Langley Wind Tunnel Efforts Continue, Down To The Wire

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At the end of this month, when wind-tunnel tests now under way wrap up, NASA plans to shut down and dismantle the historic Langley Full-Scale Wind Tunnel in Virginia, unless a new letter-writing campaign and other efforts can change their minds. The deadline, originally set for late August, has been pushed back to Sept. 30. Ken Hyde, president of The Wright Experience, is asking supporters to write letters to their representatives in Congress to try to boost support for keeping the Langley tunnel up and running. He created a new Web site where information can be found and where updates will be posted. NASA's own Web site notes that wind tunnels are a national technological resource. "They have provided vast knowledge that has contributed to the development and advancement of the nation's aviation industry, space program, economy and the national security," says NASA. "Amid today's increasingly fierce international, commercial and technological competition, NASA's wind tunnels are crucial tools for helping the United States retain its global leadership in aviation and space flight."

Hyde used the tunnel during his research into how the Wright brothers designed and built their early airplanes. Recently, the tunnel has been used by Boeing and for research aimed at making delivery trucks more aerodynamically efficient. NASA leases the tunnel to Old Dominion University. Hyde said ODU has six months' worth of paying customers in line who are ready to pay $1,600 per hour to conduct experiments in the tunnel. "Not all wind tunnels are alike, LFST delivers good data," said Hyde. ODU students also benefit from the experience of working with customers, he said. "It costs NASA nothing," he says. "We need to save this tunnel!"