Dylan Welch (L-R), Dustin Boss, and Matt Stiggins review schematics standing in front of the Aeropropulsion Systems Test Facility (ASTF).
ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, TENN. – Stories about government employees saving money aren’t very common, but Arnold Engineering Development Complex engineers at the Aeropropulsion Systems Test Facility turbine engine test cell C-1 used their ingenuity and saved an AEDC test customer approximately $80,000.
Dustin Boss, Dylan Welch and Matthew Stiggins proposed a modification to the C-1 Kirk Interlock System that allows the atmospheric hatch to remain open for cell entry during the F101 series of sea level testing in the C-1 turbine test cell.
Most importantly, the engineers came up with a way to do this without compromising the safety of the system.
The C-1 test cell has an atmospheric inlet hatch that is Kirk interlocked so that the primary inlet valve and the hatch cannot be open at the same time.
The original hatch Kirk configuration requires the hatch to be closed in order to bring the test cell “air-off” and allow entry back into the test cell.
C-1 test cell typically runs at altitude conditions.
However, General Electric’s F101 AMT test program is a 10-month duration of sea level testing running 24 hours a day, 4 days a week and requires at least one cell entry per day.
This meant that once a day personnel would have to remove a key from the control room, go outside to lower and lock the hatch closed and then return to the control room with a transfer key to get “air-off.” This process would have to be completed in reverse after the cell entry was complete to return the test cell “air-on.”
Stiggins, C-2 lead test engineer, said, “The hatch has been an on-going issue but with the F101 program utilizing the hatch on a daily basis it was time to come up with a solution to the problem.” Boss, C-1 lead test engineer, further noted, “We all discussed different ideas but reworking the Kirk Interlock System was the best solution.”
Boss, Welch, and Stiggins collaborated on a concept to modify the Kirk Interlock System so the atmospheric hatch can remain open during test cell entries.
Boss, Stiggins and Welch all agree that one aspect they enjoy about their job as C-1 and C-2 test engineers is the variety of the work. Welch, C-1 test engineer, stated, “Part of being a test engineer is that you never know what you might be working on day to day or what issue might come up. The hatch was one of those issues.”
Reworking the Kirk Interlock System took approximately three months but resulted in a net savings of $79,675 to the test customer.
Jeff Henderson, branch manager of test operations, said “In today’s environment of sequestration and declining budgets, innovations like this are more important than ever.
Controlling costs was crucial to AEDC landing this F101 AMT Project.
Figuring out how to make an altitude test cell like C-1 run more like a sea level cell helps lower the test customer’s costs, which in turn gets us (AEDC) the test business.”
The $22M test project is scheduled to run nine months in the C-1 test cell with the F101 engine arriving at AEDC this month.