AEDC takes control of California facility

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

The U.S. Air Force Arnold Engineering Development Center has agreed to take over a NASA-owned aerodynamics complex in California which specializes in testing of helicopters; this will become AEDC's second remote location.

AEDC and the Air Force have signed a lease with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to reopen the National Full-Scale Aerodynamics Complex (NFAC) located at NASA's Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, Calif. NASA closed NFAC in 2003 due to budget pressures.

Under the terms of a 25-year lease, NASA will retain ownership of the facility while AEDC operates it. NASA will provide general support services such as building maintenance, fire protection, and security, as well as some technical support if needed.

The value of the lease is estimated to be between $2 million and $4 million per year, depending on the workload and services required. The initial term of the lease is six months, with a following 4 1/2-year primary term. The lease may be extended for four additional five-year terms.

AEDC will operate the facility as a separate location, reporting directly to the AEDC commander at Arnold Air Force Base. AEDC has operated its Hypervelocity Tunnel 9 in Silver Spring, Md., under the same arrangement for the last decade. AEDC's main facility is located in Franklin and Coffee counties, and employs many Bedford County residents.

AEDC Operating Location 2 will be led by Col. Vince Albert, a former AEDC vice commander. The U.S. Army, which is the facility's primary testing customer, will provide a civilian deputy. An initial contractor work force of 30 personnel will reactivate the facility.

Congress authorized $5 million in fiscal year 2005 and $14 million in fiscal year 2006 to reopen NFAC. Significant work is in progress to install a functional instrumentation system and return NFAC systems to service. Limited operational capability may be achieved by this fall, depending on how much maintenance and repair is required. Full operational capability is expected by summer 2007.

"We are very pleased that the NFAC will be re-opening," said Dr. Lisa Porter, associate director of NASA's Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate. "This facility is a national asset of critical importance for aeronautics research, particularly rotorcraft research, and we intend to collaborate with the U.S. Army in rotorcraft research in the coming years."

NFAC was built in 1944 to support research in aerodynamics, structural dynamics and acoustics. Research at NFAC will involve using critical components (especially rotor blades) and, on occasion, full-size aircraft, to focus on the aerodynamic characteristics of new configurations with an emphasis on validating design estimates.

NFAC has two test sections. One test section is 40 feet high by 80 feet wide and is capable of obtaining velocities up to 250 knots. The other test section is 80 feet wide by 120 feet high and is capable of obtaining velocities up to 80 knots.