Langley AFB’s historic wind tunnel closes

LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. – An X-48C experimental aircraft is mounted in a full-scale wind tunnel here Aug. 31. Old Dominion University operates the tunnel, which was built in 1930, for clients including NASA, Boeing Co. and the U.S. Air Force. The tunnel measures 30x60 feet and is the largest university operated wind tunnel in the world. The tunnel provides a controlled test environment to measure aerodynamic forces on vehicles. ODU will cease wind tunnel testing on Sept. 4, and NASA's Langley Research Center will later dismantle the building because it is no longer strategically important to NASA’s aeronautical research. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Barry Loo)

An X-48C experimental aircraft is mounted in a full-scale wind tunnel at Langley AFB on Aug. 31st. Old Dominion University operates the tunnel, which was built in 1930. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Barry Loo)

9/8/2009 – LANGLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Va. — After 78 years of operation, the Langley full-scale wind tunnel finally took its last breath.

The tunnel, built by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, served a vital role in aerodynamic testing and research, from biplanes to X-planes.

Originally designed to test full-sized aircraft and models, the tunnel was built in 1930 for approximately $1 million. At 30-by-60 feet, it was the largest in the world from 1931 to 1944 and is currently the third largest in the United States.

…Over the course of history, the wind tunnel has been used to test P-51 aircraft, the Mercury entry capsule, NASCAR vehicles and even submarines.

— Loo, Barry (Staff Sgt., USAF).  “Historic wind tunnel closes at Langley.”  1st Fighter Wing public affairs, 08 September 2009.

In 1995, Old Dominion University started leasing the tunnel from NASA, and would actually like to continue using it for streamlining truck designs.  But NASA’s Langley Research Center will be dismantling the facility after its final tests are completed on September 4th.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Barry Newman has put together a superb report on this pioneering tool of aerospace design.

SEMI-RELATED: The Athletics Department of Old Dominion University (based in Virginia, whose state motto is “The Old Dominion”) has a neat emblem that is both evocative of the state’s colonial past and kicks an higher percentage of ass* than pretty well any other post-secondary institution’s athletics department logo.

* With apologies to Mr. Packwood.

Category: Aeronautics, Historica  Tags:
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