ABB is to supply the variable speed drive system to power the giant fan that generates subsonic wind speeds at Boeing’s flagship wind tunnel in Philadelphia. ABB has supplied similar drive systems for wind tunnels operated by NASA and the US Air Force.

Boeing has selected an ABB ACS 5000 variable speed drive system for its Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing Wind Tunnel (BVWT V/STOL) in Philadelphia in the US.

The 14MW ACS 5000 drive and 18,800hp synchronous motor will power the enormous fan and fan blades that create wind speeds of up to 235 knots (435km/h) for testing aircraft models in the wind tunnel. Hundreds of pressure sensors are embedded in the models to measure aerodynamic performance during takeoff and landing.

The ACS 5000 variable speed drive system enables Boeing to run the fan in adjustable speed mode or at constant speed, depending on the protocols and parameters of each test.

The 0.4km wind tunnel contains 42 tonnes of air, which can be accelerated to 235 knots when squeezed through the 20-by-20-foot test section.

The drive system replaces a vintage ABB variable speed drive system from 1968, and is part of an overall upgrade of the wind tunnel to turn it into one of the best test facilities in the world for obtaining aerodynamic performance data.