Dr. Bobby Nichols selected as 2022 AEDC Fellow

The 2022 AEDC Fellows selection committee is proud to announce the selection of Dr. Bobby Nichols as an AEDC Technical Fellow.

He becomes the 115 AEDC Fellow since the program’s inception in 1989.

AEDC Fellows are selected for their disproportionately positive impact on the United States aerospace industry. While AEDC has a unique and powerful influence on Department of Defense (DoD) weapon systems, AEDC’s Fellows have a legacy of positive influence not only on DoD, but also sister organizations such as NASA, the Departments of Energy, Homeland Security and Transportation, as well as academia and the aerospace industry.

Dr. Robert Nichols has devoted over 40 years of service to AEDC, initially as an AEDC contractor employee for ARO Inc., then an Air Force civilian employee and then as a government support contractor. Throughout his career, Dr. Nichols has exemplified the Air Force core values of “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do”.

He has a well-known reputation of never wasting any time and being laser-focused on the task at hand. When one looks beyond his quiet, no-nonsense personality to his accomplishments and contributions, it is easy to conclude that numerous past and present AEDC professionals and the larger ground test and technical community have greatly benefited from his work.

Dr. Nichols first joined AEDC in 1978 as part of the Arnold Research Organization (ARO) as a propulsion test/installation engineer. While supporting turbine engine test installation and operations, he was already looking beyond his regular duties to find better and more efficient ways to conduct business by developing criteria for the use of conical transition ducts to reduce installation costs of direct-connect turbine engine testing.

Beginning in 1982, Dr. Nichols worked in the Aeromechanics Division of the AEDC Technology Directorate to identify needs to support aerodynamic testing at AEDC and then to develop and managed programs and personnel to meet those needs. The areas in which he was primarily involved included transonic nozzle/afterbody test techniques, transonic wall interference prediction and correction, hot­wire/hot-film test techniques, aeroheating test techniques, and laser velocimeter testing and analysis techniques.

It was during this time where Dr. Nichols was initially involved with viscous flow simulations and turbulence effects, areas to which he would go on to make major contributions at AEDC. In 1984 he was awarded the opportunity to pursue his PhD through a long-term, full-time education position.

From 1985 to 1987, Dr. Nichols worked in the Propulsion Test Directorate, Turbine Engine Analysis and Evaluation Division, managing government and contractor personnel involved in computational modeling of propulsion facilities, development of facility math models, and advanced propulsion instrumentation development. During this time, he was responsible for AEDC plume measurement testing and analysis in support of the Space Defense Initiative (SDI), Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) code development for the National Aerospace Plane (NASP), and JANNAF missile/plume flow field data, which is still referenced today in support of hypersonicweapons technology development.

Starting in 1987, Dr. Nichols moved to the contractor ranks in the Technology Directorate at AEDC, developing and employing CFD codes in support of numerous key aircraft and weapons programs. His research and development into computational methods during this time laid the cornerstone of what are probably Dr. Nichols’ primary contributions to AEDC and the larger computational aerodynamics community.

During the period from 1987 to 1999, Dr. Nichols developed or modified CFD codes as needed for problems of interest. In particular, he become a recognized subject matter expert due to his development and validation of turbulence models and wall functions for Navier-Stokes codes.

Dr. Nichols led the team that developed and upgraded the NXAIR overset Navier-Stokes code that was the workhorse, state-of-the­art flow solver at AEDC for over a decade. He developed the methodology to apply this and other computational tools to aerodynamic problems such as weapons separation, acoustics, aerodynamic performance, and propulsion integration. I

n 1989, he was part of the original team that accomplished a CFD solution on a full F-1 SE aircraft configuration. The Euler solution employed overset/Chimera grid techniques and was a first-of-its-kind accomplishment at AEDC. Dr. Nichols went on to perform over 100 full aircraft Navier-Stokes solutions including weapons bay and moving bodies within a two-year period in support of the JASSM, JDAM, JSF, B-lB, F-16, F-15, F/A-18, F-22, and UCAV programs.

He also developed and applied nonequilibrium chemistry codes to high speed and combusting flows in support of ramjet/scramjet research and predications of reentry vehicle wake characteristics.

Along with co-workers Tracy Donegan, Bill Sickles, Greg Denny, Ken Tatum, Dr. Stan Powell (AEDC Fellow) and Bonnie Heikkinen, “Bobby and the Backroom Boys” gained a reputation as a very capable CFD group in the Propulsion Wind Tunnel office complex during the late 1990s.

From 1999 to 2001, as Chief Engineer for Modeling and Simulation, Dr. Nichols was called on to lead the integration of CFD and semi-empirical capabilities with testing to produce an information package for AEDC customers at reduced cost as part of lntegrated Test and Evaluation (IT &E) efforts.

As the CFD community began to shift to the use of unstructured grid techniques, he led the evaluation of several unstructured CFD grid generators and flow solvers to establish a production application capability for weapons integration to replace the current structured overset CFD tools.

In 2001, due to his recognized expertise and background, Dr. Nichols was recruited to serve as the User Productivity Enhancement, Technology Transfer, and Training (PETTT) onsite CFD expert at AEDC by the DoD High Performance Computing Modernization Program (HPCMP). In this role, Dr. Nichols supported AEDC CFD analysts with the tools and expertise to address their particular problems using DoD high performance computing resources while also working to advance the state-of-the-art of the available computational tools. This included helping USM3D developers implement and validate a non-equilibrium chemistry capability, helping MSU/TURBO developers at Ohio State to add SST and DES turbulence models to their turbomachinery code, and improving the performance and accuracy of the OVERFLOW 2 structured flow solver through upgrades to the flux algorithms, solution algorithms, and turbulence models.

