NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va., has issued a “stand-down”
order temporarily halting operation of six wind tunnels while a review of
research test procedures is conducted.

The stand-down, put into effect April 23, was prompted after an accident
investigation at the 16-Foot Transonic Tunnel on Feb. 5 suggested there may
be procedural problems at some of the center’s major facilities that could
affect safety and test results.

“Safety is the number one priority of NASA and of Langley,” said Dr.
Jeremiah F. Creedon, Langley’s director. “We are standing down these tunnels
to go the extra mile to ensure that we are operating safely and our data has

The facilities to be taken offline are the 16-Foot Transonic Tunnel, the
National Transonic Facility, the 14- x 22-Foot Subsonic Tunnel, the 8-Foot
High Temperature Tunnel, the Unitary Plan Wind Tunnel and the Low-Turbulence
Pressure Tunnel.

“Operation of these facilities will resume only after an in-depth review of
each of these facilities has been completed and we establish that the
operating procedures are sufficient to assure the safe operations and
integrity of the test results,” Creedon said.

A special team to conduct the review has been formed. Employees in the
affected wind tunnels will assist with the review during the stand-down.
About 85 civil servants and 20 contractors work in the six tunnels. The
tunnels are among 25 active tunnels at NASA Langley. Another eight have been
closed since 1993 and two put on standby.

The 16-Foot tunnel was damaged during an accident in which a test model
became separated from its support and was blown down the tunnel at Mach 0.8,
or approximately 550 mph. Damaged were fan blades and components of the
facility, including a structure called a turning vane that stabilizes and
smoothes the air-flow at corners of the tunnel.

The accident caused an estimated $1 million in damage, which is being

The accident also destroyed the test model, an aluminum engine inlet, or jet
engine intake, taken from a salvaged aircraft. The model had undergone a
total of about 50 hours of wind tunnel testing prior to the incident and was
nearing the end of the test program.