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What is the Kirsten Wind Tunnel (aka UWAL, UW Aero Lab, KWT)?

The Kirsten Wind Tunnel is an 8 foot high by 12 foot wide subsonic wind tunnel located on the central Seattle campus of the University of Washington. UWAL (UW Aeronautical Laboratory) is the Auxiliary Enterprise that operates the KirstenWT. UWAL was established in the 1930's with the aim that commercial revenue-testing would sustain operations. Departmental research, teaching, and funded research, already happening at the AE Department's existing three wind tunnels, was taken to another level. Eligible engineering undergraduates could get work experience if hired for operations and computing shifts at UWAL, a policy that continues to this day. UWAL personnel can also support commercial tests utilizing other department facilities and equipment.


UWAL is part of the UW William E. Boeing Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (A&A). Your generous donations enhance undergraduates' hands-on learning at UW A&A. Consider making a donation to funds such as the James A. Weiberg Fund, Joseph F. Sutter Fund, or the AIAA Design-Build-Fly team. Click here.

Kirsten Wind Tunnel

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 the six-component external balance. We also support high channel count Electronic Pressure Scanning (EPS) systems..

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, UAV's, Bicycles, Motorcycles, Racing Yacht Keels



UW Dept. of Aeronautics and Astronautics Water Tunnel and 3X3 LSWT

UWAL can arrange for commercial testing using the department's 3X3 Low Speed Wind Tunnel ("3X3") in the historic Aerodynamics Laboratory (ADL) building. The 3X3 is ideal for testing 2-D models and small 3-D models up to speeds of 125 MPH. The test section of this open circuit LSWT has a square 3' x 3' cross-section that is 8 feet long. Customers need to supply their own instrumentation and mounting apparatus.

The 0.7m x 0.7m by 2.5m long Water Tunnel was removed from Guggenheim room 114 in August 2015. As of November 2016 it just got going again in the Harris Hydraulics Laboratory building, but it is unclear when it will be totally ready.

Other Related Websites:

University of Washington Department of Aeronautics & Astronautics

UW Resources for Business and Industry

College of Engineering Partnerships with Industry

Subsonic Aerodynamic Testing Association (SATA) Home Page