MIT has announced it will replace its 79-year-old Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel with a new facility that will be the largest and most advanced academic wind tunnel in the US. Boeing has made a funding pledge to become the $18 million project’s lead donor, reflecting a century-long relationship between the company and MIT that helped ignite the global aerospace industry.
Dedicated in 1938, the current tunnel was in heavy use for the design of military aircraft during World War II. Since then, the tunnel has been used to test everything from subway station entrances to solar cars—and, most recently, a design for a clean, quiet, super-efficient commercial aircraft.
Like its predecessor, the new tunnel will be operated by the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and it will retain the Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel name. The new tunnel will permit increased test speeds, from the current 150 miles per hour to 200 miles per hour; greatly improve research data acquisition; halve the power requirements of the original fan motor; increase test section volume; improve the ability to test drones and aerodynamic components including wings, bodies, and wind turbines; and enable new MIT classes in advanced aerodynamics and fluid mechanics.