Propulsion-focused research at Virginia Tech began in the early 1970’s, with founding faculty members Henry Wood, Joseph Schetz, Hal Moses, and Walter O’Brien.
In the 1970’s, Randolph Hall housed a supersonic wind tunnel. The Turbomachinery and Propulsion Research Laboratory (TurboLab) at the Virginia Tech airport began research operations in the late 1970’s and was led by Prof. O'Brien until his retirement in 2019. Turbine engines used for research in the TurboLab included T-64, F109, and JT15D-1. Now, PT-6A and TFE731 engines have been added.
The Advanced Propulsion and Power Laboratory (APPL) facility opened in 2015, adding additional capability to one of the largest propulsion-related research activities in the United States. TurboLab soon began doing cooperative projects with the APPL and became a lab fully under the APPL umbrella in 2020.
Sponsors for past research have included Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, Honeywell, Air Force Research Laboratory, NASA, Naval Air Systems Command, Prime Photonics, Techsburg, and many others. Projects for these sponsors have included turbine engine performance, turbine engine inlet distortion, StreamVane™ distortion generators, flow measurement diagnostics, and non-intrusive flow measurement.
The legacy of TurboLab lives on at Virginia Tech and through a network of alumni who have made many impacts through careers in industry, government, and academia. The new chapter of TurboLab under the APPL umbrella builds upon the culture of research excellence established by the poineers of propulsion research at VT some 50 years ago.