National Wind Tunnel Facility (NWTF)

  • Primary location: 17 tunnels available at seven UK Universities
  • Lead organisation: Imperial College London
  • Other Partners: Cranfield University, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, University of Glasgow, City University and University of Southampton
  • Summary of service: National Wind Tunnel Facility
  • Director(s): Prof Jonathan Morrison
  • Facility manager: Dr Kevin Gouder
  • Access Mechanism: Please follow guidance on the NWTF website
  • Performance metrics: See information below

Introduction, aims and objectives

The National Wind Tunnel Facility (NWTF) is a UK initiative aimed at ensuring that UK aerodynamics remains at the forefront of research worldwide. NWTF presently comprises seventeen wind tunnels around the UK that have recently received significant investment. The grant period runs for five years from January 1, 2014. NWTF is intended to be as inclusive as possible while still supporting the best science. Hence wind tunnels and accompanying equipment are expected to be open access for up to 25% of the time to other UK based researchers (as well as those from overseas) in both industry and academia.

Recognising that the UK has a world-class talent base, the decision to fund the NWTF was taken to match this talent base to world-class facilities. The paradigm shift provided by NWTF is expected to provide for an overall transformative benefit, establish a world-leading capability while being cost-effective and appealing to multiple sectors. The enhanced UK capability in experimental aerodynamics is available to all UK-based researchers and aims to create nodes of excellence attracting young researchers. The NWTF also aims to establish a closer tie with industry creating a pull-through environment and an intended spill-over of the collaboration and benefits to other sectors. 

The seventeen wind tunnels currently included in the NWTF are situated at seven institutions around the UK and are listed below. Detailed information about each tunnel and the accompanying equipment is found in the Facilities section on the NWTF website.

Institution Name Designation
Cambridge Supersonic Tunnels 1 & 2, (TS1, TS2) Transonic/supersonic; open return / blow down: two identical facilities 
City Transonic/Supersonic T5 Tunnel (TS3) Transonic / Supersonic closed return, induction driven
City Low Turbulence Wind Tunnel (LS1)  Low Speed closed return 
Cranfield Low Speed 8x6 Wind Tunnel (LS2) Low Speed closed return 
Cranfield Low Speed 8x4 Boundary Layer Wind Tunnel (LS3) Low Speed closed return 
Cranfield Low Speed Icing Tunnel (LS4) Low Speed closed return 
Glasgow Low Speed 9x7 Wind Tunnel (LS5) Low Speed closed return 
Imperial Low Speed 10x5 Low Speed Wind Tunnel (LS6) Low Speed closed return 
Imperial Supersonic Wind tunnel (TS4) Intermittent hybrid blow-down / suck-down arrangement
Imperial Hypersonic Gun tunnel (HS1) Hypersonic Intermittent impulsive facility
Oxford Hypersonic Gun tunnel (HS2) Hypersonic Intermittent blowdown
Oxford Low Density tunnel (HS3) Hypersonic rarefied flow
Oxford Low Density tunnel (HS4) Hypersonic Heated Ludweig tube
Southampton R.J. Mitchell Wind Tunnel (LS7) Low speed, closed return
Southampton Anechoic Wind Tunnel (LS8) Anechoic Wind Tunnel
Southampton Hydroscience Tank (LS9) Towing and wave tank

Governance of the NWTF

The NWTF has a Management Board (MB) that meets approximately every three months. This is composed of a Principal Investigator from each of the current host institutions and the NWTF Project Manager. The current MB members are Professor Holger Babinsky (University of Cambridge), Professor Chris Atkin (City University), Professor Kevin Garry (Cranfield University), Dr Richard Green (University of Glasgow), Professor Jonathan Morrison (Imperial College), Professor Peter Ireland (University of Oxford), Professor Bharathram Ganapathisubramani (University of Southampton) and Dr Kevin Gouder (NWTF Project Manager).

An Advisory Board (AB) oversees the broader aims of the NWTF, monitors the running of the NWTF and reviews progress versus Key Performance Indicators. The AB is composed of representatives from EPSRC, ATI, senior academics (from the UK and abroad), representatives from industry, an existing National Facility Manager and is chaired by an independent senior UK-based aerodynamicist. The current NWTF programme has a duration of five years. A mid-term review will review the progress made during the first two and a half years. 

