May 4, 1998
QuestChat with George Kidwell
Susan/NASAChatHost - 9 - 09:00:38
Good morning, George is here to answer your questions!
[ George/Ames - 10 - 09:01:12 ]
Good morning, everyone, and welcome to Ames Research Center. Let's have
[ George/Ames - 15 - 09:03:25 ]
RE: [Susan/NASAChatHost] George, how do you like your new
job working with the wind tunnels?
It's full of excitement and challenges.
[ George/Ames - 17 - 09:05:03 ]
RE: [Mike-Deborah/YpsilantiCOPE] Hi! I was
wondering, did any of your seaplane designs succeed?
Mike, one of the things that happens in aeronautics is that you explore
a lots of things before you actually build one. In the case of seaplanes,
the Navy explored many concepts, but so far none has been built.
[ George/Ames - 19 - 09:07:59 ]
RE: [Daniel-Deborah/YpsilantiCOPE] What are
your current special projects?
Currently there are a few things happening. We are in the process of bringing
up two of our major wind tunnels after several years of being down for
modifications. We can talk about them if you like. The main wind tunnel
that is working today is involved with a big test called the high wing
transport, and it's the only facility that can do the test.
[ George/Ames - 22 - 09:10:48 ]
RE: [Deborah/YpsilantiCOPE] How are ocean engineering
and aerospace engineering related?
They don't seem too related, do they. One aspect is that both deal with
fluids - water is of course a fluid, but so is air. Air is just not as
dense as water. There is an area of analysis called computational fluid
dynamics because it is used to compute forces in any fluid, air or water.
Otherwise, there are a few other similarities that cause them to be together.
[ George/Ames - 23 - 09:13:11 ]
RE: [Mike-Deborah/YpsilantiCOPE] How big are
the wind tunnels that you recently brought back into use? What are they
The largest is the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex, in which
we can test very large models or actual aircraft. The test section sizes
are 40 ft by 80 ft, and 80 ft by 120 ft. We can test an actual 737 in
the 80x120 at about 100 knot airspeed.
[ George/Ames - 24 - 09:15:34 ]
The other wind tunnel is the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel, which has three
wind tunnels powered by one set of motors. The speed go from Mach 0.5
to about Mach 3.5.
[ George/Ames - 28 - 09:20:17 ]
RE: [Dane-Deborah/YpsilantiCOPE] How many airplanes
are flown in each tunnel in day?
Wind tunnel testing is very complex, expensive, and time consuming. The
models may cost $1-2 million. Each model is tested for a number of weeks,
sometimes for a period of 16 hours a day. There are perhaps 25 people
required to run each test. However, since we have several wind tunnels,
we can run them at the same time. There is a backlog of test waiting to
be performed of perhaps 2 years.
[ George/Ames - 29 - 09:23:03 ]
RE: [Mike-Deborah/YpsilantiCOPE] Is the research
into supersonic planes increasing? That Mach 3.5 tunnel must be awesome!
Believe it or not, that tunnel was built in the early 1950's! It has been
used for fighter research primarily, but in the last eight years, it has
been used for testing to help develop a supersonic transport that is affordable
for passengers and doesn't harm the environment like the Concorde does.
That's the High-Speed Research Program, and the goal is a Mach 2.4 aircraft
capable of carrying 300 passengers.
[ George/Ames - 31 - 09:26:36 ]
RE: [Susan/NASAChatHost] Can you describe a typical day?
Since I work in the R&D Services Directorate, I don't get to have as much
fun as the people who are directly involved in testing, engineering, model
fabrication, and all the other jobs that need to get done. I work with
the Center Director and other research directorates to make sure we cooperate
in everything we do. I take care of issues involving personnel, office
and many other details to help our people work more productively. And
I am very much involved in making sure our wind tunnels have very good
tests lined up.
[ George/Ames - 35 - 09:29:39 ]
RE: [ Kelly/PioneerHS-Kelly/PioneerHS]Hello.
I just got here. I read that Mr. Kidwell oversees windtunnel construction.
How many new wind tunnels are being constructed now?
Actually Kelly, my job is supposed to be oversight of wind tunnel operations,
the testing necessary to either learn new things about aerodynamics or
to prove an aircraft design behaves the way its designers predicted. However,
two of our main tunnels, which are national resources, have been shut
down for some time for major modification. Other people are worrying about
the actual construction activities, thank goodness!
[ George/Ames - 37 - 09:33:08 ]
RE: [Kelly/PioneerHS] I think I read that there
are three major windtunnels where you work. And you just wrote that you
are bringing up two after several years of being down. Does that mean
that you had only one tunnel after all of these years? also, why were
the two not working?
Kelly, we have had the NFAC and the Unitary wind tunnels shut down for
a little more than 2 years. The NFAC has been getting an acoustic modification
and new fan blades for power. The Unitary has been getting new welds,
new motors, and new electronic systems. The 12 ft. pressure wind tunnel
is the one that's been running during that time, and it was completely
rebuilt a few years ago.
[ George/Ames - 39 - 09:36:20 ]
RE: [Deborah/YpsilantiCOPE] You mention in
your journal the diversity of the technical expertise of those who work
at Ames. What do the research psychologists do there?
