Propeller Research Tunnel

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Model in test section

Center: Langley Research Center
Location: Hampton, Virginia
Year Built: 1927
Historic Eligibility: demolished
Important Tests: Engine Cowling, Retractable Landing Gear


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Contents

[top] History

The Propeller Research Tunnel was built in 1927 when NACA researchers tried to correlate their data with tests conducted at Stanford University. The design was a radical change from tunnels customarily built 5 feet in diameter. The 27-foot, 8-bladed propeller was powered by two diesel submarine engines from the Navy. The 20-foot stream of air reached 110 miles per hour.

One of the great advances in aeronautics, developed in this tunnel, was the NACA cowling which increased engine effectiveness without increasing costs (See Fred Weick). The NACA Cowling was applied to aircraft designs all over the world. One of the more interesting intended applications of this revolutionary technology involved the huge Dornier DoX flying boat, which visited Hampton Roads, Virginia, in 1929.

Legendary and highly innovative NACA Langley engineer Fred Weick discussed in his autobiography, From the Ground Up, how in 1929, German aviation pioneer Claude Dornier intended to speak with him about his intention to apply NACA Cowlings to the huge, unconcealed engines of his massive Dornier DoX flying boat, the world’s largest aircraft at the time, in an attempt to improve the aerodynamic performance (primarily airspeed) of the aircraft.[1]

Other changes developed in the Propeller Research Tunnel included moving engine nacelles to the leading edge of the wing, and improved aircraft performance with retractable landing gear.

The building was demolished in 1950 and replaced by the 8-Foot Transonic Pressure Tunnel.


[top] 11-Inch Hypersonic Tunnel

One of the most important wind tunnels conceived and developed at Langley was the 11-inch Hypersonic Tunnel, which was used in pioneering efforts in critical hypersonic aerodynamics research for the nation’s high-speed aerospace programs. Designed and managed by John V. Becker and Charles H. McLellan, the tunnel was inspired by post-war inspections of German facilities used in the development of the V-2 rocket ballistic missile.

Becker’s enthusiasm and dedication to the concept coincided with accelerated interests by the NACA and the military in hypersonic aerodynamics. Proposed as a pilot facility for hypersonic testing, the tunnel was first operational in 1947 in the building previously occupied by the Langley Propeller Research Tunnel in the East Area. Arguably, one of the most valuable lessons learned from this facility was that "blowdown" or intermittent hypersonic tunnels could be used for meaningful research with relatively low cost compared to continuous-run tunnels.

After a period of great success in fundamental hypersonic experiments, the facility and its associated pressure and vacuum tanks were moved to the West Area in 1949 and located in Building 1229. The test section of the tunnel was located on the first floor in the area previously occupied by the free-flight apparatus control room.

The Langley 11-Inch Hypersonic Tunnel contributed critical data in the development of the X-15 hypersonic research aircraft and numerous generic research projects. It remained operational until 1973 when it was dismantled and later given to Virginia Polytechnic Institute.


[top] References

  1. Weick, Fred E. and James R. Hansen. From the Ground Up. Washington and London: Smithsonian Institution, 1988, pp. 68–71.


[top] Photos

[top] Building

1925 Construction of Exit Cone1925 Construction1925 Construction1925 Exit ConeLate 1925 Exit Cone1925 Construction1925 Exit Cone Side192519251925 Model Jet1925 Model Jet1926 Exit Cone Prior to Addition of Propeller1926 EngineEquipmentEngineNorth End1926 Engine Foundation Construction1926 Power Plant Foundation1926 Construction1927 Engine Room (backwards)1927 Engine Room1927 Engine1926 Engine Room ConstructionSperry Messenger Fuselage1928 Aircraft Propeller Assembly1930 Propeller Blade Blueprint1926 Return PassageView of Fan1926 Submarine Engines to Power Tunnel1926 Test Fuselage1927 1st Full-scale Model Tested in Tunnel1927 NACA Cowling No. 10 taken from Air Scoop1928-10-12 Cowling Chart1928 Hanger Fabrication and PRT Fuselage1928 Balance System1928 Mock Fuselage Study1928 VE-7 on Stand1928 Vought VE-71928 Drag Test on Dummy Fuselage1928 NACA's First Collier Trophy Winners1928-06-11 PRT FuselageView of Model TestView of Model Test1929 Fabricating Cowlings for Testing1929 Fairchild FC2-W21930 Tom Carroll, Ruth Elder, H.J.E. Reid, Dr. Ed Sharp1930 Balance Setup1931 Test Chamber Walls1935 USS Akron Airship1936 Fred Weick, Head of PRT Section 1925 - 19291936 PRT behind the 8-Ft Tunnel1939 Marvin Forrest Looking at Test Setup, taken from Air ScoopWWII: PRT with camouflage paintDescription and Photos1948-08-20 Air Scoop, Aerial View of the Old Propeller Research TunnelDiagram of 11-Inch Hypersonic Tunnel11-Inch Hypersonic Tunnel11-Inch Hypersonic Tunnel11-Inch Hypersonic Tunnel Low-Pressure Tank11-Inch Hypersonic Tunnel High-Pressure Tank11-Inch Hypersonic Tunnel High-Pressure Tank11-Inch Hypersonic Tunnel1950-06-02 Air Scoop, Dismantling of Propeller Research Tunnel1953-07-03 Air Scoop, Engine Room in PRTWood, Weick, Crigler, Hernnstein, WindlerMore Photos from Fred Weick Archives Collection


[top] Tests

The Bell XP-77 was tested in the Propeller Research Tunnel in spring 1943, a few months prior to being tested at the Full Scale Tunnel. See Test 146 and Test 150 for the later tests.


