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

Judah Milgram, Ph.D., Aerospace Science Research Program Officer, Office of Naval Research (ONR)

Within ONR’s Aerospace Science Research Division, Judah Milgram oversees an active research portfolio that focuses on rotary-wing aviation in the naval environment. “ONR is the Department of the Navy’s S&T [Science and Technology] provider,” he explained. “That includes the Marine Corps. We sponsor basic and applied research projects in support of naval S&T objectives at government labs, universities, and both small and large businesses. Our government performers include researchers at NAVAIR [the Naval Air Systems Command] and Carderock [a division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center], and we work with the Army and NASA on projects such as the National Rotorcraft Technical Center (NRTC) and Vertical Lift Research Centers of Excellence (VLRCOE).”

Dr. Milgram’s S&T portfolio includes a significant investment in Virtual Dynamic Interface — the modeling and simulation of launch and recovery of aircraft to and from ships. He offered, “The shipboard environment is highly complex. The deck is moving in multiple axes, and the wind over deck contains turbulence both from the atmosphere and the ship superstructure itself. We need to be able to simulate this environment for training, development of new control systems and improved ship topside design. Also, there’s an interest in one day using high-fidelity simulation to qualify rotorcraft operations on ships. Right now, ship-helicopter operating limits [SHOL] are based exclusively on sea trials. If we can use modeling and simulation to augment that process, that would be of huge benefit to the Navy.”

ONR in Arlington, Virginia, has sponsored research at NAVAIR for many years, aimed at developing the fast, high fidelity ship airwake modeling needed to be able to do this. In order to validate the analyses, ONR sponsors experimental projects, for example, an ongoing US Naval Academy program that uses a USNA training vessel with a mockup of a helicopter landing deck to obtain ship airwake measurements. Currently, a radio-controlled helicopter is being used in a study of the coupled rotor/ship aerodynamics (as shown in the photo). One ONR-supported research effort supporting improved shipboard operations includes a project by NAVAIR and the Naval Test Pilot School that tracks eye motion to better understand pilot strategies and visual cueing effects in shipboard operations. In another, ONR-sponsored performers will demonstrate ship landing sensors with real-time sensor fusion by flying a fixed-wing aircraft to a runway, a Bell 206 helicopter to a moving barge on Lake Erie, and a Yamaha RMAX Unmanned Air Vehicle to a boat on a lake.

In addition to the dynamic interface studies, other projects will evaluate a generic fan-in-wing configuration in the Carderock wind tunnel and test gross weight/center of gravity and structural health sensors on the landing gear of a CH-53E. Another project is looking at possibly replacing the tail rotor driveshaft and gearbox with an electrical system.

Aerodynamicist
Judah Milgram cultivated his interest in modeling and aerodynamics while growing up in and around Washington, DC. “I was one of those kids who was always playing with kites and paper airplanes. My father was interested in airplanes and liked to build models. He encouraged me where he could. He and my mom were both mathematician/computer scientists. She worked for the Navy and when I was a kid I would sometimes go to work with her at the Navy Yard and spend the day in the museum. We used to live close to the Capital Mall and I could ride my bike over to the old Smithsonian Quonset Hut where they had things like the Bell X-1 and the ‘Winnie Mae’ [Wiley Post’s Lockheed Vega]. It all made an impression.”

 Dr. Milgram recalled, “By the time I graduated from high school, I had figured out that I liked math and I liked airplanes. Put them together and you get aerospace engineering.” College choices led to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). “I was aware that they were building a human-powered aircraft and that they had an active soaring club. I knew that the place would be full of interesting people, and that proved to be the case.” The MIT faculty included helicopter expert Professor Norman Ham. “Prof. Ham taught the junior year design course the year I took it, so the design project was a helicopter. To get us started, he started the semester with a short course on helicopter aerodynamics. Up until then I never thought much about helicopters, but after a few of Prof. Ham's lectures, I began to think that maybe they were pretty neat after all.”

With a bachelors’ degree in Aeronautics and Astronautics, Milgram found his first job as an aerodynamicist at Boeing Commercial Airplane Company. “I liked fixed-wing aircraft and although it was a great learning experience for me, I felt the urge to try something different and ended up back East with Sikorsky Aircraft.

