Boeing pledged $18 million to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), becoming the lead donor in the replacement of the 79-year-old Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel. Terms of the Boeing pledge were not disclosed.

“The new Wright Brothers Wind Tunnel will present MIT with a state-of-the-art research and teaching tool for many years to come,” says AeroAstro department head Jaime Peraire. “We greatly appreciate Boeing’s generosity and commitment to future generations of aerospace engineers and their research.”

The new tunnel will be constructed on the same site of the current one, which is being dismantled. It will feature a variety of improves including:

  • permit increased test speeds, from the current 150 miles per hour to 200 miles per hour
  • greatly improve research data acquisition
  • halve the power requirements of the original 2,000 horsepower fan motor
  • increase test section volume from 850 cubic feet to 1,600 cubic feet, and test section area from 57 square feet to 80 square feet
  • improve ability to test autonomous vehicles, or drones, and aerodynamic components including wings, bodies, and wind turbines; and
  • enable new MIT classes in advanced aerodynamics and fluid mechanics
Finished in 1938, the wind tunnel was used to design military aircrafts during World War II. In the time since it’s provided a home for the design of commercial planes, space suits, wind turbines and more. Now, it features an inefficient drive system and controls in desperate need of renovation.

"In our first 100 years, Boeing has collaborated with MIT in many ways to give rise to the aerospace industry, and then disrupt it with big ideas and innovative applications of new technologies," Hyslop said. "Today's agreement is a big step in continuing our strong relationship to further stretch, disrupt and grow our industry. Together we will continue to change the world."

It is expected the project will be completed in 2020.