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Icing tests continue for Airbus A380 engine certification

ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, TENN -- The U.S. Air Force's Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC) is currently performing a series of icing tests on the Engine Alliance (EA) GP7200 engine for the Airbus A380 commercial airliner. The EA is a 50-50 joint venture between GE Aircraft Engines and Pratt & Whitney.
The prime objective for this particular test series is to get Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification for the engine to fly through typical clouds in different altitude conditions. The conditions vary from a ground cloud, such as fog, up to 20,000 feet where freezing conditions can present icing hazards.
The engine is placed in the center's Aeropropulsion Systems Testing Facility's C-2 test cell to simulate flying through the cloud conditions defined by the FAA. For the icing tests, 12 clouds are simulated. Water nozzles on a frame inside of the inlet ducting of the test facility spray water droplets to form a cloud to see if any ice will build on any areas of the engine.
The purpose of the test is to document how ice builds up on the engine. After the simulated cloud is completed, the engine is accelerated to shed the built up ice. Then the engine is shutdown and inspected to make sure there was no damage due to the ice.
"This type of testing is very difficult to do on an engine of this magnitude," said Aerospace Testing Alliance (ATA) Project Manager Jeff Dodd. "Every piece of machinery in the plant has to work correctly for this project to be successful. I have every confidence that we will be able to finish this program and provide the customer with the data needed for the engine to make it through certification."
In years past the engine would be installed on a plane and, when the weather conditions were correct, a specially modified Boeing 707 plane would fly in front spraying water on the engine.
This kind of testing did not produce the most accurate data to analyze. Other tests have been performed at sea level stands, but can only be conducted in the winter if the conditions are correct.
"This provides an advantage for AEDC because we can do the test anytime of the year," said ATA Project Engineer Tom Parrish.
ATA is the support contractor at AEDC.
The Airbus A380 is the largest commercial aircraft to date and will hold approximately 555 passengers. The GP7200 engine's first flight on an A380 is scheduled to take place later this year or early in 2006. The Rolls-Royce Trent 900, which has also been tested at AEDC, was used in the first flight of the A380 earlier this year.