Eight-Foot High Speed Tunnel

By Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms
Eight-Foot High Speed Tunnel
Eight-Foot High Speed Tunnel Photo from National Register collection

Completed in 1936, the Eight-Foot High Speed Tunnel at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, was created by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), the parent agency of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). It was the first continuous-flow high-speed wind tunnel able to test large models and actual working parts of airplanes. It could also operate indefinitely, giving engineers sufficient time to run their tests and check their results. For the first time NACA engineers had a research tool that could supply high-speed test results on a large scale.

Ray H. Wright putting on a diving suit to protect him from high pressure, temperature and noise
Historic photo taken in 1950 of Ray H. Wright putting on a diving suit to protect him from high pressure, temperature and noise in the tunnel Photo from National Register collection, courtesy of Langley Research Center

Over the years NACA engineers continued to modify the Eight-Foot High Speed Tunnel, specifically attempting to improve performance in the transonic range (Mach 0.7 to Mach 1.4). The "slotted throat" design, a partially open or slotted wind tunnel wall, added in 1950 made it possible to obtain meaningful test results in the transonic range. Renamed the Eight-Foot Transonic Tunnel, this landmark in wind tunnel design allowed NACA engineers to accurately determine the affect of the transonic range on supersonic fighters and bombers. Although phased out of service in 1956 the Eight-Foot High Speed Tunnel provided the technology upon which the United States constructed rockets that eventually flew to the moon and beyond.

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Last updated: August 29, 2017