Although wind tunnels are among the most important tools of aeronautical research, these facilities have remained the least understood. Some say this is partly because the instrumentation and calibration are complicated and difficult to understand and partly because the researchers that use wind tunnels too often speak in language intended for their peers and invented for their particular disciplines. Whatever the reason, this book goes a long way toward bridging the gap between engineer and layman. Wind Tunnels of NASA is both factual and readable.
By no means an inventory of wind tunnels, the book does not even contain a complete listing of current facilities-that being one element in its readability. The purpose of the book is to describe the contribution of these remarkable research facilities to the science of flight. What the text deals with are topics such as these. Why are wind tunnels useful? What do they do superbly well, and how? What have they done that is so great? How did they develop, and what forms did this development take? What are their typical problems and limitations? What are the pitfalls in scaling, calibration, and instrumentation ? Are there unexpected surprises when one goes from tunnels to full-size aircraft? Where are we now in wind tunnel research? Wind Tunnels answers these questions very well.
NASA's wind tunnels form the basis for the book, but Air Force, university, and industry facilities are also considered and the wind tunnels of other countries are assessed to some extent.
The photographs used in the book contribute significantly to one's level of understanding. A person viewing a modern wind tunnel for the first time sees a huge, ungainly warehouse-like structure of unexpected corners and jointed appendages having no architectural merit. From above, however, wind tunnels take on a different appearance. To some they resemble huge worms attempting to hide in blockhouses. Indeed, the structures are often so large that they can be viewed in their entirety only from the air, and the best photographs are obtained from helicopters. Only in these overhead views do the corners and appendages achieve a purposeful unity. Photos taken inside the tunnels, showing engineers and their models at work, are often more revealing and instructive, although here, too, much is perplexing to the untrained eye.
Through a happy combination of text and pictures the book dispels much puzzlement. It also demonstrates that wind tunnels are truly individual and unique in function and suggests the quality of service they have given to the nation's technological advances in aerospace.
Wind Tunnels of NASA is co-authored by an aeronautical engineer with more than 40 years of NASA wind tunnel expertise and by a highly respected engineering and science writer. Donald D. Baals has been with NASA and its predecessor, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), since 1939 and has continued to serve the agency as a senior research associate since retirement. Among his many honors have been the NASA Medal for Exceptional Service (1971) and the NASA Public Service Award (1976) for his role in planning the National Transonic Facility. Mr. Baals lives in Newport News, Virginia.
William R. Corliss, a science publisher and freelance author, has written a number of publications for NASA, including The Interplanetary Pioneers and NASA Sounding Rockets. He lives in Glen Arm, Maryland.