New Engine Test Facility Constructed at North Pole

Blast Deflectors has released a fictional Christmas story to highlight the benefits of its GRE technology and new modelling department, which allows the company to create a 3D construction model for each project.

Santa’s Village North Pole

When Claus Engineering announced the introduction of a jet-powered sleigh earlier this year, the benefits were obvious. The sleigh is capable of reaching very high speeds which greatly increases the efficiency of package delivery and weather delays have been virtually eliminated. There was one drawback to the new design: the engines were noisy. Engine testing done at Claus Engineering’s MRO facility could be heard at all hours of the day at a nearby Inuit outpost. When Claus Engineering needed a solution that allowed engine run-ups to be performed without creating a noise impact on residential areas adjacent to Santa’s Village, Blast Deflectors, was enlisted to construct a ground run-up enclosure (GRE).

The next chapter in flying sleighs

The new twin engine craft, dubbed the SS1 by Claus Engineering president Nicholas Claus, is powered by two high-bypass turbo fan engines each capable of generating more than 30,000 pounds of thrust. "These engines are used to supplement the reindeer traditionally used to pull the sleigh" says Claus. "We had no intention of replacing the reindeer – we just needed to improve high altitude performance of the sleigh."

In addition to new engines, Claus Engineering developed a composite wing that offers high stiffness and low weight. "We also developed a blended winglet for improved handling and efficiency" says Claus.

A noisy proposition

During the engine development stage, it was apparent that ground run-up noise was going to be a challenge for Claus Engineering. "We generally do about three engine tests each day, and we have no control over when these tests occur" says Claus. The frequency of engine tests, particularly nighttime run-ups, created a dramatic increase in noise complaints from the nearby Inuit outpost of Igloocik. "We are big believers in the Alaskan-Inuit Peacefulness (AIP) programme.

The noise created by our engine tests was putting a strain on the AIP, which has been a valuable programme to local communities. We need to do everything in our power to keep the AIP programme running without interruption" says Claus. "The solution, in our case, was a GRE."

After consulting with BDI, a world-leader in GRE design and construction, Claus Engineering began to put together plans to construct a GRE facility. According to Claus, "Our new high-bypass engines are not designed to perform optimally at high power settings while on the ground, so turbulence or an uneven supply of air can cause surges and stalls that can damage the engines and create operational delays, which are problematic for my team as we are a very schedule-driven organisation. BDI’s Stabile Flow™
design seemed to be the optimal solution for us." Another challenge, according to Claus, is the swirling Arctic winds which are highly unpredictable and make engine testing very difficult.

Let the funding begin

The next challenge for Claus Engineering was funding the project. "We were able to secure some funding from the AIP programme, but not enough for the entire project," says Claus. "This facility was greatly needed both for our operations and for the quality of life of the village of Igloocik, so we had to be creative to advance the project." Fortunately Claus had another option for funding. According to
Claus, The Present Freight Charge (PFC) programme, introduced more than 20 years ago, allows the collection of a nominal fee with each gift delivery. "Fortunately we have no cap on PFCs here at Santa’s Village" says Santa. "But we can only charge what the market will bear, of course" Claus quickly added.

As a result of the PFC programme, Claus Engineering had sufficient reserves to fund the project. "I’ve got to be competitive with China, and do you think they have a PFC cap?" asks Claus. Once funding was secured, the project entered the design phase.

Enter the experts

"We have designed and built more than 20 ground run-up enclosures," says Don Bergin, director of technical sales for BDI, "and we have been presented with a number of unique design challenges ranging from accommodating aircraft with afterburner engines to incorporating a wash-rack into a GRE."

"We even built a facility in Dubai that had features to deal with sands storms, but the Santa project was by far the most unique. We needed to incorporate geothermal heat sources to keep the facility pavement free of ice and snow and feeding troughs were needed for the reindeer. We put significant resources into designing some of the unique features for the facility and, unfortunately, we don’t see tremendous market potential for most of these features. For the most part, though, this GRE was our standard Stabile Flow design."

According to Bergin, BDI’s patented Stabile Flow design includes aerodynamic features such as acoustically-treated vents in the side walls, a sloped entry and rounded edges. "The sole purpose of these features is to provide turbulence-free air to allow successful engine testing even in challenging wind conditions." The facility also features more than 520 Noise Blotter™ acoustic panels designed
specifically for the low-frequency sounds emitted by jet engines.

Building a dream

Construction of the facility began in June 2011 and took more than four months. "All equipment and material was shipped by barge via Baffin Bay to a northern port. From there it was transported overland to an undisclosed site. That’s all I can say about the project location" says Bergin. According to Bergin the facility had to be operational by October 2011 in order for Claus Engineering crews to finalise testing of the new sleigh. Claus Engineering was able to provide crews of highly skilled craftsman who assembled the facility in record time under the supervision of a BDI field engineer. "Before this project we weren’t familiar with the worksite requirements of ESHA (the Elf Safety and Health Administration).

One of the biggest challenges was arranging to have pointy steel-toed slippers custom made for the crews," says Bergin.

The proof is in the pudding

Once the facility was constructed, proof tests were done with an SS1 operating at maximum power in the facility. Sound levels were measured at various locations to confirm the acoustic performance of the GRE. According to Claus, the results were "overwhelming."

"The local community has been very positive about the new facility. Ground run-up noise used to be a major source of tension between Santa’s Village and the Inuit community, but I am happy to say that it is now a non-issue. We can do our engine tests at any time, day or night, without creating a noise impact on the community. And thanks to the BDI’s Stabile Flow™ design, our challenging arctic wind conditions are not a limitation for us" beams a particularly jolly Claus.

Moral of the story

Though this story is a work of fiction, BDI truly is a world leader in GRE technology with more than 50 years of experience. BDI’s new 3D modelling department allows the company to create 3D construction models of each project. A 3D construction model starts by first "fabricating" the pieces for the construction and then assembling them exactly as they would be put together in the real world. Once the design has been finalised and constructed in a virtual environment, the 3D components become fabrication drawings. This process greatly reduces the field assembly time for BDI and eliminates the need for field fabrication of specialised parts.

BDI’s 3D models can also be used to produce stunning visual aids (such as those used in the story) that allow airports and consultants to explain the technology to community groups with project-specific renderings. BDI also recently began offering highly accurate physical models created directly from 3D AutoCAD drawings through a process known as ‘3D printing.’ These models, which are typically 1:100 or 1:200 scale, are excellent tools for user training and community outreach programmes.

For more information about BDI and photos of the North Pole facility visit www.bdi.aero.

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