Recruited by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) while in college and started at their Langley facility upon graduation.
Proposed reshaping the F-102 fuselage which increased a warplane’s supersonic speed by 25 percent without increasing engine power and became known as Whitcomb’s Area Rule. In 1954, the Area Rule earned Whitcomb the prestigious Collier Trophy, and the Exceptional Service Medal from the Air Force.
Created the Supercritical Wing, a wing shape that is flatter on the top and rounder on the bottom which delayed the onset of drag and increased the fuel efficiency at transonic speeds. It earned him the National Medal of Science from President Nixon and the 1974 Wright Brothers Memorial Trophy, among other accolades.
Improved the design of wingtip “winglets,” upturned fins that reduce drag. Whitcomb’s winglets provided for higher speeds and 6 to 7 percent better fuel efficiency.