LMAL 31465.JPGLMAL 31466.JPGLMAL 31467.JPGLMAL 31468.JPGLMAL 31469 and LMAL 31470.JPGLMAL 31572.JPGLMAL 31574 and LMAL 31575.JPGLMAL 31576 and LMAL 31577.JPGLMAL 31609 and LMAL 31610 and LMAL 31611 and LMAL 31612.JPGLMAL 31615 and LMAL 31616 and LMAL 31617.JPGLMAL 31622.JPGLMAL 31689.JPGLMAL 31690.JPGLMAL 31691.JPGLMAL 31692.JPGLMAL 31693.JPGLMAL 31694.JPGLMAL 31695.JPGLMAL 31696.JPGLMAL 31697.JPGLMAL 31698.JPGLMAL 31699.JPGLMAL 31984 and LMAL 31988 and LMAL 31989 and LMAL 31991.JPGLMAL 31985 and LMAL 31986 and LMAL 31987 and LMAL 31990.JPGLMAL 32246 and LMAL 32247.JPGLMAL 32248.JPGLMAL 32249.JPGLMAL 32250.JPGLMAL 32342.JPGLMAL 32357.JPGLMAL 32358.JPGLMAL 32434.JPGLMAL 32435.JPGLMAL 32436 and LMAL 32437 and LMAL 32438 and LMAL 32439.JPGLMAL 32446 and LMAL 32447.JPGLMAL 32469.JPGLMAL 32470.JPGLMAL 32471.JPGLMAL 32472.JPGLMAL 32473.JPGLMAL 32572.JPGLMAL 32573.JPGCanopyEngine Cooling OutletsEngine Cooling OutletsEngine Cooling OutletsEngine Cooling OutletsEngine Cooling OutletsEngine Cooling Outlets


[top] NACA Cowling Technology Applications

Curtiss AT-5 HawkFokker Trimotor


[top] NACA Cowling Intended Technology Applications

It was considered to use engine cowling on the Dornier DoX aircraft. The following photos from the US National Archives, College Park, MD., still pictures branch, show the DoX above NAS Hampton Roads (now Naval Station Norfolk), VA, in 1929.

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[top] Collier Trophy Award for NACA Cowling Invention

The cowling of an engine is used to streamline the airflow outside the aircraft but, more importantly, also on the inside improving cooling. As most aircraft engines are air cooled they need proper airflow to prevent them from running too hot.


President Herbert Hoover presents Trophy to Joseph AmesCollier1929.JPGCollier1929Plaque.JPGCollier1929Tag.JPG1927 NACA Cowling No. 101928-10-12 Cowling Chart1928 Metal Shop1928 engineering staff of the Propeller Research Tunnel1929 Fabricating Cowlings for Testing1936 Fred Weick, Head of PRT Section 1925 - 19291955 Reid Admires 1929 Collier

[top] Films

NACA-Era: Test of the XZRS-4

NACA-Era: Martin XBM-1 Flying Boat

1939: Airflow Over the XF4U-1

1945: Essex Carrier Smoke Flow

1947 Tuft Studies of the XP-67 Airplane

1947 Stall and Tuft Studies of a XP-67 Airplane Model

1947 Stall Studies of the P-67


[top] Documents

1981 Wind Tunnels of NASA

2002 Aircraft Drag and Streaming

2003 U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission

2007 Smithsonian's America By Air


[top] Technical Reports

1928 The Effect of the Sperry Messenger Fuselage on the Air Flow at the Propeller Plane

1929 Full-Scale Wind-Tunnel Tests of a Series of Wooden Propellers on a VE-7 Airplane in the Propeller Research Tunnel

1929 Full-Scale Wind-Tunnel Tests of a Series of Metal Propellers on a VE-7 Airplane

1929 The Twenty-Foot Propeller Research Tunnel of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics

1940 Model Tests of a Wing-Duct System for Auxiliary Air Supply

1940 Preliminary Cowling Development for the Pratt and Whitney R-1830-Long Nose Engine

1944 Preliminary Investigation of a Hooded Propeller

1948 Investigation of a Systematic Group of NACA 1-Series Cowlings With and Without Spinners

Investigation of a Two-Step Nozzle in the Langley 11-Inch Hypersonic. Mclellan, Charles Herbert; Williams, Thomas W; Bertram, Mitchel H. 1950. TN 2171.

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