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Mon, Mar 08, 2004

The Only Airborne Jet Engine Lab In Aviation

California Test Facility Sends "Motherlode" Of Data Back To GE In Ohio

What was it Grandma used to tell us? If you want something done right, do it yourself. That seems to be the philosophy that drives GE's jet engine operation. Unlike rivals Pratt & Whitney and Rolls Royce, GE flies its own test bed over the California desert, determined to see firsthand the results of its experimental work.

"Doing our own flight testing cuts out any interference," said GE's Plant Leader John Hardell, in an interview with the Desert News. His operation is based at Southern California Logistics Airport in Victorvile. His flying laboratory is a Boeing 747 -- one of the first built for now-defunct Pan Am back in 1970.

Thursday, the graceful 747 looked something less than its usual self as it flew over Edwards AFB (CA). Mounted on its wings were three Pratt JT9 engines and GE's newest experimental engine, a C-34. Among the tests performed was an airstart of the experimental engine. The turbofan was shut down at 21,000 feet and restarted at 5,000 MSL.

Other operations at SCLA included tweaking the C-34's FADEC and monitoring performance with 96 racks of engineering equipment in the aircraft's coach section.

Four hours after taking off on its successful flight, the 747 test bed rested again on the tarmac under the brilliant desert sun. The data will be taken back to GE headquarters in Ohio for analysis and the aircraft will next be fitted with a much more powerful test engine -- the GP-7200. It's a co-venture between GE and its chief rival, Pratt & Whitney.

That experience, says Hardell, "will be something really different." The GP-7200 will be even more powerful than the GE-90, a 10-foot tall powerplant that put out 115,000 pounds of thrust.

"We quite by accident found out that we could turn the nosegear 90 degrees and the 90 would still drive the aircraft forward on the runway," Hardell told the Desert News. Now, that's some kinda power.

FMI: www.geae.com

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