16-Foot Transonic Dynamics Tunnel

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Facility 648
16-Foot Transonic Dynamics Tunnel

Center: Langley Research Center
Location: Hampton, Virginia
Year Built: 1939
Historic Eligibility: National Register Eligible
Important Tests: A-209, B-32, Boeing C-17, F-8U, Lockheed Electra, F-15, Space Shuttle, HiMAT

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[top] History

The 16-Foot Transonic Dynamics Tunnel (TDT) was not always 16-ft. When constructed in 1939, the tunnel was known as the 19-Foot Pressure Tunnel. The tunnel was made form approximately 5,000 tons of steel. An 8,000-horsepower electric motor and a 34.5-ft propeller were installed. These materials allowed the tunnel to be set at 2.5 atmospheres pressure and to create a 300-mph velocity at the test section. The tunnel also had a decompression chamber which made it unique. Operators would have to enter and exit through the chamber like a deep-sea diver does when training.

The purpose behind the 19-ft Pressure Tunnel was to answer questions about scale effects. Researchers were not confident that the conclusions drawn from other tunnel tests were one hundred percent applicable. Some tunnels like the small Variable Density Tunnel fulfilled this need but in order to reach full-scale Reynolds number, a larger high pressure tunnel was needed. The 19-ft Pressure Tunnel became the first attempt to combine large scale with high pressure in one tunnel. The tunnel ran tests for the A-20, the B-32, and the F-8U and other various World War II military aircraft.

Eventually, the technology and construction behind variable density tunnels became more sophisticated. As a result, the 19-ft Pressure Tunnel focused on different tests like aeroelasticity and flutter at high speeds. In 1954, the tunnel underwent major modifications to become the 16-ft TDT and by 1960 the tunnel was ready for its first tests. Some of the modifications included reducing the old circular test section to 16 X 16 feet. Slotted walls were added for transonic capabilities and a 20,000-horsepower electric drive motor was installed. Designers and researchers wanted to get the tunnel to reach Mach 1.2 speeds, but they knew these modifications would not do that. To get the desired speed, they replaced the test medium, air, with freon. Freon worked well as it allowed tunnel to reach the right speeds but it also increased Reynolds number capabilities too.

One of the major models to be tested in the TDT was the Lockheed Electra. In 1959, an Electra disintegrated in the air leaving no survivors. The reason for the crash was unclear as causes like metal fatigue were ruled out. The reason became apparent when another Electra crashed 6 months later. Violent flutter was ripping the wings of the planes. The Electra was hurriedly tested as 130 were still in operation. The research completed in the TDT solved the problem, and all the Electras were repaired. Other flutter tests the TDT performed were for the C-141 military transport, the F-15 fighter, ad the F-16 fighter. The TDT is still in use today and has continued to do tests for the Navy and NASA programs like the Space Shuttle and Highly Maneuverable Aircraft Technology (HiMAT). For more on this, see Researcher News Article.

[top] Photos

[top] Construction

19-Foot Pressure Tunnel

1936 Construction1936 Motor Mount Facing North1937 Leveling with Mules1937 Construction Progress1937 Construction Progress1938 Construction Progress1938 Construction Progress648 1938 Construction1938 General View1938 Motors1938 Motors

