The final mission for the immense wind tunnel, built when biplanes were still the norm for aviators, was to test the aerodynamics of the futuristic X-48C and its blended-wing body. (A separate version of the prototype, the X-48B, is being tested on the other side of the country at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center in California.)
The X-48C prototype seen here is itself a model. It has a wingspan of 21 feet and weighs about 500 pounds, the same as its X-48B counterpart. Both have turbojet engines, can fly as fast as 138 miles per hour, and can reach an altitude of 10,000 feet.
In this photo from August 31, an engineer from Old Dominion monitors testing of the X-48C.
Editors' note: This photo was added October 7 because, well, we just came across it and found it too good to pass up.
Ken Hyde, the founder of the Wright Experience project, has been an outspoken supporter of preserving the Langley facility, writing on his blog: "The LFST building does need some repairs but it is not dilapidated; it still works....Keeping the LFST operational would only be a fraction of the cost to demolish it. The LFST's demolition is bad for education, bad for Virginia, and most importantly, bad for this nation!"
The LFST has been recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
Back in the day, you could sometimes catch the biggest names in aviation at the LFST. This photo from Langley's May 1934 Aircraft Engineering Conference includes Orville Wright, Charles Lindbergh, and Howard Hughes, according to NASA. The aircraft overhead is a Boeing P-26A Peashooter.
Congress approved the project in 1929 and funded it with a two-year appropriation of $900,000.
"[T]he forces in three directions are measured and by combining the forces and the proper lever arms, the pitching, rolling, and yawing moments can be computed. The scales are of the dial type and are provided with solenoid-operated printing devices. When the proper test condition is obtained, a push-button switch is momentarily closed and the readings on all seven scales are recorded simultaneously, eliminating the possibility of personal errors."
Pictured here in 1941 or 1942 is the Lockheed YP-38 Lightning during drag cleanup testing.
In early 1962, says NASA, "after expending $4280 on construction and materials, the team rolled out the Paresev I. It resembled a grown-up tricycle, with a rudimentary seat, an angled tripod mast, and perched on top of the mast, a 14-square-meter Rogallo-type parawing. The vehicle weighed 272 kilograms, had a height of over 3.4 meters, and a length of 4.5 meters."
The agency says that the Paresev was the first NASA research airplane to be constructed completely in-house.
One of the hallmarks of the big Langley tunnel is that it allows for free-flight testing of scale models.