One of the biggest challenges in the aerospace industry is design- ing for safety and meeting stringent FAA standards and testing. General
Electric (GE) takes its testing seriously.
So much so that the company uses what
looks like a jet-engine-sized death star. The
Sphere of Turbulence, or Turbulence Control
Structure (TCS), is essentially a honeycombed, high-tech wind shelter.
There are several components to GE’s
Peeples Test Operation that run a grueling
set of tests on engines, providing develop-
ment insight to the rigors that the machines
encounter during the design and develop-
ment process. Every year, GE burns through
a reported 10 million gallons of jet fuel sim-
ply to test engines.
GE exposes engines to hardships that are
far beyond anything encountered in nature.
A cell, one of which is a 40-foot tall concrete
box, is used to mount an engine from the
ceiling and allows engineers to throw anything that they can at it.
Snap acceleration, revving the engine
from zero to full throttle in one second, is
one of the many tests conducted in the cell.
With 20-inch thick walls, engineers test the
amount of force the engine puts on the
building and convert it to thrust.
The most aesthetically impressive testing
(and surely the most miserable of engi-
neering occupations) takes place at GE’s
Winnipeg, Canada facility, where engines
are put through testing in - 8°F
Seven fans, operating with
250 HP each, blow 2,800
pounds of cold air per second
at a suspended engine —
but that’s not the end of the
onslaught. The simulated wind
can reach speeds up to 60 mph, giving
the engine a proper gale-force experience.
Engineers then add thousands of gallons
of water via 125 high-pressure nozzles to
test the engine’s endurance to icing at both
idling and take-off speeds.
GE Aviation media relations, Matthew
Benvie explains, "The Canada facility was
originally established to handle jet engine
cold weather and ice testing, but GE invested
$2.5 million in the facility over the past year
to incorporate digital temperature-catching
equipment, turbulence control structures,
and a concrete base to allow the wind tunnel
to accommodate different types of testing."
GE uses the TCS to keep conditions and
airflow around a jet engine controlled, so
as to get precise measurements of fuel flow
and provide a sound testing environment
for compressor and turbine deterioration.
The Sphere itself is made up of 300 flat aluminum honeycombs and perforated stainless steel plates, spans 32 feet in diameter,
and weighs 30,000 pounds.
"In the simplest terms, it’s a wind shelter
Though the testing process for jet engines is rigorous and
can even be rudimentary at times, it is far from mundane.
Chris Fox, Managing Editor
General Electric's Sphere of Turbulence (left and below), or
Turbulence Control Structure (TCS) is made up of 300 flat
aluminum honeycombs and perforated stainless steel plates.
It spans 32 feet in diameter, and weighs 30,000 pounds.