Wind tunnels are very expensive research facilities which are critical to the development of the new aerospace components and configurations vital to keeping the aircraft industry competitive.
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The cost of research into more advanced testing techniques is also onerous and, while the various wind tunnel operators across Europe are competitors, they can benefit from close collaboration and the joint development of new techniques and services.
A European Union (EU)-funded project to integrate and strengthen the cooperation in aeronautics has resulted in the creation of the European Windtunnel Association (EWA). Launched in 2004 EWA is a Europe-wide Network of Excellence that brings together the skills and research capacities of 14 organisations from eight European countries including three major industrial players, three commercial wind tunnel operators and leading research and training organisations.
Over a period of five years, EWA was funded under the EU's Sixth Framework Programme (FP6) and set out to integrate and strengthen European aerospace research by building long-term relationships between the major European wind tunnels facilities and the developers of advanced aerospace measuring technologies. Such close collaboration, it was recognised, would offer direct technical and scientific synergy and improve the competitiveness of all associated partners.
Through the EWA a variety of technical testing issues were harmonised. For example some of the measuring techniques used by different wind tunnel experts were compared and the best one selected as a shared standard.
The benefits achieved through the co-operative activities have been disseminated to industrial end-users inside and outside of the association through the exchange of personnel, workshops, presentations and demonstration activities.
The EWA established an extensive knowledge base which is now accessible via its website. This contains, for example, the specifications of the wind tunnel facilities of the various EWA partners.
To continue the collaboration of the EWA project a new trade association was launched to which many of the consortium members have joined.
EWA member Professor Georg Eitelberg of DNW (German-Dutch Wind Tunnels) commented: "The goal of EWA has been to provide the global community with advanced testing capacity in order to meet the technological challenges faced by the entire aeronautical world."
"EWA has also enabled researchers to bring new experimental techniques into operation in industrial wind tunnels much faster than in the past and offer the industry an extended range of services and potential cost efficiency. European wind tunnels can now serve researchers and engineers more effectively, especially those involved in the design of next generation of greener and quieter aircraft."