ASME-Landmark:McKinley Climatic Laboratory


Designed and constructed in the early 1940s, the McKinley Climatic Laboratory had an unequalled capacity to simulate a wide range of climatic conditions from arctic cold to jungle moisture. Data from tests of some three hundred different aircraft and over two thousand items of equipment has provided information vital to the performance, safety, and reliability of aircraft operating in extremes of weather.

Originally designed to contain two B-29s, the huge hangar can test aircraft in any operational condition, except flying. Projects have advanced not only climatic simulation and testing but also concepts for refrigeration and insulation, dedicated instrumentation for evaluating turbojet performance, and surveillance and control systems. Some of the tests conducted there include insulation tests on the space shuttle tiles, weather data collection from drifting oceanic buoys, deicing fluids for aircraft wings, electrical contacts under icing conditions, and arctic personnel survival. Ten chambers built in addition to the main hangar include a temperature and humidity room, salt-test room, and rooms for wind, rain, dust, desert, tropic, and jungle climates.

The Army had built Ladd Field at Fairbanks, Alaska, in 1940 as a cold-weather testing station. But rigorous testing soon proved difficult due to the unpredictability and erratic duration of cold periods. In the winter of 1942-43, the Army learned that even the usually efficient German Air Force could not get its planes into the air during sub-zero weather. Colonel Ashley C. McKinley, USAF, was the first to suggest that all U.S. aircraft should be able to operate -65 F and that a refrigerated hangar be built to test compliance. The first operational test was conducted May 1947. See ASME website for more information