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Fitting use is needed for piece of aviation heritage

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Letters

Deborah Singmaster's excellent article entitled 'Wings of Change' (AJ 15.11.01) is a timely reminder that the clock is ticking towards midnight for a group of unique historic buildings that have arguably been a part of the greatest contributions to technology in the past 100 years.

May I at this stage point out that the awesome transonic wind tunnel in R133, known as the '8x6ft', could only use scale models made of steel, wood and, later, composite materials, but handmade to the most stunning precision.

The primary purpose of the 8x6ft was to investigate the difficult aerodynamic problems associated with flight in the transonic speed range up to Mach1.25. Its unique capabilities enabled the most far-reaching developments in high-speed flight during and after the war including the slender delta wing - designed and developed at Farnborough - that resulted in the record-breaking Fairey Delta and subsequently the complex and beautiful wings which grace Concorde.

The highly successful WW2 P51 Mustang, the first aircraft to be constructed on mass production lines in the US, originated from models constructed in the 8x6ft for research into the phenomenon of compressibility, which had had such fatal consequences during early combats over Europe.

No similar facility now exists in Britain, necessitating the hire ofexpensive facilities abroad.

The immense technological importance of this wind tunnel, and its large infrastructure, immediately became apparent to the founders of FAST in 1993 when the necessary screen of secrecy was partially lifted and the MoD rationalised its research operations at Farnborough.

FAST, a small charity consisting of a group of ordinary individuals, has gained considerable recognition from its successful protection of these buildings and their priceless contents since then, amassing in the process the large collection of artefacts which have been classed as a Hampshire jewel and a national asset.

In the meantime, FAST has endeavoured to realise a vision for the regeneration of the 8x6ft into an exhibition and education facility to celebrate Farnborough's excellence in the fields of science and engineering research. Early scoping studies by Arup indicated a clear potential, but further progress was stalled when the site was sold prematurely to Slough Estates.

With the establishment of the DBA, and with Slough Estates' blessing, these studies can recommence. As Deborah Singmaster rightly points out, it is now that imagination, goodwill and vision are required if this priceless historical structure, and its neighbour the 24ft, is not to be destroyed for purely economic gain.

FAST is therefore appealing to all those with that imagination, goodwill and vision to help us find a fitting use for this priceless piece of our nation's aerospace heritage. If you feel you could help us please contact project leader Laurence Peskett on 01420 83830 or fax your details to him on 01420 543506.

DFM Gordon, founding trustee and former chairman, FAST

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