RAE Bedford Wind Tunnel Site, Thurleigh, UK

Royal Aircraft Establishment RAE Bedford, Thurleigh

A former aircraft testing and development establishment where huge wind tunnels were used.

Visited October 2015  UK Thurleigh, Nr Bedford, UK Disused

The former RAF Thurleigh had been built in 1941 as a new RAF Station. Its first use was by No. 160 Squadron, forming on 15 January 1942, equipped with U.S.supplied B-24 Liberator bombers, known by in RAF service as the “Liberator II”. 160 Squadron trained and flew operational missions from Thurleigh until 5 July.

Following the Second World War, RAF Thurleigh became the second Royal Aircraft Establishment site and was renamed RAE Bedford. Two new runways were built in the post-war period to accommodate the Bristol Brabazon aircraft (which required a very long runway) that ultimately never went into production. A new control tower was opened in 1957. The airfield was decommissioned in 1994.

The site had several reasonably large wind tunnels, one supersonic and one large subsonic. It also had a ‘drop tower’, which is now used as a skydiving training venue. The 8ft x 8ft supersonic tunnel was dismantled in 2005.

A good description of the supersonic wind tunnel is available on the Open University website.

RAF Thurleigh Control Tower

We started off in the control tower of RAF Thurleigh. The rest of the base is now in use as car storage and repair workshops.

RAF Thurleigh - Control tower external
RAF Thurleigh – Control tower external
RAF Thurleigh - Inside the control tower
RAF Thurleigh – Inside the control tower

RAF Thurleigh - Staircase
RAF Thurleigh – Staircase
 
RAF Thurleigh - Line jack panel
RAF Thurleigh – Line jack panel

RAF Thurleigh - Room in control tower
RAF Thurleigh – Room in control tower

 

Royal Aircraft Establishment Wind Tunnels – Control Room

Next we moved on to the control room of RAE Bedford’s Wind Tunnels

RAE Bedford Control Room - Central station with control banks behind
RAE Bedford Control Room – Central station with control banks behind

RAE Bedford Control Room - Panels
RAE Bedford Control Room – Panels
 
RAE Bedford Control Room - Dials and gauges
RAE Bedford Control Room – Dials and gauges

RAE Bedford Control Room - Central Station
RAE Bedford Control Room – Central Station
RAE Bedford Control Room - The large control panels
RAE Bedford Control Room – The large control panels

 

Royal Aircraft Establishment Wind Tunnels – Wind Tunnels

The 8ft x 8ft supersonic wind tunnels themselves, and all equipment have long been removed, however the entry and exit points of the huge pipes are still clearly visible

RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels - Air pipe entry point
RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels – Air pipe entry point

RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels - Entry point
RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels – Entry point
 
RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels - Exit pipe
RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels – Exit pipe

RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels - Air portals
RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels – Air portals
RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels - Elevated view
RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels – Elevated view

RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels - The huge test space
RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels – The huge test space
 
RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels - Portals
RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels – Portals

RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels - Crane in side area
RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels – Crane in side area

RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels - Area to one side
RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels – Area to one side
 
RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels - Overview
RAE Bedford Wind Tunnels – Overview

 

Smaller wind tunnels control room

Finally we visited the control room of a smaller former wind tunnel set-up in another building.

RAE Bedford - Older control room
RAE Bedford – Older control room

RAE Bedford - Control desk
RAE Bedford – Control desk
 
RAE Bedford - Control panels
RAE Bedford – Control panels

Author: Andy Kay | Facebook | Flickr | Instagram

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