Rolls Royce testing facility opens at Stennis

Published 5:11 pm Friday, October 12, 2007

Hancock County is one of the few facilities capable of sustaining large engine testing, and world wide companies like Rolls Royce have taken notice.

Ground was broken on the new Rolls Royce jet engine testing site on June 1, 2006 and Thursday, the site was officially opened. Engine testing has begun and will lead to a new line of passenger jets.

President and CEO for Rolls Royce America James Guyette said in that spite of the “little wind” that blew through the area, Hurricane Katrina did not stop Rolls Royce from building the facility. Guyette said he was not trying to down play the devastation of the storm, but rather point out progress moves forward.

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“It was a little ol’ wind and we dust ourselves off and get on with it,” Guyette said.

While Rolls Royce jet engines to be tested at Stennis Space Center will not put out the same thrust that Space Shuttle engines do, 140,000 pounds of thrust is impressive, said Paul Craig, Rolls Royce director of Civilian Aviation Operations in Derby, England.

“We realize the work around here is more, but that’s a lot (of thrust) for us,” Craig said.

Two engines are slated to be tested on the Rolls Royce test stand, the Trent 900 and the Trent 1,000. Those engines will be installed on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Craig said.

The site currently employs about 20 people and a few more will come on board in the next few months, said Ginny Persons, communications manager for Rolls Royce of North America Civil Aerospace.

Night testing of the jet engines is optimal and the buffer zone at Stennis affords the company the opportunity to do that. Encroaching residential areas in England forced Rolls Royce to find an alternative place to test their new jet engines, said Gene Goldman, Stennis Space Center deputy director.

Rolls Royce’s new testing site was going to be used for NASA solid rocket testing, until that program was shut down, Goldman said. Rolls Royce is using the same structure that was going to be used for the solid rocket testing, except the company brought in its own electronics.

A second test stand may be built by Rolls Royce at the same site to test more than one engine at a time, said Neill Forrest, head of Strategy and Capability Acquisition for Rolls Royce. Construction of the current testing site cost Rolls Royce $49 million, Craig said.

Rolls Royce has spent $1.4 billion in research and development to make their engines more environmentally friendly. In that research, the company has been able to reduce the amount of fuel burned by 70 percent and noise by 75 percent, Craig said.