Last Breath

The full-scale wind tunnel at Langley AFB, Va., the nation’s third largest, closed its doors on Sept. 4 after 78 years of operations. Built in 1930, the 30 foot by 60 foot tunnel served a vital role in aerodynamic testing and research, from biplanes to experimental aircraft. Nearly every fighter aircraft that came along after 1930 up to the F/A-18 was tested there as were NASA’s Mercury entry re-capsule, NASCAR vehicles, and submarines. Most recently Boeing’s X-48 experimental blended-wing-body aircraft was put through the paces in the tunnel. “It’s not possible to walk into this wind tunnel and not feel like you’re walking amongst some of the pioneers in aviation,” said Bob Ash, professor of aerospace engineering at Old Dominion University, which ran the facility. From 1931 to 1944, this wind tunnel was the largest in the world. (Langley report by SSgt. Barry Loo)