Wind tunnels are tubes in which powerful fans are used to exert force and pressure on a scale model of an aircraft. The air moving around the static test model helps engineers to understand how a real aircraft would react to this pressure when flying. All Airbus aircraft undergo wind tunnel testing in preparation for flight. In addition to aircraft, spacecraft and rockets also undergo wind tunnel testing.
During its testing, the E-Fan X was attached to the Filton low-speed wind tunnel, whose test section measures 3.65 x 3.05 metres. Giant fans expelled air at speeds of up to 216 mph. Small threads attached to the test model enabled engineers to analyse the movement of air from a variety of angles. At a 1:8 scale model, the E-Fan X was tested at a wingspan of over 3 metres.
“The E-Fan X is an aircraft demonstrator, so it’s not optimised for aerodynamic design,” says Oliver Family, Airbus Head of Overall Aircraft Design, E-Fan X. “But to fly the demonstrator safely and efficiently, the aerodynamics impacts need to be fully understood.”