19-Foot Pressure Tunnel Modification

Aug 1955Sep 1955LAL 90912.jpgLAL 90915.jpgLAL 91481.jpgNov 1955LAL 91912.jpg648-1.jpg648-1a.jpgDec 1955LAL 92127.jpgLAL 92128.jpgJan 1956LAL 92282.jpgLAL 92283.jpgFeb 1956LAL 92796.jpgLAL 92797.jpgLAL 92995.jpgLAL 92996.jpgLAL 92997.jpgLAL 92998.jpgLAL 92999.jpgLAL 93000.jpgLAL 93001.jpgLAL 93002.jpgLAL 93003.jpgLAL 93004.jpgLAL 93005.jpgLAL 93006.jpgLAL 93007.jpgLAL 93008.jpgLAL 93009.jpgLAL 93010.jpgLAL 93011.jpgLAL 93012.jpgLAL 93013.jpgLAL 93014.jpgLAL 93015.jpgLAL 93016.jpgLAL 93017.jpgLAL 93018.jpg648-1b.jpg648-1c.jpg648-1d.jpgMar 1956LAL 93103.jpgLAL 93304.jpgLAL 93305.jpgLAL 93306.jpgLAL 93307.jpgLAL 93308.jpgLAL 93309.jpgLAL 93310.jpgLAL 93311.jpgLAL 93312.jpgLAL 93313.jpgApr 1956LAL 93326.jpgLAL 93327.jpgLAL 93328.jpgLAL 93329.jpgLAL 93330.jpgLAL 93331.jpgLAL 93332.jpgLAL 93591.jpgLAL 93592.jpgLAL 93985.jpgMay 1956LAL 93987.jpgLAL 93988.jpgLAL 93989.jpgJun 1956LAL 94368.jpgLAL 94369.jpgLAL 94370.jpgLAL 94371.jpgLAL 94372.jpgLAL 94373.jpgLAL 94374.jpgLAL 94375.jpgLAL 94376.jpgLAL 94377.jpgLAL 94611.jpgLAL 94612.jpgLAL 94613.jpgLAL 94614.jpgLAL 94615.jpgLAL 94616.jpgLAL 94617.jpgLAL 94618.jpgJul 1956LAL 94698.jpgLAL 94699.jpgLAL 94700.jpgLAL 94701.jpgLAL 94702.jpgLAL 94703.jpgLAL 95038.jpgLAL 95039.jpgLAL 95040.jpgLAL 95041.jpgLAL 95042.jpgLAL 95043.jpgAug 1956LAL 95046.jpgLAL 95047.jpgLAL 95048.jpgLAL 95049.jpgLAL 95050.jpgLAL 95169.jpgLAL 95170.jpgLAL 95171.jpgLAL 95172.jpgLAL 95173.jpgSept 1956LAL 95439.jpgLAL 95440.jpgLAL 95441.jpgLAL 95442.jpgLAL 95443.jpgLAL 95444.jpgLAL 95445.jpgLAL 95446.jpgLAL 95447.jpgLAL 95448.jpgLAL 94374.jpgLAL 94375.jpgNov 1956LAL 96758.jpgLAL 96759.jpgLAL 96760.jpgLAL 96761.jpgLAL 96762.jpgLAL 96763.jpgLAL 96764.jpgLAL 96765.jpgLAL 96766.jpgLAL 96767.jpgLAL 96768.jpgLAL 96769.jpgDec 1956LAL 97184.jpgLAL 97185.jpgLAL 97186.jpgLAL 97187.jpgLAL 97188.jpgLAL 97189.jpgLAL 97190.jpgLAL 97191.jpgFeb 1957LAL 57-673.jpgLAL 57-674.jpgLAL 57-675.jpgLAL 57-676.jpgLAL 57-677.jpgLAL 57-678.jpgLAL 57-679.jpgMar 1957LAL 57-940.jpgLAL 57-941.jpgLAL 57-942.jpgLAL 57-943.jpgLAL 57-944.jpgLAL 57-945.jpgLAL 57-946.jpgLAL 57-947.jpgLAL 57-1218.jpgLAL 57-1219.jpgLAL 57-1220.jpgLAL 57-1221.jpgLAL 57-1222.jpgLAL 57-1223.jpgLAL 57-1224.jpgLAL 57-1225.jpgMay 1957LAL 57-2014.jpgLAL 57-2015.jpgLAL 57-2016.jpgLAL 57-2017.jpgLAL 57-2018.jpgLAL 57-2019.jpgLAL 57-2020.jpgLAL 57-2021.jpgLAL 57-2022.jpgLAL 57-2023.jpgLAL 57-2024.jpg1958LAL 58-1801.jpg

[top] Exterior

19-ft. Description and Photos193919391945 Phantom Drawing1959 South leg modifications196619721972197219721986199419951995199519951995Building648.jpg1986 Cooling Tower1986 Cooling Tower

[top] Interior

1939 Balance1939 Original Test Chamber1939 Propeller1940 6-in Model194519451950 Guide Vanes195419541992 Fan Blades

Test Section in 1946

LMAL 49058.jpgLMAL 49059.jpgLMAL 49060.jpgLMAL 49061.jpgLMAL 49062.jpg

Computing in 1947 with the Bell Relay Computer Processor Table


[top] Models

[top] Douglas XA-26 Invader

LMAL 34068 Douglas XA-26 InvaderLMAL 34078 Douglas XA-26 Invader

[top] B-36

Test in the 19-Foot Tunnel


[top] B-58

Rotary balance testing of a B-58 model in 1960. See also Project 391: B-58 in building 645.


