Filton wind tunnel celebrates its 50 year anniversary

Airbus UK is marking the first half-century of operation with its Filton wind tunnel, which has completed more than 64,000 test runs since 1957. This facility, which underwent a significant modernisation in 2004, continues to support the development of new Airbus aircraft - including the A350 XWB.

30 May 2007 Feature story

Fifty years ago, Britain's Minister for Supply, Aubrey Jones MP visited the aerospace site at Filton, north of Bristol to formally open its newest test facility, the Filton wind tunnel. A facility which today continues to play a critical role in the design, innovation and testing of new aircraft, with its most recent tests being for the new Airbus A350 XWB.



The wind tunnel's role is to refine the aerodynamic performance of aircraft at low air speeds - especially during take-off and landing. The smallest change in aircraft design to alter airflow over its surfaces can make substantial contributions to reducing fuel consumption and gaseous emission. It is also key to helping reduce the noise generated around airports as aircraft take off and land.



Filton's wind tunnel has completed more than 64,000 test runs since its opening in 1957 and it can proudly boast a key role in the design and development of famous aircraft such as Concorde, the BAC One Eleven and, from 1982, every new model of Airbus - including today's A380, A400M and the A350 XWB.



Over the years the wind tunnel has contributed to many other feats of engineering design where aerodynamic properties are important. It has been used to test models of bridges, oil platforms, hotels, sails for ships, ski bikes for the Army, traffic lights, windmills, golf clubs and weather-proof clothing. One especially memorable client for several years in the mid 1990s was the Ferrari Formula One team who used the wind tunnel to test their racing car design.



Although fifty years old this week, in 2004 the Filton wind tunnel underwent a 21st Century £1.2 million modernisation programme, which included a new control room and a new 22 ft (7m) diameter, seven-bladed fan made of a modern carbon fibre composite material - which replaced the original wooden fan.



Today the tunnel employs around 50 people who construct the precision models and carry out the testing.



Photo caption

The Filton wind tunnel's formal opening on 24 May, 1957 included a ceremonial test run initiated by Aubrey Jones MP, Minister of Supply, who is seen pressing the start button in the facility's control room.