The helicopter maker was hiring for their then relatively new Development Flight Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. “I was a flight test engineer but my job title was ‘Dynamicist’ and I specialized in dynamics issues,” explained Milgram. “My first program was the SH-60B Seahawk which had just come back from its first sea trials, and from there I continued working H-60 programs. I worked on the original Air Force Night Hawk, the HH-60D, and got to fly along and take data on the aerial refueling demo. It was the first time we ever did aerial refueling in an H-60. That was a memorable day.”

The Sikorsky experience included an assignment at NASA Dryden (now Armstrong) Flight Research Center to work on the X-Wing demonstrator. “That was my first exposure to a real research program,” noted Milgram. The X-Wing was supposed to be an in-flight demonstration of a stoppable rotor with a circulation control system. The test bed was one of the Rotor Systems Research Aircraft. I was involved with just about every dynamics aspect of the flight test program beginning with the flutter clearance — we flew it only as a fixed-wing aircraft, as the program came to an end before we could fly it with the rotor.”

Prior to X-Wing, Judah Milgram found work in Munich, Germany, at Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB) — which is now part of Airbus Helicopters. “It was interesting because of the emphasis on hingeless and bearingless rotors. I worked on what eventually became the Bo 108 and later the Airbus H135.” After X-Wing, he returned to the Munich area to work on the Dornier Seastar amphibian twin. “It was a fixed-wing airplane but there were plenty of interesting propeller and dynamics issues.” This experience inspired a return to graduate school in the US at the University of Maryland. “I had a couple of research projects there. One was on the aeromechanical stability of hingeless rotor helicopters in forward flight. Another looked at replacing rigid pitch links with a spring-damper combination, like a shock absorber. My biggest project was an examination of active trailing edge flaps for vibration control.

 “My advisor, Dr. Inderjit Chopra, kept me busy and to this day I'm still learning things from him. I was also fortunate enough to get to know Al Gessow, a true gentleman, who was at the time still teaching his Helicopter Aerodynamics course.”

Navy Researcher
With his doctorate in rotorcraft dynamics, Judah Milgram joined the Sea-Based Aviation Group at Carderock. “They have a very strong aerospace research background, particularly in the rotary-wing field. I worked a variety of analytical projects, including aeroservoelastic stability of sling loads and modeling and simulation of tip-jet rotors in support of the Canard Rotor/Wing (CRW) research program. I gradually became involved with ship-aircraft dynamic interface, including an ONR project that eventually led to my [assignment] here” at ONR.

The Office of Naval Research expanded its rotary-wing efforts in the mid-2000s and pursues future rotorcraft technology with a naval focus. Dr. Milgram notes that he is especially proud of ONR’s involvement in the VLRCOE program, which now encourages research in topics specific to Naval S&T. “Having attended a VLRCOE [school], it’s gratifying to be involved from the other side of the table.” Regarding the outlook for rotorcraft technology, Milgram said, “We'll benefit from the same technology improvements that our Army colleagues will see, such as improved engines, drivetrains, aeromechanics, Vehicle Management Systems, etc. Of particular interest to the Navy will be, I hope, automatic flight control systems, inceptors, and sensors that will simplify and make safer the task of recovering to pitching and rolling decks in the worst weather. In the case of UAVs, we'll be looking for fully autonomous recoveries. It's possible that the next generation of helicopters — whether Army, Navy or civilian — will begin to have flight control systems incorporating elements of autonomous behavior.”

“I think five years down the road we’re going to be a lot closer to a real-time dynamic interface modeling and simulation capability than we are today,” added Milgram. “We also have an advanced handling qualities portfolio that addresses the control laws for recovery of rotorcraft to ships. The development of control laws relies on high-fidelity simulation, so topics are coupled in that respect.”

ONR supports NAVAIR conceptual design engineers participating in the Future Vertical Lift (FVL) initiative and is also engaged in the FVL S&T Integrated Product Team formulating a technology development roadmap. Dr. Milgram observed, “FVL is, of course, of great interest to us, and the technologies we develop will find their way onto FVL in one form or another, but we also have a fleet now that we’re going to operate for some time. We’re always interested in developing new capabilities and improving them.”

Judah Milgram joined AHS in 1981 while working at Sikorsky Aircraft and was the recipient of five Vertical Flight Foundation (VFF) scholarships. He has served as Forum 67 Chair and is assuming the post of AHS Technical Director in July. “I’m a big fan. AHS has always been very supportive of my career. Many of the people I know in the industry I met through AHS. It’s a great organization.”

Vertiflite Leadership Profile: Vertiflite May/June 2016