As NASA prepares to shut down a historic wind tunnel in Virginia, some hope for a stay of execution.
- By Michael Klesius
- AirSpaceMag.com, September 10, 2009
(Page 3 of 3)
Barnstorff points to a combination of factors that have, according to NASA, rendered the tunnel obsolete: the growth of computational fluid dynamics, less money in NASA’s aeronautics budget over the past decade, and industry consolidation that has left fewer airplane manufacturers in need of tunnel time. Barnstorff reasons that Boeing chose the tunnel for its X-48C only because they had tested its predecessor here in 2006. “We already had a database from the full-scale tunnel, so it was logical for them to send the X-48C here so we could compare apples to apples.”
Accurate cost estimates for the demolition won’t come in for a month or more, and will include destruction of three smaller decommissioned wind tunnels at the center. But estimates for all four tunnels in recent years, says Barnstorff, have run from five to eight million dollars. A bit more than half of that, she supposes, might cover the full-scale tunnel.
What will replace the building? “That’s up to the Air Force to decide,” she says. Rumors are that a parking lot lies in the immediate future.
As for Hyde, he’s getting the word out via a web page, and has hope that NASA won’t do something irreversible, such as remove a propeller blade from one of the fans as a gift to a museum. He knows it can’t live forever. He simply wishes NASA would let ODU operate the tunnel, occasionally fixing it “with a crescent wrench and a screw driver.
“If it finally reaches a point where it isn’t repairable,” he says, “when that day comes, I’ll help ’em load it on the truck.”