The research psychologists are involved in an area known as human factors.
There are many current research issues going on today. Fatigue countermeasures
is an area trying to find ways to make crews involved in transportation
with long work hours more productive and safe. Others are involved in
developing new displays and controls in aircraft cockpits. Others study
ways in which airline crews can communicate more effectively, particularly
in stressful situations.
[ George/Ames - 43 - 09:39:10 ]
RE: [Daniel-Deborah/YpsilantiCOPE] How much
electrical power is actually used by the tunnels in a day?
Daniel, good question, but I don't remember the numbers this moment. We
use about $4-5 million worth in a year. One of the reasons Ames Research
Center was located where we are (south of San Francisco) is because we
get relatively inexpensive power directly from a dam in the Sierras. The
Unitary uses the most, and it's something like 300 MW.
[ George/Ames - 44 - 09:40:48 ]
RE: [Kelly/PioneerHS] When do you expect that
the NFAC and Unitary wind tunnels will be operating again?
Both the NFAC and the Unitary will hopefully begin checkout testing this
summer. We are working as quickly as possible, as there are many researchers
and companies needing their capabilities.
[ George/Ames - 45 - 09:42:06 ]
RE: [Dane-Deborah/YpsilantiCOPE] Have you completed
graduate school? If so, where did you attend?
Dane, I got my Masters in Aerospace Engineering from Stanford, while I
was working here at Ames.
[ George/Ames - 48 - 09:45:24 ]
RE: [Kelly/PioneerHS] I read that you help
to make sure that the tunnels have good tests in them. What criteria do
you use to pick the tests?
They have to be tests for which our tunnels are clearly the best, that
they make use of their unique capabilities. We don't just want to use
the time to test anything. Each wind tunnel is unique. The 12 ft. is good
for testing aircraft in the high lift configuration, that is, with flaps
deployed. The NFAC is good for testing rotorcraft and very large models
in the landing configuration. The Unitary is good for higher speed testing,
and it has excellent flow quality.
[ George/Ames - 49 - 09:47:19 ]
RE: [Kelly/PioneerHS] Also, do people have
to pay you money to use the wind tunnels?
Sometimes NASA pays for test (when the data can be used by the Nation),
sometimes the military pays for tests, and sometimes companies pay the
costs if the data is used strictly for the development of their products.
Boeing, for instance, has tested every one of their airliners in each
of the tunnels at Ames.
[ George/Ames - 52 - 09:51:00 ]
RE: [Deborah/YpsilantiCOPE] What has been your
most exciting moment in your career? Most disappointing?
Wow, Deborah, those are the hardest questions yet. Probably the most exciting
were the times I was involved in designing something called the National
AeroSpace Plane. It was what we call Single-Stage-to Orbit, which means
it takes off like an airplane and goes right into orbit (Mach 25). The
most disappointing may have been when it was cancelled, although the X-33
Program NASA is currently involved in has taken up the issue of SSTO again.
Watch for news on it.
[ George/Ames - 54 - 09:54:27 ]
RE: [Kelly/PioneerHS] What other kinds of groups
own wind tunnels? Does Boeing own their own wind tunnels. About how many
are there in the world?
NASA has wind tunnel at Ames, Langley Research Center in Virginia, and
Lewis Research Center in Cleveland. The Department of Defense has a few,
mostly at the Arnold R&D Center near Nashville. Many universities have
small ones for teaching and research. And the major companies, such as
Boeing have a few. But companies don't usually have such sophisticated
wind tunnels like NASA's because they are so expensive. NASA's are national
assets for national research.
[ George/Ames - 56 - 09:56:34 ]
RE: [Kelly/PioneerHS] Since NASA is paid by
US taxpayers, do you let foreign companies pay you for the development
of their own products (I mean if the data will not be used by the Nation,
just by the foreign company?)
Kelly, every test we do is for the benefit of our country. We might possibly
let another country be involved with us in a test if there is a benefit
to the US. We are very much aware of who funds NASA, and we hope the US
taxpayers think we are doing a good job.
[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 57 - 09:56:38
Thank you Ypsilanti Cope for your informed and polite participation.
[ Kelly/PioneerHS - 58 - 09:57:16 ]
I have really learned a lot about wind tunnels. Thank you so much, Mr.
Kidwell for sharing some of your time with me. It is really exciting to
speak with a real NASA person. Good luck in your job.
[ George/Ames - 59 - 09:57:28 ]
RE: [Deborah/YpsilantiCOPE] Ypsilanti COPE
would like to thank you for sharing your time and expertise.
Deborah, that you for being interested enough to participate. Keep up
[ George/Ames - 60 - 09:58:35 ]
RE: [Kelly/PioneerHS] I have really learned
a lot about wind tunnels. Thank you so much, Mr. Kidwell for sharing some
of your time with me. It is really exciting to speak with a real NASA
person. Good luck in your job.
Thanks Kelly, you had a number of really good questions and I enjoyed
trying to answer them. Good luck with your studies.
[ Susan/NASAChatHost - 61 - 09:58:37
Thank you Kelly and thank you George! This has been a great chat!