Delta Air Lines had the future on its mind when it built the world’s biggest jet engine test cell in Georgia.
It was the first test cell built by a US airline in more than 20 years and is capable of running a mounted, stationary engine at full power with the 150,000lbs of thrust.
That’s more than twice the capacity of Delta’s current 68,000lb thrust test cell and a sizeable margin over the most powerful commercial jet engine in the world today, the 115,000lb-thrust GE90 powering the Boeing 777.
The airline says the 48ft high cell at its Atlanta base will allow it to test engines that are yet to be designed or built.
It is close to a 127,000 sq. ft engine repair shop that opened in 2018 as part of a big investment in the company’s maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) operations.
“These investments are about expanding Delta’s business opportunities today while also setting us up for long-term growth,” Delta chief executive Ed Bastian said at the test cell ribbon-cutting ceremony this week.
“Building on the expertise of the world’s best professionals, we will be positioned to grow with the industry’s evolving technology and next-generation engines and aircraft.”
Delta says the test cell will allow it to maintain and test a wide range of engines, including Rolls-Royce’s Trent 1000, Trent 7000 and Trent XWB power plants and Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100 and PW1500 variants of the geared turbofan.
There are already more than 7000 engines committed to the engine shop and test cell over the next three decades.
Delta said the next steps included proving and data validation for the cell with the first production test set to take place in late 2019.
The company is keen to grow its MRO business by $US 1 billion over the next five years.
It already employs more than 10,000 people to provide maintenance to over 850 Delta aircraft as well as maintenance service to more than 150 other operators.
It signed an agreement with Rolls-Royce in 2015 to become an authorized maintenance center for the UK company’s engines.