From a concept to a reality in under two years, the Global Aerospace Centre for Icing and Environmental Research (GLACIER) showed itself off with a grand opening and open house last week.
Representatives of the federal, provincial and municipal governments, as well as Rolls-Royce Canada, Pratt & Whitney Canada, the National Research Council of Canada, and MDS AeroTest were on hand for the grand opening of the facility, held Oct. 29. GLACIER was then opened to the public for an open house the following day.
“It is immensely gratifying to be here with many of the men and women who conceived, designed, fabricated and assembled this unbelievable test facility,” said Peter Bjornson, provincial minister of entrepreneurship, training and trade. “The GLACIER test facility in Thompson reinforces Manitoba’s reputation as a global aerospace centre, and strengthens Thompson’s importance as an international cold-weather test centre.”
“This is a very special project to me,” said Lynn Yelich, federal minister of state for western economic diversification. “When I first became minister, my first visit was to Manitoba. This was one of the very first files on my desk, and I said it’s got everything you’d want – it’s got innovation, it’s got the North, it’s got cold weather.”
“This project is a game-changer for the North,” she continued. “Engine-makers rely on facilities like this to certify that engines are safe for use.”
“I’m very pleased to be here today,” offered Mayor Tim Johnston, in a line that got wide and amused applause two days after his narrow re-election win over Ron Matechuk. “This community is excited about what’s happening here. It’s amazing to see what’s taken place on this site. I want to acknowledge the commitment and partnership of industry and government to make it happen. What you’re seeing today is an example of how, when we take the best and the brightest ideas, we can make something truly remarkable happen.”
GLACIER, located near Ospwagan Lake south of Thompson, is a state-of-the-art jet engine testing facility. It is being called the most advanced such facility in the world. The facility is actually composed of two different sites – the mammoth five-storey structure where the testing takes place, as well as a building two kilometres closer to the highway, which houses offices as well as the control room from which test results are monitored and analyzed.
Rolls-Royce and – before long – other jet engine manufacturers will use the GLACIER site to test their new engine designs before they make it into planes. The primary focus of the facility’s testing will be on icing, hail and water testing and cold soak certification, with the potential to test for endurance, emissions, noise of engines and bird ingestion in the future.
Ice testing involves testing an engine to ensure that it can tolerate a build-up of ice, and then shed the ice without adversely affecting the engine’s performance. Rather than wait for Mother Nature to provide the ideal conditions, ice build-up will be simulated by a series of 220 nozzles, which can release water at a wide variety of temperatures. Even during the summer, when cold weather is not available, the facility will be able to test engines for performance, endurance, and thrust reverse.
GLACIER, which owns the facility, is a joint venture between Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney. The facility is operated and maintained by MDS AeroTest. Rolls-Royce will start using the facility to test its new Trent XWB engine, which is being developed for use in Airbus A350-series aircraft.
“This is a proud day for GLACIER, for Pratt & Whitney Canada, and for our valued partners,” said Walter Di Bartolomeo, Pratt & Whitney Canada vice-president of engineering. “We’ve joined forces to establish the most advanced testing facility of its kind in the world.”
“It is with a lot of pride that we finally unveil this today,” said David Ayton, president and chief operating officer of Rolls-Royce Canada. “The opening of GLACIER is an important step in ice research – something which is relevant across the aviation industry.”
Initially a $40-million project, GLACIER was first announced by then-premier Gary Doer in Thompson on April 16, 2009. The first phase of the facility clocked in slightly over budget at $44 million; a future second phase is projected to cost roughly $38 million.