This aerial photograph shows the entire original wind tunnel complex at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory. The large Altitude Wind Tunnel (AWT) at the center of the photograph dominates the area. The Icing Research Tunnel to the right was incorporated into the lab’s design to take advantage of the AWT’s powerful infrastructure. The laboratory’s first supersonic wind tunnel was added to this complex just prior to this September 1945 photograph.
The AWT was the nation’s only wind tunnel capable of studying full-scale engines in simulated flight conditions. The AWT’s test section and control room were within the two-story building near the top of the photograph. The exhauster equipment used to thin the airflow and the drive motor for the fan were in the building to the right of the tunnel. The unique refrigeration equipment was housed in the structure to the left of the tunnel.
The Icing Research Tunnel was an atmospheric tunnel that used the AWT’s refrigeration equipment to simulate freezing rain inside its test section. A spray bar system inside the tunnel was originally used to create the droplets. The 18- by 18-inch supersonic wind tunnel was built in the summer of 1945 to take advantage of the AWT’s powerful exhaust system. It was the lab’s first supersonic tunnel and could reach Mach 1.91. Eventually the building would house three small supersonic tunnels, referred to as the “stack tunnels” because of the vertical alignment. The two other tunnels were added to this structure in 1949 and 1951.