[top] C-17 Flutter Winglet

C-17 model tested in December 1983 for flutter


[top] Hexagonal Wing Model

1951LAL 72588.jpg

[top] Apollo

L-62-9335.jpgThomas Brydsong with Apollo/Saturn 1B

[top] 1/9 Scale Model of Prop Fan Test


[top] NASP


[top] REVCON Smart Vehicle

Click on link above to see REVCON Smart Vehicle (a 16' TT model) that was tested in TDT.

[top] Other Models

1945 XF-12 stability testing1953 RF-84F in the 19-Foot Tunnel1962 Lockheed C-141 Model1964 Titan with Gemini Capsule1967 Whirl Flutter Model of Fan1968-08-23 C-5 Galaxy Test1983-01-26 F-16 Stores Flutter Test1985 UH-60 Rotor ModelFree-to-Roll1994 Cessna GX Flutter Model1994 FA-18 EF Flutter Clearance Model2000 MAVRIC-I Model

[top] Group Photos and Social Events

1940 Staff Photo NamesEast Area Computers in Front of 19-Foot

[top] Films

Below is a partial listing of films from the TDT Film Archives. To see additional films, see the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel playlist on the Cultural Resources Channel of YouTube.

[top] General

Aircraft Flutter Testing Technology

Flow Physics: Experimental and Computational

Historical Photos of TDT

History of the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel. Lecture by Bob Doggett given in 2010.

Modcomp at TDT

Overview of the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel

TDT Still Photos 3-19-2001

Transonic Dynamics Tunnel Exterior 4-19-2001

[top] Wing Configuration and Stall Studies

NACA-era: Tuft Studies of XF4U-1

NACA-era: Martin Design 195 Tufts

NACA-era: Stall Tests of the B-32

NACA-era: Stall Studies of XB-35

NACA-era: Stall Studies of the Grumman XF6F

NACA-era: Stall Studies of the Consolidated Vultee XB-36 Airplane

Stalling Characteristics of NACA 230 Series Navy Tapered Wing

NACA-era: Stall Studies of Martin B-33

NACA-era: Stall Studies of B-32

NACA-era: Stall Studies of Douglas XTB2D-1

NACA-era: Stall Studies of the 1/14 Scale Consolidated-Vultee XB-36

NACA-era: Stall Progressions of Two NACA Wings

NACA-era: Stall Studies of XB-36 Wing (Part 1

NACA-era: Stall Studies of XB-36 Wing (Part 2)

NACA-era: Stall Progressions of Two NACA Wings

1943: Douglas XTB2D-1 Tests

1943: Stall Studies of XP-51F

1943: Tuft Studies of Douglas XA-26 Airplane

1943: Stall Studies of the XB-36

1944: Wing Configuration Trials for XB-36

1945: Stall Studies of the XF-12 Airplane (Part 1)

1946: Stall Studies of the XF-12 Airplane (Part 2)

1959 Test

1979 Wing Tests

[top] Flutter

2-D CAP - 18% Circular Arc Airfoil with Bump

Aircraft Flutter Testing Technology

B-52 Flutter

CAP 2-D and CFL2D Shock Oscillations

Cessna C-X Full-Span on a Sting

Computation of Transonic Aerodynamic Shock Motion

Computational Transonic Aerodynamic Shock Motions

Computational Transonic Aerodynamic Shock Motions and CAP-TSD F-16C pressures

F-18 Fin Buffet Alleviation Documentary

Facilities Structural Dynamics and Flutter

Flutter at a Glance and other clips

Flutter Investigation of Parawing Models

Flutter of a 70° Delta Wing

Flutter Tests of the Full Span Lockheed Electra

HSR-Flexible Semispan Model (FSM)

