Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Small Town, Big People: State-of-the-art technology tested on aircraft at Tehachapi Municipal Airport (KTSP)

Andrew Skow is seen here (white shirt, center) with customers who recently bought the water tunnel at the Tehachapi Municipal Airport.

Ever wonder how new aircraft designs are tested to see how they can be improved and where the most friction is found?

A team of aerodynamicists, engineers, mechanics and other highly-skilled technicians have helped build a more than half a million dollar piece of equipment called a water tunnel at the Tehachapi Municipal Airport.

It has been built to test aircraft models, with a main emphasis on fighter jets. The technology is used all through the development and design phases. 

With the help of a team at TMA, Andrew Skow, owner of Tiger Century Aircraft, has spent more than three months building and constructing a water tunnel. The structure weighs 35,000 pounds and has more than 5,000 gallons of water circulating to make the flow of water perfect.

Models of aircraft, consisting of mostly fighter jet samples, are each tested and observed in a glass tank. Once the flow of water is at a certain speed, by a computer controlled Servo-Controlled three-axis model support system, food coloring is released around the model.

The water flow is so precisely controlled that a solid smooth surface of water is observable. The 3 percent scale aircraft model can be adjusted to turn at various angles to see the full results of the test. The whole structure is also supported by steel framework.

“Engineers need to know what the flow is doing off the surface away from the body,” Skow said.

Skow, an aerodynamicist, has been designing water tunnels for more than 30 years and decided to start his own company in Tehachapi.

This is the first water tunnel built by Skow's company, even though he has designed for private companies. He has designed more than 70 water tunnels.

The water tunnels have helped increase the technology and design of the jet. Observers are able to see where the most turbulence and flow of energy is found. It will also show if the aircraft needs any changes to the design to increase speed.

“One of the advantages of the water tunnel is that you can try so many things," Skow added. “Every time you fail, you learn because in innovation there is trial and error."

Even though a recent model is sold, Skow hopes to build a sample model as a showcase and perform future tests on different aircraft. Skilled technicians involved in building aircraft at Tehachapi Municipal Airport made it possible to build the water tunnel in Tehachapi, and not out of state.

“It’s so unique and this prototype is very enjoyable,” mechanic Dean Sellars said.

Water tunnels designed by Skow have been sold around the world and purchased by aerospace companies, governmental agencies and universities including Singapore Technologies Aerospace, Rockwell International, the U.S. Air Force Academy, and others.

Story and photo gallery ➤ http://www.tehachapinews.com

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