Despite summer, ice is on researchers’ minds

Paris Air Show » 2005
December 13, 2006, 11:13 AM

It may be nearly the first day of summer, but engineers from the National Research Council of Canada are in Paris this week with thoughts of winter on their minds–or at least the most well-known byproduct of winter: ice.

Sikorsky Aircraft recently hired the NRC to conduct icing tests for the S-76C++ helicopter, which will fly with new Turbomeca engines. To carry out the $1.7 million tests, the NRC’s aerospace research group added new icing capabilities to its propulsion wind tunnel to perform icing evaluations specific to engines and engine nacelles. The work was conducted from January until mid-March. Sikorsky will return to the facility in Ottawa this winter for more tests.

Sikorsky asked the NRC to do the S-76 icing tests last year after a decision was made to add a new 800-shp Turbomeca Arriel engine to the helicopter. Because of scheduling conflicts, the NRC had to modify a wind tunnel normally used for de-icing testing. A new spray system for ice cloud creation had to be added to the tunnel. The spray bar array consisted of 16 bars incorporating 500 spray nozzles. The NRC prefers to perform icing test in the winter because the major expense in such operations is refrigeration of the air. In Ottawa, Mother Nature provides adequate cold for four months of the year.

So successful were the Sikorsky icing tests that the NRC has decided to invest even more money in technology for proving engines and helicopter designs.

But instead of focusing solely on ice buildup, this new facility, planned for construction somewhere in northern Canada, will be used for virtually all inclement weather testing, including cold-soak and crosswind engine starts, thrust-reverser endurance, engine-nacelle design certification, cycle-life endurance and helicopter flight dynamics and acoustics. It will be able to accommodate the largest commercial aircraft engines.

The NRC is teaming with MDS Aero Support Corp. to build the facility, which should occur sometime in 2007. MDS Aero Support is an engineering-based organization that focuses on designing test facilities and test systems for aviation, industrial and marine gas turbine engines. Preliminary design work on the test facility has been completed and a new company owned jointly by several partners will operate it.

In other NRC news, the council said it has flight tested a prototype video-based automatic station keeping system that it says will allow search-and-rescue helicopters to lock onto a target and automatically maintain position over it. Working with Imago Machine Vision, a Canadian company that specializes in video tracking systems, the NRC created a system that links Imago’s tracking system with the fly-by-wire flight control system in the NRC’s Bell 412.

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