Propeller Whirl and Nacelle Flutter and Helicopter Blade Research

Reduced Unsteady Pressure

Tow Line Model

Vibration and Flutter Modes of Steel Delta Plate

[top] Other Models

NACA-Era F-5 Tests from -1 to 9 Sec

NACA-era: J2 Monoplane Test

1950s: Project Tom-Tom

1960: Rotary Balance Tests of a Convair B-58

1962: C-141 Airplane Model Stability Test

1963: Paraglider Deployment

1963: Aeroelastic Tests of an Eight Percent Scale Saturn C-1 Block II

1964: Ground Wind Models of Launch Vehicles

1982: Effect of Motion Amplitude and Steady AOA on Flutter

1987: Various Computational Animations

1987: ASM and Aero Res. And F-16 SDM

1988: Unsteady Euler Calculations for a Supersonic Fighter

1988: Unsteady Euler Calculations for a Supersonic Fighter (M=2)

1989: Composite Buzz II

1989: Composite Buzz II (Long Version)

1990: Composite Buzz IV

1992: An Experimental Investigation of a Rotating Slotted Cylinder Gust Generator

1993: Gulstream-V Greatest Hits

1994: Piezoelectric Aeroelastic Response Tailoring Investigation

1996: Experimental Model of the Three Degree-of-Freedom Aeroelastic Typical Section

2001:Parachute Test in TDT

8-Inch Decelerator Tests

Aircraft Test from Monitor

Animation of CP Plots for NACA 0012 Airfoil


Development of a Towed-Model Flutter Test]

Aeroelastic Phenomena and Related Research Part 1 and Part 2

A Wind Tunnel Gust Response Technique

Panel Tests


C-17 Winglet Flutter

Interview with M.W. Nixon on Tiltrotors

Composite of several tests

Glider and Paraglider Testing

[top] Documents

1941 Elva Boyle's Computations for Pressure Distribution and Span Coupling

1951 Memos on testing dynamic models and modifications to the 19-Foot Tunnel

Brief Description of Langley's Transonic Dynamics Tunnel. 1965. TM X-1130.

Subsonic and Transonic Flutter and Flow Investigations of the T-Tail of a Large Multijet Cargo Airplane. Maynard C. Sandford, Charles L. Rublin, and E. Carson Yates, Jr. 1968. TN D-4316.

The Langley Transonic Dynamics Tunnel. 1969. Aeroelasticity Branch Staff. LWP-799.

Wind-Tunnel Study of Deflected-Elevator Flutter Encountered on a T-Tail Airplane. Maynard C. Sandford and Charles L. Rublin. 1969. TN D-5024.

Flutter Studies to Determine Nacelle Aerodynamic Effects of a Fan-Jet Transport Model for Two Mount Systems and Two Wind Tunnels. Moses G. Farmer. 1970. TN D-6003.

1974 Quick Facts

Experimental Parametric Studies of Transonic T-Tail Flutter. CharlesL. Rublin and Laynard C. Sandford. 1975. TN D-8066.

Modification to the Langley Research Center Transonic Dynamics Tunnel to Increase Density Capability, Reduce Freon Usage, and Provide Model Deformation Measurement and Flow Visualization Capabilities. 1980 C of F Identity N. 80-4.

Aeroelasticity Matters: Some Reflections on Two Decades of Testing in the NASA Langley Transonic Dynamics Tunnel. Wilmer H. Reed III. Presented at the International Symposium on Aeroelasticity, Nuremberg, Germany. October 1981.

1986 Excerpt from Langley Researcher on 16-Foot Transonic Dynamics Tunnel

Schematic Drawing of Integrated Manometer

Schematic Drawing of the Wake-Survey Rake

Section of Screen

Turbulence Reducing Screen

1990 Facility Resume

1990 Proposal for National Resource Protection

Major Airplane Flutter Investigations in TDT. 1994. Richard Layman.

Contributions of Transonic Dynamics Tunnel Testing to Airplane Flutter Clearance. Jose A. Rivera and James R. Florance. 2000. AIAA 2000-1768.

2010 50 Years at TDT: Reflections and Predictions

Aeroelasticity Research in the Transonic Dynamics Tunnel

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