NIAR to open larger aircraft testing facility by year end

Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research (NIAR) will begin testing aircraft components in the former Britt Brown Arena at the Kansas Coliseum. When complete, the facility will include 100,000 sq-ft of laboratory space with a clear span of more than 240 ft.

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Wichita State University’s (WSU) National Institute for Aviation Research (Wichita, Kan., USA) reports that it will begin testing aircraft components in the former Britt Brown Arena at the Kansas Coliseum by year end. WSU officials and developer Johnny Stevens signed a 10-year lease agreement that will allow NIAR to remodel the arena, which formerly seated 10,000 spectators for events including concerts, professional wrestling, college basketball and professional hockey. The lease includes three five-year options.

"Securing the Britt Brown Arena for NIAR is a tremendous opportunity for Wichita State and our community,” says interim provost and professor Keith Pickus. “Not only will NIAR be able to enhance its research and testing capacities, but WSU's presence in the former Coliseum ensures the continued viability of an important community investment."

The newly remodeled facility will house NIAR’s Aircraft Structural Testing and Evaluation Center, most of which is located at Hawker Beechcraft’s Plant 1. The move will allow the rapidly growing laboratories the space to expand and take on more work. When remodeling work is complete, the former arena will include approximately 100,000 ft2/9,290m2 of laboratory space and 30,000 ft2/2,787m2 of office space on two levels with client observation and work areas and a 30-by-70 ft (9.1 by 21.3m) hangar door.

“NIAR anticipates full occupancy by the year end, with limited occupancy prior to that,” says NIAR executive director John Tomblin. “We will more than double the amount of current full-scale structural testing space that exists now and greatly expand the ability to test larger aircraft."

The facility has a clearance height of 48 ft/14.6m and clear span of more than 240 ft/73.1m. This will allow testing and research on aircraft including unmanned aerial vehicles, business jets, commercial aircraft and military aircraft. NIAR’s Full-Scale Structural Test Lab tests full-size aircraft parts such as fuselage sections, cockpits, wings and stabilizers before they go into production.