OVERFLOW continues to be the most widely used structured CFD code in the US today. During Dr. Nichols’ time with HPCMP PETTT, he published an incredibly thorough and useful reference titled “Turbulence Models and Their Application to Complex Flows”, known for providing practical background and guidance on strengths/weaknesses and appropriate applications for a wide range of turbulence models. Dr. Nichols has long been recognized as *the* resident expert at AEDC on turbulence modeling.

In 2007, Dr. Nichols was one of a very small number of experts hand-picked by senior DoD leaders to help with the definition and execution of the HPCMP CREATE™ program (Computational Research and Engineering Acquisition Tools and Environments). This $300M software engineering program was initially funded for an unprecedented 11-year period with the goal of developing and leveraging multi-physics simulation codes running on high-performance compute platforms to shift DoD air, land, and sea vehicles acquisitions from a sole reliance on physical test as a driver for design iterations and actionable engineering data to one where multi-physics modeling and simulation (“virtual test”) drives design and analysis with physical testing validating the results.

Since the CREATE program inception, Dr. Nichols has been responsible for designing, developing, and testing the “Firebolt” capabilities in the CREATE Air Vehicles (AV) products – all code features related to engine modeling and airframe/propulsion integration. These code capabilities have directly enabled a number of first-of-its-kind simulations by AEDC personnel (e.g. F- 35 dynamic inlet distortion analyses) as well as engineers across other Services and the US. Dr. Nichols also serves as the preeminent expert in CREA TE on unstructured grid generation and algorithms, turbulence modeling, transition modeling, and high-speed shock capturing schemes.

The CREATE program, driven primarily by the success of the CREATE-AV codes, continues indefinitely today with documented impacts across all major acquisition programs in all phases of the acquisition lifecycle. CREATE-AV codes have eclipsed over 1000 active (current-year) users throughout government, academia, and industry and are the primary high-fidelity computational tools in use at multiple DoD organizations (including AEDC).

The fixed-wing CREATE-AV product, Kestrel, is directly supporting ongoing AEDC hypersonics test programs and is poised to be a key M&S tool for emerging US hypersonic weapons programs of record thanks in large part to the robust and accurate turbulence and transition modeling capabilities developed and implemented by Dr. Nichols.

The vast majority of (if not all of) the CFD experts emanating from AEDC for the last 35 years have been trained and mentored by Dr. Nichols. The resulting impact on the AEDC technical community as well as the US computational aerodynamics community is impossible to quantify.

Dr. Nichols is known by past and present colleagues as having his hand in everything as he is always willing to take time to help others. And his expertise and consultation is regularly requested to this day in support of priority DoD programs. Dr. Nichols’ career contributions bring great credit upon himself, AEDC, and the Air Force.

AEDC Technical Fellow

AEDC Technical Fellow nominations may be submitted by any present or former AEDC government or operating contractor/subcontractor employee. 

All current or retired military, civilian and operating contractor and subcontractor personnel assigned or previously assigned to AEDC can be considered candidates for selection as an AEDC Technical Fellow. Candidates qualified for consideration as an AEDC Fellow must personally have made sustained, long-term, notable and valuable contributions in aerospace ground testing at AEDC.  

AEDC Craftsmen Fellow

AEDC Craftsmen Fellow nominations may also be submitted in the same manner as the AEDC Fellow nominations.

All current or retired military, civilian and operating contractor/subcontractor personnel assigned, or previously assigned, to AEDC can be considered candidates for selection as an AEDC Craft Fellow. The Craft Fellow category recognizes exceptional craftsmen who possess the ability to identify customer requirements and respond with sustained technical innovations, working effectively and efficiently as part of technical teams and have dedicated their careers to the success of AEDC’s mission. They must have personally made notable and valuable lifetime contributions to AEDC in any area relevant to the AEDC mission.

AEDC Lifetime Achievement Fellow

AEDC Lifetime Achievement Fellow nominations may be submitted by any present or former AEDC government or operating contractor/subcontractor employee. 

AEDC Lifetime Achievement Fellows are reserved for exceptional candidates and are not necessarily selected each year. All current or retired military, civilian and operating contractor/ subcontractor personnel assigned or previously assigned to AEDC can be considered candidates for selection as an AEDC Life- time Achievement Fellow.  Candidates qualified for consideration as an AEDC Lifetime Achievement Fellow must personally have made notable and valuable lifetime contributions to AEDC in any area relevant to the AEDC mission.  

AEDC Honorary Fellow

Only AEDC Fellows may submit a nomination for an AEDC Honorary Fellow. AEDC Honorary Fellows are reserved for exceptional candidates and are not necessarily selected each year. Candidates qualified for consideration as an AEDC Honorary Fellow must have made sustained, notable, valuable and significant contributions to AEDC. These eminent individuals need not have worked at Arnold AFB or any of AEDC’s remote operating locations. 

Annual Banquet

The Fellows banquet is held every year on or close to June 25, the birthday of General of the Air Force Henry “Hap” Arnold and the anniversary of the dedication of AEDC by President Harry S Truman in 1951.  The location and date of the 2021 banquetwill be announced at a later date. 

Find out all of the information you need to make a Nomination

Need Help with the Nomination Process?

Nominations must be submitted in written form with supporting materials to arrive by March 30, 2021 to:

Arnold Community Council
ATTN: AEDC Fellows Committee
P O Box 553
Tullahoma TN 37388-0553. 

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