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1/48-scale model of an F-18 aircraft in Flow Visualization Facility (FVF) 1/48-scale model of an F-18 aircraft in Flow Visualization Facility (FVF)

Photo Number: ECN-33298-03
Photo Date: December 19, 1985

Formats: 381x640 JPEG Image (87 KBytes)
763x1280 JPEG Image (451 KBytes)
1997x3349 JPEG Image (4,959 KBytes)

Description: This image shows a plastic 1/48-scale model of an F-18 aircraft inside the "Water Tunnel" more formally known as the NASA Dryden Flow Visualization Facility. Water is pumped through the tunnel in the direction of normal airflow over the aircraft; then, colored dyes are pumped through tubes with needle valves. The dyes flow back along the airframe and over the airfoils highlighting their aerodynamic characteristics. The aircraft can also be moved through its pitch axis to observe airflow disruptions while simulating actual flight at high angles of attack.

The Water Tunnel at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center, Edwards, CA, became operational in 1983 when Dryden was a Flight Research Facility under the management of the Ames Research Center in Mountain View, CA. As a medium for visualizing fluid flow, water has played a significant role. Its use dates back to Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), the Renaissance Italian engineer, architect, painter, and sculptor. In more recent times, water tunnels have assisted the study of complex flows and flow-field interactions on aircraft shapes that generate strong vortex flows. Flow visualization in water tunnels assists in determining the strength of vortices, their location, and possible methods of controlling them.

The design of the Dryden Water Tunnel imitated that of the Northrop Corporation's tunnel in Hawthorne, CA. Called the Flow Visualization Facility, the Dryden tunnel was built to assist researchers in understanding the aerodynamics of aircraft configured in such a way that they create strong vortex flows, particularly at high angles of attack. The tunnel provides results that compare well with data from aircraft in actual flight in another fluid-air. Other uses of the tunnel have included study of how such flight hardware as antennas, probes, pylons, parachutes, and experimental fixtures affect airflow. The facility has also been helpful in finding the best locations for emitting smoke from flight vehicles for flow visualization.

Keywords: F-18; model; Water Tunnel; Dryden Flight Research Center; Ames Research Center; NASA; flow visualization; aerodynamics; fluid mechanics; Leonardo da Vinci; Northrop Corporation; vortex; angle of attack

Last Modified: February 6, 2002
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