In 1947, when the Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corp. opened its wind tunnel alongside the San Diego Airport, such facilities were really the only way to verify whether a proposed aircraft design would behave as expected.
Scale models of a complete aircraft or its parts were placed inside to understand how air moved around them and measure aspects such as lift and drag.
The San Diego wind tunnel was used to test the aerodynamics of every Boeing jetliner, from the 707 to the 787, various fighter jets and the Space Shuttle.
As computational fluid dynamics evolved in the 1980s, it was assumed most performance predictions could be done cheaper and more precisely by a computer.
But against all odds, wind tunnels have hung around — and a few new ones are being built.
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