Professor Richard George James Flay

BE(Hons), PhD (Mech Eng)


Professor Flay joined the Mechanical Engineering Department in 1984 as a senior lecturer, and he has been professor of Mechanical Engineering since 2000. His main teaching areas are fluid mechanics, thermodynamics, aerodynamics, design and wind engineering.

His research interests are focused on the wind, and he has consulted and researched in the areas of wind engineering, wind energy, wind tunnel design, wind tunnel testing. A highlight was his design of the world’s first wind tunnel capable of producing twisted flow for testing yacht sails. This wind tunnel was used by Team New Zealand, and helped them win the America’s Cup in 1995 and to successfully defend it in 2000. More recently he has advised on the design of wind tunnels in Hong Kong, Australia, India and New Zealand.

Professor Flay is Director of the Yacht Research Unit, which has a superb international reputation, and carried out a large proportion of the world’s wind tunnel testing of yacht sails. In 2014 the Yacht Research Unit moved to the University's Newmarket Campus, where it is co-located with the Aerodynamics Laboratory in the Wind Tunnel Hall, Building 901, Level 5. A closed circuit wind tunnel suitable for a wide range of aerodynamic investigations, with a test section 3.6 m wide and 2.5 m high was designed and built in-house, completed in June 2015. It has expanded the capability of the Yacht Research Unit and the Wind Engineering Group, and we are undertaking exciting research on wind excitation of buildings, roofs, and other structures and we have developed new instrumentation to measure the wind environment around buildings for human comfort information. A special sensitive balance in the new wind tunnel is available to measure the drag of cyclists and skiers, and we also carried out wind tunnel tests on the Cyclors on the Emirates Team New Zealand catamaran that won the America's Cup in 2017.

Professor Flay's current research interests include generating artificial buoyancy vortices for carbon neutral power generation, and studying New Zealand's increasing wind hazard from climate change.

Research | Current

  • Buoyancy vortices for carbon neutral power generation
  • Wind Engineering and the Wind Hazard
  • Advanced Wind Tunnel Testing Techniques
  • Performance of ancient Polynesian sailing vessels

Research groups

Teaching | Current

  • MECHENG 712 - Aerohydrodynamics
  • MECHENG 731 - Engineering Design 4M
  • MECHENG 714 - Wind Engineering

Postgraduate supervision

Amir Ali Safaei Pirooz, PhD

Neil Hawkes, PhD

Theresa Bischof, PhD

Mohammad Mahdi Salehinejad, PhD

Zhenhua Jiang, PhD

Shaobo Qi (CSC), PhD

Liu Zhao (CSC), PhD

Jialing Song (CSC), PhD

Sheng Chen (CSC), PhD

Ximeng Kang (CSC), MEng


  • Angus Award, Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (twice)
  • Medal of Exceptional Merit, Royal Institution of Naval Architects (2011)
  • Medal of Distinction, Royal Institution of Naval Architects (2012)
  • Guest Professor, Tokyo Polytechnic University Global Centre of Excellence (2008 - 2012)
  • Invited New Zealand representative at the Workshops on Regional Harmonization of Wind Loading and Wind Environmental Specifications in Asia-Pacific Economies (APEC-WW) (2004 - 2012)
  • President, Royal Institution of Naval Architects New Zealand Division (2016 - 2018)
  • Chair, 9th Asia-Pacific Conference on Wind Engineering, Auckland, 2017
  • Marsden Grant recipient (2019 - 2022)
  • Guest Professor, Central South University, Changsha, China (2018 - 2023)



  • Director, Yacht Research Unit
  • Academic in charge, Aerodynamics Laboratory

Areas of expertise

  • Wind Engineering
  • Wind Hazard
  • Yacht Engineering
  • Wind Tunnel Testing
  • Pedestrian Level Wind Investigations
  • Aerodynamics
  • Fluid Mechanics
  • Buoyancy Vortices

Committees/Professional groups/Services

Professional affiliations

  • FIMechE
  • President RINA(NZ) 2016 - 2018
  • Chair, 9th Asia-Pacific Conference on Wind Engineering, Auckland 2017

Selected publications and creative works (Research Outputs)

As of 29 October 2020 there will be no automatic updating of 'selected publications and creative works' from Research Outputs. Please continue to keep your Research Outputs profile up to date.
  • Song, J.-L., Li, J.-W., & Flay, R. G. J. (2020). Field measurements and wind tunnel investigation of wind characteristics at a bridge site in a Y-shaped valley. JOURNAL OF WIND ENGINEERING AND INDUSTRIAL AERODYNAMICS, 20210.1016/j.jweia.2020.104199
  • Qi, S., Zhi, X., Fan, F., & Flay, R. G. J. (2020). Propagation behaviour of a hemispherical blast wave on a dome roof. ENGINEERING STRUCTURES, 21210.1016/j.engstruct.2020.110524
  • Qi, S., Zhi, X., Shao, Q., Fan, F., & Flay, R. G. J. (2020). Structural performance of single-layer reticulated domes under blast loading. THIN-WALLED STRUCTURES, 14910.1016/j.tws.2019.106538
  • Minola, L., Zhang, F., Azorin-Molina, C., Safaei Pirooz, A. A., Flay, R. G. J., Hersbach, H., & Chen, D. (2020). Near-surface mean and gust wind speeds in ERA5 across Sweden: towards an improved gust parametrization. Climate Dynamics, online first10.1007/s00382-020-05302-6
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Amir Pirooz
  • Flay, R. G. J., King, A. B., Revell, M., Carpenter, P., Turner, R., Cenek, P., & Pirooz, A. A. S. (2019). Wind speed measurements and predictions over Belmont Hill, Wellington, New Zealand. JOURNAL OF WIND ENGINEERING AND INDUSTRIAL AERODYNAMICS, 19510.1016/j.jweia.2019.104018
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Amir Pirooz
  • Safaei Pirooz, A. A., & Flay, R. G. J. (2019). Effects of a solid tower and urban area on measured wind data: numerical and wind-tunnel simulations. Paper presented at The 15th International Conference on Wind Engineering, Beijing, China. 1 September - 6 September 2019. (pp. 9).
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Amir Pirooz
  • Cenek, P. D., Carpenter, P., Jamieson, N. J., Turner, R., Mullan, B., Revell, M., ... Safaei Pirooz, A. A. (2019). Improvements to the New Zealand component of the wind loadings standard AS/NZS 1170.2. SESOC Journal : Journal of the N.Z. Structural Engineering Society, 32 (2), 37-41. Related URL.
    Other University of Auckland co-authors: Amir Pirooz
  • Liu, Z., Zheng, C., Wu, Y., Flay, R. G. J., & Zhang, K. (2019). Investigation on the effects of twisted wind flow on the wind loads on a square section megatall building. JOURNAL OF WIND ENGINEERING AND INDUSTRIAL AERODYNAMICS, 191, 127-142. 10.1016/j.jweia.2019.06.003


Contact details

Primary office location

BUILDING 902 - Bldg 902
Level 4, Room 409
New Zealand

Web links