Computers still can't replace 68-year-old wind tunnel

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by GLENNN FARLEY / KING 5 News Aviation Specialist

KING5.com

Posted on May 11, 2012 at 6:01 PM

SEATTLE -- Built in 1944 during World War II, Boeing's Transonic Wind Tunnel was upgraded in the early 1950s as the company took off into the jet age.

Upgraded again in 2000 and capable of producing Mach 1.1 windspeeds, the tunnel is still making aviation futures happen. Models of Boeing's new 737-MAX are currently undergoing high-speed testing with new design features, such as a new winglet designed to boost fuel efficiency.

The Transonic is one of three wind tunnels in Seattle, part of Boeing's Test & Evaluation unit. One is built  to test how ice can dangerously build up on wings and how best to defeat icing, while the other measures the body noise from airplanes flying through the air.

Boeing uses other wind tunnels in the United States and around the world depending on the testing required.  While the Transonic measures airplanes flying at cruising speeds, other tunnels are designed to test scale models for how the real jet will perform during takeoff and landing.

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