. Hunsaker Award in Aeronautical Engineering". National Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 14 February 2011.

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