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Video - Gustave Eiffel’s wind tunnel in Paris, still in use

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The 16th arrondissement of Paris is best known more for its mansions than for its industrial production facilities. Yet it has been home for over a hundred years to a piece of aviation history : Gustave Eiffel’s wind tunnel, classified as a historic monument in 1983.

In 1912 the 79 year-old engineer, noted for the construction of the famous tower, pursued his research into aerodynamics, and for which he built a wind tunnel to conduct his experiments.

Benoit Blanchard, Director of the Eiffel wind tunnel 

" Behind me is a a two metre (6,5 feet) diameter fan which can produce a 100km/h (60 mph) wind. In this tunnel we carry out aerodynamic tests on anything that is subject to wind forces when moving through air."

Built on the eve of the First World War, the wind tunnel was used initially to test the first aircraft, such as the Paulhan-Tatin Aero Torpedo. At that time it was at the cutting edge of technology, but as ‘planes became faster, and faster, in the twentieth century, the wind tunnel could not cope, and so had to be converted.

Benoit Blanchard, Director of the Eiffel wind tunnel

"It’s a tool that Gustave Eiffel designed very intelligently for the world of aviation, but was also, at that time, already being looked at by other industries that were interested in aerodynamics, such as those of automobiles and building construction. He made a wind tunnel that, even today, is still modern enough to be interesting and competitive in many areas concerned with aerodynamics."

Models of cars, buildings or even boats are tested here in this tunnel for their wind resistance properties.

A sign of the times, in 2001, the wind tunnel was transfered from the hands of the Association of French Aerospace Industries (GIFAS) to those of the Building Science and Technical  Centre. However, aviation has not completely deserted the premises ; every year aeronautical engineering students come here to study the construction of tomorrow's aircraft.

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