Stability Tunnel

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Facility 1149
Tunnel exterior

Center: Langley Research Center
Location: Hampton, Virginia; moved to Blacksburg, Virginia
Year Built: 1941
Historic Eligibility: National Register Eligible
Important Tests:

Back Arrow.jpg Property Index


[top] History

By the late 1930s, progress in the NACA’s research on stability and control had rapidly advanced based on experimental work carried out in the Full Scale Tunnel and the first NACA 7 x 10-Foot Atmospheric Wind Tunnel (see NACA Tunnel One). The work in stability studies became so intense that another facility was needed to augment the existing tunnels and to complement them with unique dynamic measurements. The estimation of the dynamic flight characteristics of aircraft required knowledge of the aerodynamic forces and moments arising from the orientation of a wind-tunnel model with respect to the air stream. This data was provided by conventional tunnel tests. However, the estimates of flight characteristics also depend on aerodynamic effects due to the rate of angular displacement with respect to the air stream, such as rolling and yawing.

In 1939 Langley received authorization to proceed with the construction of a new tunnel that could simulate the effects of an aircraft in rolling, pitching, and yawing flight by creating curved and rolling flows in the test section. It could also conduct standard straight-flow stability tests. The Langley Stability Tunnel began operations in late 1941 as a simple, continuous-flow tunnel. It had two interchangeable test sections. The first test section was a square 6 x 6-ft section used for straight-flow or curved-flow tests. For curved-flow tests, the vertical tunnel side walls were designed to have enough flexibility to be deflected into a curved shape to produce curved flow around the model. The walls were curved by use of a series of jack screws positioned at intervals along the test section that pushed and pulled the wall sections into shape. The second test section was a round 6-ft section which had a powered rotor located upstream of the test section to generate rolling flow to simulate the velocity distribution on the model that would be experienced in rolling flight.

The Stability tunnel had a mechanized balance system to measure all 6 components separately, 3 forces, 3 moments. Each scale had a balance arm with a lead screw powered by a motor, positioned on a knife edge, that moved the lead weight along the lead screw. It also had a weight changing mechanism that would add or remove additional weights at the end of the balance arm automatically. The cabinets containing the balance were mounted on a platform that rolled along the railroad rails fastened to the concrete floor so that the unit could be repositioned to a different location when the tunnel walls were curved, thus keeping the model mounting point in the center of the tunnel cross section.

The tunnel was powered by a 600-HP electric motor driving a 14-ft diameter, 8-bladed propeller. Maximum speed of the tunnel was about 250 mph. Numerous tests of static and dynamic aerodynamics were conducted in the tunnel on fundamental generic airplane models as well as specific airplane designs. A very large data base was derived for design handbooks and estimation procedures for aerodynamic parameters. In 1958 the stability tunnel was dismantled and reassembled on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University at Blacksburg, Virginia, where it now functions as an educational and research and development tool.

After removal of the research tunnel, the remaining brick and mortar portion of the building was adapted for use as an office building. When demolished in 2011, the first floor had been serving as the Center's medical clinic and the second floor as the IG's office.

[top] Photos

[top] Construction

19401940-08-3021029.jpg22187.jpg1940-11-081941-01-04 Settling Chamber1941-01-101941-02-081941-03-161941-05-101941-05-101941-05-101941 Description and Photos1149PhotoCard.jpgFan from DownstreamFan from Upstream1941-121942-09-081943-03-10 Mechanical Balance PhotosL-56784.jpgL-56785.jpgL-56786.jpg56787.jpgL-56788.jpg63777.jpgEnd of Mechanical Balance photosExterior of Test SectionExterior IDsExterior MechanismInterior of Test Section1943-03-10 Engineers Operate the Langley Stability TunnelControl PanelExterior of Building - unknown date1945194719481948194819481952Aerial 1.jpg1968197819841984unknown date

