Construction of GE’s latest engine test cell was recently completed at James A. Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The massive structure will specialize in testing the capability of turbine engines to keep running when flying through icy clouds, and will also be used for performance and endurance, bird ingestion-, ice crystal- and mixed-phase testing on a variety of engines.
The Testing, Research and Development Center (TRDC) was developed under a partnership between GE Aviation and StandardAero, and certification for icing tests was received from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration at the beginning of this month.
The cell replaces GE’s test cell at Mirabel International Airport in Montreal. That was opened in 2006, but in July 2010 airport authorities told GE the cell had to be moved. With the projected cost of building a new concrete pad being enormous, GE took the opportunity, with StandardAero, to find a site with a longer season of suitably cold weather. The critical icing tests for aero engines require outside temperatures of -4- and -20-deg C. Winnipeg was the natural choice, with 1,400 StandardAero employees already based in the city. The company has a 10-year contract to run the cell.
The TRDC’s axial translating wind tunnel is equipped with seven fans driven by 250-hp variable frequency motors that spin up the winds needed to run the engine tests. At full power, the fans draw 2mw, which is now provided by a bank of diesel generators, but in the future will come from cheaper electricity from Manitoba Hydro, another advantage for the Winnipeg site.
With the size of the largest turbine engines creeping up to well over the 100,000-pound level, GE also needed a facility large enough to handle the biggest engines imagined. The Winnipeg TRDC was therefore built for a maximum capacity of 150,000 pounds of thrust and engines up to 150-inch diameter.
Sixty-five cement mixers worth of concrete were required to fill the thrust stand foundation, which has to be able to cope with a blade-out test on a GEnx or larger engine. The 45- by 50-foot concrete foundation is six feet thick, and is strengthened further by 45 five-foot diameter caissons dug more than 30 feet into the earth.
The TRDC cost $50 million to build and has running costs of about $1 million a month. It was finished in time to take advantage of the rest of the winter 2012 icing season, and the first engine hung on the test stand was a GEnx-1B.
“The new icing testing, research and development center will expand GE’s testing capacity and allow us to meet our commitments to customers,” said Kevin Kanter, GE Aviation executive director of design and systems integration.