Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Aircraft engines are big business at Peeble's GE Testing Station

PEEBLES - The members of the staff at GE Peebles Test Station are not only optimistic about the future of the facility, they are downright enthusiastic about the seemingly endless flow of aircraft engines coming in.

"There are three types of work that is done here, production testing, development and overhaul," Tim Stentz, plant leader explained recently.

The production engines are new engines that come for testing to ensure that they meet the customer's requirements. Once the testing is done and any necessary adjustments are made, these engines are shipped straight from Peebles to the customer.

A portion of the staff is dedicated to development of new engines or parts, according to Stentz. Development is ongoing to meet regulatory requirements and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) standards. Certain tests are performed to ensure the design is "flight worthy."

Other engines are brought in from the field for overhaul work. After repairs are done, these engines undergo power assurance tests before being shipped back to the owner.

"On the production side, GE has received a record number of engine orders," Stentz said.

"For CFM International, the joint venture between GE Aviation and France's Snecma, 2011 was a record year with 1,500 orders for the CFM56 engine, which has seen over 1,000 orders per year since 2006. The GE Aviation facility in Peebles tests the CFM56 engine, and these orders mean long-term stability at the Peebles facility as well as gradual employment growth," Rick Kennedy, spokesperson of GE Aviation said in a press release in January.

The GE90 engine also experienced a record year in 2011, with airline and freighter operator commitments of 400 engines, surpassing the previous 2007 record of 250 commitments. This engine is a commercial jet engine, with 115,000 pounds of thrust, specifically designed for the Boeing 777.

All the GE90 engines are tested at the Peebles facility, while one-half of the CFM engines are tested here. The other half of the CFM engines are tested in France.

"The next generation of engines are being engineered on the development side (of the Peebles Test Station)," said Stentz. "Engines developed over the next five to 10 years will be used for the next 20 to 30 years. We are currently in the development stage of a number of engines. The GE9x will certify for service in 2018. There are three models of the LEAPx, which will replace the CFM engines. They will start certifying in 2015."

Along with the work at Peebles with commercial jet engines, a much smaller engine for six to eight passenger planes is now being tested. These engines are on site through a partnership with Honda Jet.

There are 10 indoor and outdoor test cells at the Peebles Test Station, located on a 7,000 acre tract of land at Peach Mountain. The tract is one of the largest privately owned nature preserves in Ohio, according to Stentz.

"GE takes great pride in its relationship with the environment," he said. "The creeks are regularly at pristine levels and are home to a variety of species of salamanders, fish and flora."

Production engines are typically at Peebles for two to five days, while engines under development are there for months. Delivered engines are picked up from the truck and taken by monorail into the test station. The tests are all computerized from running the engine to pulling data. The engines are checked for balance, comparable to balancing a tire on a car.

In the interest of the customer, the engines are checked for fuel consumption, operating temperatures, oil consumption, leaks and vibration. They are in the test cell for 10 to 12 hours, and run for about eight hours.

The indoor test stations have intake and exhaust vents. An engine will pull 8,000 pounds of air through the test cell. The test cells are built with acoustic treatment to lessen the impact on the test station's neighbors. In addition, the engines themselves have improved in sound abatement, according to Stentz.

In the outdoor cells, the engines are tested by creating ice storms, hail storms and cross winds. Things that engines may ingest while in flight, such as hail, ice slabs and birds, are pulled into them to check their reaction.

"We run many tests you will not see in other parts of the world," Stentz said. "Some tests have to eliminate the effects of nature to understand the nature of the engine, then add the effects of nature."

As a result of design and stringent testing, the GE90 has an in-flight shutdown rate of one in one million, and usually if it does shut down, the engine can be restarted in flight, according to Stentz.

After an engine successfully completes the tests, it is set on a trailer and shipped from Peebles to Boeing in Seattle, Wash. Special limitations apply to shipping the engines over the highways, according to Stentz, and they can't be shipped on weekends or holidays. The GE90 is too large to travel fully assembled, so the propulsor and the fan case are shipped separately.

Last year, 170 GE90s were shipped out of Peebles, and this year 180 will be shipped. The number is expected to be 225 by 2014, which amounts to 450 trips in and out of the facility by semi tractor-trailers carrying the 10-ton engines. Fuel trucks add to the traffic in and out of Jay Bird Road where the entrance to the Peebles Test Station is located.

Two phases of improvements to Jay Bird Road are underway. The first phase is to straighten a curve, and the second is to put in a turn lane on state Route 73.

"The improvements are necessary for driver safety," said Stentz.

In addition to truck traffic, the Peebles Test Station draws people into Adams County from around the world, most recently from Saudi Arabia and its neighbor, the United Arab Emirates.

"And they all come through Peebles," said Dane Clark, a manager at GE. "We host tours for GE's customers and partners. We have 150 tours a year with about 2,000 people going through the facility."

Each year the test station has a Family Day for extended family and friends of the employees to visit the facilities. Students from local schools are brought to the facility to help them develop an interest in looking for careers.

Currently the Peebles facility employs 275 people, which Stentz said would be increased to 310 this year and to 350 by 2014.

"Along with the successful sales of GE engines, we are really in a booming trend for employment," he said. "We pull from areas around our facility. We're always looking for technicians and engineers."

Generally, applicants need to have a bachelor of science degree in engineering - civil, electrical, general mechanical or aerospace. Shop positions require an associate degree, while shop floor positions require trade training.

Delegations of employees from Peebles have had the opportunity to travel around the world to visit other facilities in places such as Florida, Canada, France, Brazil, Wales and China.

The Peebles Employee Community Fund also gives thousands of dollars each year to local charities.

No comments:

Post a Comment