AFRL dedicates newest wind tunnel to beloved engineer

  • Published
  • By Johnathan Quinones and Whitney Wetsig
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Public Affairs
The Air Force Research Laboratory hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony for its newest wind tunnel facility, July 7, 2022, and dedicated it to Dr. Greg Parker, a beloved member of AFRL's Aerospace Systems Directorate, who died after a long battle with cancer. The Parker Subsonic Research Facility, or SuRF, is a low-speed wind tunnel used to evaluate prototype models including 3D-printed components.
Several AFRL leaders attended the ceremony including Chief Technologist Dr. Tim Bunning, Vice Commander Col. Joel Luker and Chief Master Sgt. Bill Fitch, AFRL Command Chief.  AFRL Commander Maj. Gen. Heather Pringle provided opening remarks.

“This facility honors an aerospace engineer who made valuable contributions to AFRL,” Pringle said. “The wind tunnel is going to advance aircraft designs that we see in our inventory years from now so the legacy of Dr. Greg Parker will be around for such a long time.”

Several members of Parker’s family attended the event including his father, uncle, son, daughter and wife, who called the facility a “wonderful gift.”
“This is truly an honor,” said Davilyn Parker, Greg Parker’s wife. “You have given us a way to see Greg from your point of view as a colleague, a coworker and a professional. You have shown us that he was respected, his work had value and that he made an impact.” 

Greg Parker, who worked for AFRL for 15 years, served active-duty Air Force for 20 years and retired as a major. He worked in test engineering for most of his career and was a senior engineer on AFRL’s wind tunnel team for six years. 
“[Greg] Parker was instrumental in bringing this facility to life,” said Dr. Michael Gregg, director of AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Directorate. “Today, the SuRF is available to support AFRL's demand for products, demonstrations and deliverables. It was designed to enrich AFRL core technical competencies especially in aerodynamics, aeroelasticity and rapid prototyping technology development in wind tunnel testing."
Completed in November 2021, SuRF reaches wind speeds up to 220 mph and enables researchers to “quickly test new and innovative design solutions at an extremely low risk to the facility,” said Larry Leny, AFRL aero validation branch chief. 
The wind tunnel accommodates all types of aerodynamic models including 3D-printed components and allows engineers to validate new aircraft designs. 
AFRL realized the need for this facility in 2015, and Greg Parker, chief engineer of the aero validation branch, advocated for funding and led the market research. AFRL facility engineers worked with 88th Air Base Wing civil engineers to design the tunnel, procure services and accomplish building modifications. 
“The Parker SuRF frees up resources that would otherwise be tied up unnecessarily in the bigger tunnels in working out some of the earlier stages of proof-of-concept ideas,” said Aaron Altman, technical adviser for the aerodynamic technology branch in AFRL’s Aerospace Systems Directorate.
While Parker died in 2019 before construction began, his colleague said he would be delighted to know the many ways in which scientists and engineers are leveraging the facility today to advance science and technology. 
“It is deeply invigorating to see the physical manifestation of [Greg] Parker’s vision, persistence and diligence come to fruition,” Altman said. “There are a multitude of uses for the tunnel that have scientists chomping at the bit to get into the wind tunnel and start testing.”