Organization:Aircraft Research Association

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Aircraft Research Association
ARA Bedford
Aircraft Research Association is located in Bedfordshire
Aircraft Research Association
Location within Bedfordshire
General information
TypeEngineering research centre
Architectural styleWind tunnel
AddressBedford, MK41 7PF
Coordinates [ ⚑ ] 52°09′22″N 0°28′26″W / 52.156°N 0.474°W / 52.156; -0.474
Elevation70 m (230 ft)
Current tenantsARA
Construction startedSeptember 1953
CompletedApril 1956
Inaugurated4 May 1956
Design and construction
ArchitectLey Colbeck and Partners

The Aircraft Research Association (ARA) is an aerodynamics research institute in the north-west of Bedford.


The association was founded on 22 January 1952.[1] 14 main British aviation companies funded £1.25m to build a large wind tunnel.

It was first proposed in 1953 to build the site at Stevington, north-east of Bedford.[2] By March 1953, the current site was chosen.


Work started on Monday 7 September 1953.[3]

The wind tunnel was fabricated by Moreland Hayne of east London.[4]

The transonic tunnel first ran in April 1956. [5]


The Duke of Edinburgh visited on the morning of Friday 4 May 1956. He had been planning to land by helicopter in the south-east of Bedford, and to be driven from there to the site by car, but weather conditions were unsuitable.[6]


The site has the largest transonic wind tunnel in the UK, known as the TWT, with speeds up to Mach 1.4, powered by a Sulzer axial compressor. It is 25,000 hp electric-powered.

Wind tunnels

  • Supersonic tunnel, Mach 1.4 - 3.5, built in 1958

Two hypersonic tunnels

  • Mach 4-5 tunnel, built in 1965
  • Mach 7 tunnel, built in 1968


Projects worked on include Concorde, the Harrier and most Airbus aircraft.[7] The Rolls-Royce RB211 was tested there.[8]

The site now works with RUAG of Switzerland.

See also


  1. Companies House
  2. Bedfordshire Times and Independent Friday 27 February 1953, page 7
  3. Bedfordshire Times and Independent Friday 11 September 1953, page 7
  4. Times Monday 4 January 1954, page 3
  5. Times Tuesday 1 September 1959, page 22
  6. Times Saturday 5 May 1956, page 8
  7. Airbus wing development February 2002
  8. Derby Evening Telegraph Thursday 18 August 1988, page 48

External links