Celebrating 75 years of innovative flight research


The Flight Research Lab is turning 75!

Since it began operations in June 1946, the Flight Research Laboratory, part of the NRC's Aerospace Research Centre, has been at the forefront of groundbreaking research tackling the most pressing challenges facing the aerospace industry. From conducting research in aerodynamics and propulsion, to icing, flight control and airborne sensing, the lab has taken aeronautical research from the ground into the air.

Building on 7 decades of innovative research, the lab has been a valuable asset to the Government of Canada, national and international industry partners, universities, and research and technology organizations, remaining committed to paving the way to a better future for the Canadian aerospace industry.

Research over the years

A history of flight-research innovation

The NRC's research into flight mechanics and avionics has led to countless successes in building better airplanes and improving flight safety.

Enhancing the air travel experience

Improving passenger health, safety and comfort is at the forefront of the research conducted at the lab's Centre for Air Travel Research facility.

Paving the way to flying green

The 21th century: the quest to address environmental challenges and revolutionizing the aviation ecosystem.

Our fleet

Our team of experts has been using the lab's fleet of aircraft to pioneer interdisciplinary airborne research for decades in the fields of atmospheric research, cloud physics, icing research and development, and near‑Earth and remote sensing. We also have expertise in aircraft dynamic modelling and flight control, human factors, unmanned aerial vehicles and green aviation. The lab's multiple full ‑scale aircraft ‑based experimentation supports various research applications and pilot education and certification.

Our partners

Royal Canadian Air Force – 75 years of collaboration

Lt Gen Al Meinzinger, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force with Ibrahim Yimer, Director General of the Aerospace Research Centre
Lt Gen Al Meinzinger, Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force with Ibrahim Yimer, Director General of the Aerospace Research Centre.

Established at the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) station in Arnprior, Ontario in 1946, the lab was originally part of the former NRC Division of Mechanical Engineering. At that time, research activities were under the direction of the NRC, while the RCAF provided flight, aircraft and maintenance personnel. The goal was to accommodate trained flight ‑research personnel and equipment to conduct fundamental research without the interference of normal air traffic. Three wind tunnels provided exceptional facilities to study the performance of full ‑scale aircraft in flight. In 1953, the lab moved to its current location next to the Ottawa Macdonald ‑Cartier International Airport.

Collaborating with other government departments, Canadian industry and universities

Astronaut trainees aboard the NRC's Falcon 20 microgravity research aircraft.
Astronaut trainees aboard the NRC's Falcon 20 microgravity research aircraft.

Since the 1990s, the lab has been conducting atmospheric science investigations using advanced sensors and techniques to help researchers in Canada and around the world understand weather phenomena and climate change, and to improve weather forecasting. Collaborators in these studies have included Environment and Climate Change Canada, Transport Canada, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Federal Aviation Administration, the European Space Agency and Canadian universities.

The lab also supports Canadian industry and academic research in microgravity research. Post ‑secondary students from across Canada get a helping hand to explore their aerospace research skills as part of annual competition run by Students for the Exploration and Development of Space in collaboration with the NRC and the Canadian Space Agency.

Sharing expertise across the Aerospace Research Centre

The Flight Research Lab team of experts works closely with the 4 other laboratories within the Aerospace Research Centre that specialize in aerodynamics, structures and material performance, manufacturing technologies and propulsion to enable the Canadian aerospace industry to grow and sustain its position in the global market. For example, the Gas Turbine Lab enabled collaboration between government departments and industrial partners to carry out the world's first 100% biofuel flight, conducted in 2012. This research included the measurement of airborne emissions, which is one of the many highly specialized and unique research capabilities at the NRC.

Recent accomplishments