An innovative modular airplane configuration has been developed for use in small-scale educational wind tunnels. The “airplane” consists of an interchangeable wing and horizontal tail configuration that mounts on a conventional wind tunnel electronic balance (“sting”) to facilitate measurements of normal force, axial force and longitudinal pitching moment. From these basic parameters, the total lift, total drag, and resultant airplane pitching moment can be deduced, along with the location of the aerodynamic center of the total airplane. Using known wing planform and airfoil shapes facilitates comparison of the total airplane aerodynamic characteristics with those predicted from the known characteristics of the separate wing and horizontal tail. In particular, the aerodynamic center of the simplified airplane configuration can be determined, along with the effect that downwash on the tail has on longitudinal stability of the airplane. Included in the paper is a description of the calibration procedure for the modular “sting” mount. This procedure accounts for an offset “line of action” for aerodynamic forces, as well as offset center of gravity effects. In conjunction with this same test setup, an available Rapid Prototyping system has been used to manufacture the test sections (separate wing and tail) for use in the wind tunnel, and in particular, in the modular wing-tail assembly. This provides tremendous flexibility in the types of wing-tail assemblies that can be investigated experimentally using the same module. The relatively inexpensive prototyping procedure also provides the capability for students to design and test their own configurations. Furthermore, the precision manufacturing capability of the Rapid Prototyping system guarantees reliable reproduction of virtually any desired aerodynamic planform and airfoil shape.

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