National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Glenn Research Center

Icing Research Facility

The Glennterns visited the Icing Research Facility to learn more about Glenn’s role in the research and development of aircraft icing and icing prevention.  The laboratory itself is a large wind tunnel built facility in 1944.  It was built at the end of WWII to research the causes and mitigation techniques of icing on Allied aircraft that were increasingly being lost in the war.  It is one of the largest icing wind tunnels in the nation.  Our tour guide mentioned that 90% of the work carried out in the laboratory is done for outside companies doing their own research and testing.

The Glenntern’s first stop on the tour was to the facility’s control room, where the air speed, water concentration, and other test parameters can be measured and controlled.  Everyone learned that the lab has an incredibly fast turn-around time, typically switching between tests in only a few days.  Also, the control room is not fully isolated from the wind tunnel itself, and as the speed in the tunnel increases, the pressure in the control room decreases, giving people the feeling they are on an ascending airplane.

The next tour stop was in the test section of the tunnel.  Water was everywhere, and the experiment currently being run was from the US Army, though it looked to just be a flat plate with some sensors on it.  The test section is huge, 9 feet wide by 6 feet high.  Full scale model aircraft have been tested in the lab before.

The final stop on the tour was just upstream of the test section, next to the massively large heat exchanger and turning vanes.  The fan that drives the wind tunnel is also located in this section, sporting a 5000 HP motor and 25 feet diameter fan blades.  Our tour guide mentioned that with all the water in the air used to form ice on the test models, corrosion is a major problem and the tunnel has to be repainted regularly to keep rust under control.