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ISU Researchers Could Reduce Flight Delays

AMES, Iowa (KCCI-TV) This winter's relentless storms have led to the highest number of flight cancellations in more than 25 years.

An Associated Press analysis of information provided by FlightAware finds that U.S. airlines have canceled more than 75,000 domestic flights since Dec. 1, including roughly 14,000 this week. That's more than 5 percent of the 1.35 million flights scheduled during that period.

Researchers at Iowa State University are looking for ways to make flying safer by studying how ice effects wings and engine parts.

Inside the ISU Icing Research Tunnel temperatures can drop to -20 degrees and the wind blows through at 60 to 220 mph. A nozzle sprays a fine mist into the wind that then collects on models used to test ice's effects.

As the big fans kick in, the refrigeration system kicks in to cool down the temperature to -20. That's when the tiny droplets of mist start forming ice on the object inside the tunnel being tested.

"Those are basically the same as the fog droplets that are suspended in the clouds," said Rye Waldman, a post doctoral research associate in the Aerospace Department.

The 20-year-old tunnel just underwent an update. It's one of just a few icing wind tunnels in the country.

"With this new tunnel, we will be able to do much more work that before we cannot do, said Hui Hu, an I.S.U. Aerospace Engineering professor.

It will help researchers better understand how icy changes how wings, blades and other parts work.

Iowa State received the tunnel three years ago, but they just got the icing feature working.

"If you can understand better what's happening then that can enable engineers to design something that can help deicing, make aircraft travel more safely, definitely will save the life of the passengers," said Hu.

 
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