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Kirsten Wind Tunnel (KWT)

In 1934, Professor F. K. Kirsten promoted the idea of a wind tunnel for aeronautical research tests. He arranged funding for construction from Washington State, the Public Works Administration, and The Boeing Company. The building was designed by Bebb and Gould and was constructed in 1936 for $124,501. 

The Kirsten Wind Tunnel is a subsonic wind tunnel located on the central Seattle campus of the University of Washington. It operates as an auxiliary enterprise led by a staff engineer/manager as well as a crew of undergraduate employees who gain practical experience by running tests.

The operating entity that provides services is the University of Washington Aeronautical Lab (UWAL).  The UW Board of Regents approved naming the physical facility the Kirsten Aeronautical Laboratory to honor Professor F. K. Kirsten in 1948, although "Kirsten Wind Tunnel" gets more usage than "Kirsten Aeronautical Laboratory."


The Kirsten Wind Tunnel is a subsonic, closed circuit, double return wind tunnel. The tunnel has a test section with a rectangular 8' x 12' cross-section that is 10 feet long. Two sets of 14' 9"-diameter seven-bladed propellers move the air up to 200 MPH through the test section. A computer-automated model positioning and data acquisition system ensures testing efficiency and precise measurements while a networked data reduction and plotting system allows for immediate data visibility. Most tests make use of KWT's six-component external balance. We also support high channel count Electronic Pressure Scanning (EPS) systems. For more detailed information, please see the Technical Guide to the Kirsten Wind Tunnel.


Air Speeds 5-200 MPH (90 m/s, 295 ft/s)
Dynamic Pressures 0.07-100 psf
Flow Angularity Upflow = -0.012°, Crossflow = 0.0°
Turbulence Intensity 0.72%
Test Section

8' tall, 12' wide, 10' long (2.44x3.66x3.05m)

External Balance Limits
Lift: ±2500 lbs ±11120 N
Drag: ±250 lbs ±1112 N
Side: ±250 lbs ±1112 N
Pitching: ±5000 in-lbs ±564.9 N-m
Yawing: ±5000 in-lbs ±564.9 N-m
Rolling: ±5000 in-lbs ±564.9 N-m
Model Positioning Fully automated pitch and yaw accurate to ±0.02°
Data Reduction Semi-corrected plots of data available in real-time. A separate data set with final corrections is produced as appropriate with customer input.
Flow Visualizations Smoke, oils, china clay, sublimation, UV minitufts
Electronic Pressure Scanning Scanivalve EPS Modules: one 64-Port Dual Bank Module (±0.007psi) and one 32-Port Single Bank Module (±0.005psi)
Test Types

Scale-model aircraft, scale-model ground vehicles, UAVs, bicycles, motorcycles, racing yacht keels