[top] NACA Testing

Exterior of Curved Wall Section1943 Test Section1943 Model in Test Section for Curved-Flowed Yawing TestsCurved Wall TestingSetting up ModelCurved Flow Test Model1952 Dr. Jack Quiejo and D-558 Model Subjected to rolling-flowRolling-Flow TestRolling-Flow Test1952-07-11 Air Scoop D-558-2 Prepared for Low-Speed Stability TestsL-42439.jpgL-43576.jpgL-53735.jpgL-54424.jpgL-56794.01.jpgL-57655.jpgL-59060.jpgL-67430.jpgL-67933.01.jpgL-71442.jpgL-75328.jpgL-77017.jpgL-77779.jpgL-78265.jpgL-78266.jpgL-84447.jpgL-84452.jpgL-87046.jpgL-87252.jpgL-90949.jpgL-92301.jpgL-95670.jpg

[top] Virginia Tech

1960s Nearly CompleteImage from Archives1962 Fan HubCurved Flow Wire Wall1970-07 The American City - Street Light Test1971 Air Exchange RepairEarly-mid 1980s Aircraft Infrared Sensor Testing - Marchman1980s Downstream of Fan - Greg Bandy1983-1984 Engineering Now1994 Motor Replacement1996 Fan Blade Replacement1996 Fan Blade Replacement2009-09-4 Tunnel at Virginia Tech2009-09-4 Tunnel at Virginia Tech2009-09-4 Tunnel at Virginia Tech2009-09-4 Tunnel at Virginia Tech

[top] NASA Rehab and Demolition

2011 location2011 Floor Plan2009 NW Elevation of Office2009 W Elevation of Office2009 S Elevation of Office2009 SE Elevation of Office2009 1st Floor Hall2009 Original Door2009 1st Floor Medical Room2009 2nd Floor2009 2nd Floor Office2011-09-152011-09-152011-09-152011-09-152011-09-152011-10-062011-10-062012-02-22

[top] Drawings and Charts

1936 Proposed Location in East Area1940 Tunnel Floor PlanWind Tunnel Floorplan1941 Plat Map1942 Office Floor Plan1942 Tunnel Plan1946 Location and Landscape Plan1949 Map - #161951 Turbulence Dampening Screen System1952-7-28 RML52 H111952-7-28 RML52 H111952-7-28 RML52 H111956 Model Support AssemblyDis-assembly notes p1Dis-assembly notes p2Dis-assembly notes p3Dis-assembly notes p4Dis-assembly notes p5Master Drawing List Sheet 1Master Drawing List Sheet 2Master Drawing List Sheet 3Master Drawing List Sheet 4

[top] Interviews

[top] Donald Riley

Don Riley

Don came to NACA in September 1949 following graduation from Penn State, and requested that he be assigned to the Stability Tunnel. He recalls that this was a 'neat little tunnel.' He worked on with many interesting people over the years including many of the astronauts and researcher John 'Jay' Bird (see Jet Shoes). In 1961, Don worked on the first docking study for Gemini. He developed a 3-axis finger-tip controller designed and used for the first simulation of space docking made here at Langley. Now a Distinguished Research Associate, Don still works with the same group that he has always worked with and devotes his time to following up on work he was not able to complete.

[top] Documents

1942 Building Record

1951 Effect of Fuselage and Tail Surface on Low-Speed Yawing Characteristics of a Swept-Wing Model

1957 Tech Adds Valuable Teaching, Research Tool in Huge Stability Tunnel

1958 Randolph Wind Tunnel Foundations

1960 Techgram - New Home for Aero Engineering

1960 NASA Letter to Truitt Listing Instrumentation Info

1961 Roanoke Times - A Little Wind a Dangerous Thing for some Modern Architecture

1965 Real Property Record

1965 Another Real Property Record

1976 Response to Addition Request

1978 Addition

1982 Spectrum Article - Man-made Winds Help with Design Problems

1986 Spectrum Article - New Equipment Measures Pressure

1989 Summary of Wind Tunnel Test Facilities

2009 Intensive Level DSS Documentation of Building 1149 at NASA LaRC

Virginia Tech Research

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