Tag Archives: Louis Wait

28 June–26 July 1940

North American Aviation Engineering Test Pilot Louis Wait with a wind tunnel model of the NA-73X. (North American Aviation, Inc.)

28 June 1940: A ¼–scale mahogany model of the North American Aviation NA-73X, prototype of the Royal Air Force Mustang Mk.1, was tested in the Ten-Foot Wind Tunnel at the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory of the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT) in Pasadena, California, from 28 June to 26 July 1940.

The Ten-Foot Tunnel was funded by a $300,000 grant from the Daniel Guggenheim Foundation. Construction of the Laboratory began in 1927 and the wind tunnel became operational in November 1929. A 15 foot (4.572 meter) diameter fan was capable of producing air speeds up to 200 miles per hour (322 kilometers per hour). The first complete scale model airplane to be tested was the Northrop Alpha.

Airships, airplanes, and structures (bridges, buildings) were tested in the tunnel. According to Caltech, the Douglas Aircraft Company used the facility more than any other manufacturer.

During World War II, a staff of sixty worked three shifts, seven days a week. A technician who worked there later said, “We had a tighter schedule than the tightest schedule anyone ever had.”

The wind tunnel’s test equipment was damaged by the Whittier Narrows Earthquake. It was closed in 1997 to be replaced by a new facility.

Model builders working on a scale model wing for use in NACA’s wind tunnels. (NASA)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes