You may not have heard of McKinley Climate Laboratory (MCL) but has been around for 73 years conducting climate tests for the Department of Defense (DOD) and other organizations. It was actually part of the Army Air Corps when it first launched, as it had before the air force.
MCL can design any extreme weather conditions in its five climate test chambers. Its main camera is the largest climate camera in the world, which can accommodate any aircraft from the DOD inventory.
This camera can recreate climatic conditions that include low temperatures down to -65° F and high temperatures up to 165° F, “solar radiation, high and low humidity, wind, rain, sand, dust, snow, freezing rain, icing on the ground and in flight and highly corrosive environment of salt fog.”
The other four cameras have the same capabilities, although smaller. This facility is not reserved for the Air Force and is also used from the military, navy, marines, missile defense agency and even private companies like Ford and Google.
Ford uses it to test its trucks, while Google uses it for its Project Loon balloons.
An impressive use of MCL is for testing F-35B by F-35 Patuxent River Integrated Test Force in Maryland. He was brought to the facility in September 2014, where he stayed for six long months.
As the plane would be sent to 13 countries around the world, the Air Force had to ensure that it would cope with the weather conditions available in those areas. Places ranged from the extreme heat in the Australian outback to the freezing cold of the Arctic Circle.
“We designed an environment here, in the chamber, where we can simulate virtually any weather conditions – while flying the jet at full power in conventional or vertical take-off mode,” said in a statement at the time Dwayne Bell, technical director of the McKinley climate laboratory.