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The Walter H. Beech Memorial Wind Tunnel at Wichita State University has been in operation since 1948.

WSU to celebrate 60th anniversary of wind tunnel

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Since its initial construction in 1948, the primary purpose of the Walter H. Beech Memorial Wind Tunnel has remained the same: to meet the needs of local aviation research. Today the tunnel at Wichita State University is still a state-of-the art facility serving clients nationwide in aviation and other industries.

Wichita State will formally recognize and celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Beech wind tunnel with a public open house from 3-6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10.

Visitors are asked to meet in the lobby of the new Engineering Research Laboratory Building just west of the National Institute for Aviation Research on the WSU campus. There, a guide will give background on the wind tunnel and provide an overview of its history — capabilities, upgrades, modifications, interesting notes and points of pride.

A second guide will lead guests from the lobby to the wind tunnel at designated times. Visitors will see a historical display with photos and timeline of the wind tunnel and see a demonstration of the wind tunnel in use.

Another event, "What's Up in Flight R&D at WSU?," will be held from 2-3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11, in the Ulrich Museum of Art. A combination of short talks will capture what's up in flight research and development at WSU. L. Scott Miller, professor and chair of the aerospace engineering department at WSU, will moderate faculty presentations.

Engineering innovation has been primary to Wichita's historic prominence in aviation, and WSU plays a large role in retaining and extending its edge in the industry. Find out what research occupies the bright minds of WSU engineering faculty connected to flight. Discover how this industry is evolving by hearing presentations for the general public by WSU engineering leaders.

Following the talks at the museum, selected engineering and National Institute for Aviation Research labs will host an open house for Ulrich Museum guests.

The wind tunnel also will be open for public tours from 2-4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 11. Admission to Friday's and Saturday's events, including the faculty talks and tours of NIAR, is free.

Now through Dec. 19, the Ulrich Museum also features an exhibition of 35 large-scale images of today’s machines of air and sky by New York photographer Jeffrey Milstein. He captures his images at the end of the Los Angeles International Airport runway as planes pass overhead on descent.

The wind tunnel has seen many changes in order to maintain quality and efficiency. The idea to build the tunnel was proposed in 1946 by Walter H. Beech, former president of Beech Aircraft Co., and Dwane L. Wallace, former president of Cessna Aircraft Co., who needed a place to do aeronautical research in Wichita.

The project, directed by Ken Razak, former director of the School of Engineering at the University of Wichita, cost $165,000 and took two years to construct, making it the largest wind tunnel of its kind in the Midwest at that time.

The most substantial upgrade to the tunnel was finished in January 2005. It cost $6 million and involved a modernization of the tunnel's test section, control room, fan and balance.

Although aviation has long been the primary beneficiary of the wind tunnel, the tunnel has been used for a variety of tests and purposes including a Junior Olympic skier, Olympic cyclist, model of Kemper Arena roof, curbside dumpsters, snowmobiles, motorcycles, Santa's sleigh, car topper, early automobiles and hurricane emergency response vehicle models.

For more information on the history of the Walter H. Beech Memorial Wind Tunnel, go to http://www.aero-labs.org.

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Created on Thursday, September 18, 2008; Last modified on Monday, October 13, 2008