Using a facility of the NWTF

Researchers interested in making use of one of the facilities listed in the table above (as well as the accompanying equipment - see the NWTF website), will be expected to open a dialogue with the NWTF personnel at an early stage of the formulation of a proposal to ensure that Facility capabilities are best matched to the proposer's research ideas. This is especially important for new users.

A Technical Annex (TA) (downloadable from the NWTF website) would need to be completed and sent to NWTF Project Manager Dr Kevin Gouder ( so that discussions with the Wind Tunnel Managers / Owners at the host institutions can start and the time, facility, equipment and support allocated accordingly (a copy of the TA is included at the end of this document too). A description of the proposed research needs to be completed in the TA and submitted with any supporting documentation deemed necessary. Completion of this TA will imply permission for user details to be stored in the NWTF and EPSRC's databases and to be used for mailing, accounting, reporting and other administrative purposes.

Visits to the Facility to discuss how to enable the technical and scientific aspirations of the user and to meet the personnel involved will normally be required. Potential Intellectual Property (IP) will be identified and recorded at this stage in an IP-register and plans put in place for appropriate protection. Where required, non-disclosure agreements will be offered to and signed with potential users. Note that the proposal is not assessed at this stage (this is the responsibility of the funding agency/research council) but the description would help in identifying the right facility, the right equipment and the right level of support required to make the proposed research succeed. EPSRC-funded proposals would be given top priority when it comes to agreeing usage of the wind tunnel and accompanying equipment. 

This is a summary of the procedures to use a facility of the NWTF

  1. Interested user/researcher contacts the NWTF Project Manager with a completed (as far as possible) Technical Annex. 
  2. Project Manager initiates contact with personnel at facility indicated by user. 
  3. Meeting/visit set up to discuss details, identify IP, complete TA, and the go-ahead given if both sides agree. 
  4. A decision on acceptance for the facility and equipment use is made. If appropriate, alternative wind tunnel facilities are also proposed. 
  5. Continuous interaction between Facility managers and user during proposal writing will take place (monitored by NWTF Project Manager). 
  6. Final resource request will be agreed, costed and recorded on a pro-forma for submission to EPSRC with proposal. 
  7. User requested to fill in Customer feedback form, (to be designed), on effectiveness of this important part of the interaction with User groups. 
  8. On being informed by EPSRC and the user that the proposal has been funded, a meeting is held at the facility between the user and the managers - timescales for the work and technical requirements are further discussed in detail and agreed upon. 

Key Performance Indicators 

Key Performance Indicators [“KPIs”] for the NWTF are measured by the Management Board (MB) on a quarterly basis and discussed at the MB Meeting. While it is the responsibility of the MB to aim at reaching and exceeding the KPIs, it is the responsibility of the Advisory Board (AB) to monitor, review and advise the MB versus the KPIs. The KPIs are: 

  1. The Number potential Users that have been in contact with the NWTF and the number of Users that actually made use of any of the facilities of the NWTF.
  2. The Uptime (or Downtime) of the NWTF facilities (wind tunnels) and accompanying equipment within the period.
  3. Number of extended Outages (> 3 weeks)
  4. The usage of each facility expressed as i) a percentage of the whole year and ii) a percentage of the Uptime.
  5. Number of User Complaints received during the period. This should be expressed as a percentage of the Total Number of User Approvals made within the period.
  6. Publications using data obtained using a facility of the NWTF and its equipment. 

Service Level Agreement (SLA)

The NWTF will operate a Service Level Agreement (SLA) according to the following:

  1. The time from receipt of the Technical Annex by the NWTF Project Manager to informing a User of receipt will be less than 3 days
  2. The time from receipt of the Technical Annex and a response from the indicated facility's managers will be less than 14 days
  3. The Facility will be operational and available for use for 70% of maximum possible operational time
  4. The NWTF will respond to all User enquiries clearly and quickly in line with the following timescales:
    1. To e-mail or fax enquires within 3 (three) working days
    2. To telephone enquiries within 2 (two) working days
    3. The NWTF will respond to user complaints within 10 (ten) working days
  5. The NWTF will treat all proposals equally and fairly
  6. The NWTF will treat all Users equally and fairly
  7. The NWTF will uphold high standards of integrity in all operations and in contact with Users