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Pitch fix: Tackling eight decades of Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel hard use by William T.G. Litant

Since September 1938, when it was dedicated during the Fifth International Congress of Applied Mechanics, the Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel has played a key role in the development of aerospace, civil engineering, and architectural systems.

From its early days during World War II, when technicians worked in two shifts on military aircraft design, testing has evolved to today’s examination of ground antenna configurations, aeroelastic dynamics of airport control tower configurations, ski gear, space suits, bicycle and motorcycle configurations, subway station entrances, ship sails, wind turbines, and a design for a clean, quiet, and super-efficient commercial aircraft. When MIT dedicated WBWT it was capable of a 400 mph top speed. The story has it that it was only operated at that speed a few times; the noise was deafening and MIT received complaints from across the river in Boston. In recent years, the department has seldom pushed the tunnel above about 180 mph. But during the summer of 2015, it became obvious something was wrong. “We couldn’t get it over 40 mph,” says AeroAstro technical instructor David Robertson, who had just assumed the tunnel’s management. “We couldn’t repeat speeds and the times required to change from one speed to another were all over the place.”

Pitch fix: Tackling eight decades of Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel hard use


MIT AeroAstro annual magazine 2015-2016Aeroastro 2015 16  

Annual magazine review of MIT Aeronautics and Astronautics Department research and educational initiatives.

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