For release: August 11, 1995
Mary M. Spracher
RELEASE NO. 95-79
NASA LANGLEY 30- BY 60-FOOT TUNNEL TO BE CLOSED
NASA's oldest operating wind tunnel, the 30- by 60-Foot Tunnel,
will be officially closed Sept. 29. The historic facility,
originally known as the Full-Scale Tunnel (FST),
is located at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
The closing of the 30- by 60-Foot Tunnel allows for an orderly
consolidation of aeronautical testing facilities at a time of
shrinking federal budgets and enables essential center capabilities
to be preserved.
The 30- by 60-Foot Tunnel is a subsonic wind tunnel originally
designed for the testing of full-scale models and actual airplanes
at operational flight speeds. Such ground-based testing eliminated
scale effect and provided basic information prior to and during
flight testing. Contemporary studies in the tunnel often focused on
stability and control characteristics for military aircraft, and
high-lift capability for both civil and military aircraft.
Throughout its history, the 30- by 60-Foot Tunnel has been used
for the testing of innumerable vehicle configurations. It was the
largest wind tunnel in the world until 1945, and in 1985 it was
named a National Historic Landmark.
The 30- by 60-Foot Tunnel has contributed to military,
commercial and general aviation aircraft designs. Its many
contributions include fundamental aerodynamic testing of full-scale
aircraft during the 1930s; drag reduction or "clean up"studies of
full-scale military aircraft during World War II; free-flight
testing of models of vertical takeoff and landing aircraft; testing
of the Albacore, the fastest submarine in the world in 1950;
testing of the nation's first spacecraft, the Mercury space
capsule; testing of full-scale general aviation aircraft; and
testing of lifting body, supersonic transport and present-day
military aircraft configurations.
Designs for the tunnel were begun in 1929, with $900,000 of
funding appropriated before the Depression. Because the tunnel was
designed and built during the Depression, the design team, led by
Smith J. DeFrance, was able to take advantage of cheap materials
and a large pool of unemployed engineers. Construction began in the
spring of 1930 and the completed 30- by 60-Foot Tunnel was
dedicated on May 27, 1931.
The overall tunnel is 434 feet long and 222 feet wide with a
maximum height of 97 feet. The actual test section is an open-jet
30 feet high, 60 feet wide and 56 feet long. Two four-bladed wooden
propellers, each 35.5 feet in diameter and powered by a
4,000-horsepower motor, generate the air stream. The tunnel is a
closed-loop design, with two return passages that allow for
continuous air flow at speeds up to 120 mph.
Over the years the test section of the tunnel has been modified
several times to adapt to changing needs. During renovations in the
1960s and 1970s, the tunnel was equipped for free-flight dynamic
model testing. In recent years, the tunnel has been extensively
used for such free-flight tests. This test technique, unique to
this facility, involves flying 10- to 20-percent scaled models
controlled by remotely-positioned pilots.
The future of the 30- by 60-Foot Tunnel is uncertain, but there
are no plans to tear it down or to change its external appearance.
Possible adaptive uses are under study and certain components may
be made available to the National Air and Space Museum
(Smithsonian) or other museums. NASA Langley is a federal custodian
of historic properties, in conformance with the provisions of the
National Historic Preservation Act.
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text-only version of this release