Rolls-Royce unveils newest test stand

Published 12:00 pm Thursday, October 17, 2013

Rolls-Royce officially opened a second outdoor jet engine test stand at John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County on Wednesday morning. Rolls-Royce built the first outdoor jet engine test stand at Stennis Space Center in 2007.

“Many of you remember, rewinding the clock 18 months ago, this area we are standing on was wetlands, and to see what we have here today is an absolute joy and a testament to the team that put it together,” said Anthony Woodard, general manager of the Stennis Outdoor Test Facility at a presentation Wednesday morning.

Rolls-Royce invested $50 million in the second outdoor jet engine test stand and $42 million for the first outdoor jet engine test stand, said Joel Reuter, head of communications for Rolls-Royce.

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According to a Rolls-Royce press release, the new test stand is designed for specialized development engine testing and used to conduct research, development, crosswind, thrust reverse, cyclic and endurance tests on all the latest Rolls-Royce civil aerospace engines. These engines include the Trent 1000, which powers the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and the Trent XWB, which powers the Airbus A350 XWB.  

James Guyette, president and chief executive officer of Rolls-Royce, said the company is here for the long run and wouldn’t pour this much investment into a project, just to abandon it. He said when he joined Rolls-Royce in 1997, he never thought the company would be located in Mississippi and on a NASA site.

Guyette said by locating the jet stands in Hancock County, the county becomes “directly connected to that global economy. I think for the citizens here, that’s important.”

One of the obstacles Rolls-Royce had to overcome in the construction of the second jet engine test stand was soil condition. Guyette said when the company built the first jet stand, the soil condition was stable. At the new location, it was unstable and cost the company more money “to make it (test stand) a reality.”

Rolls-Royce also has locations in Pascagoula and Meridian. In Pascagoula, the company operates a marine propeller and water jet foundry and a defense regional field office at the Naval Air Station in Meridian, Guyette said.

Guyette said what drew Rolls-Royce to build the jet engine test stand at Stennis was the center’s ability to provide the amount of energy needed to run the engines, and the buffer zone. The buffer zone allows the company to run the engines at full power without disturbing residents.

 Brent Christensen, executive director of Mississippi Development Authority, said Stennis Space Center is the site of Rolls-Royce’s first jet engine test stand to be located outside of the United Kingdom, which is where Rolls-Royce’s headquarters are located.

“Them choosing Mississippi and the reflection on our business climate is almost immeasurable,” Christensen said.

Christensen said Area Development Magazine recently ranked Mississippi number nine among the top states for doing business, number two for competitive utility cost and permit speed, and number five for overall cost of doing business.

“The aerospace industry in Mississippi is one of our fastest growing sectors, and the Gulf Coast region is home to some of the world’s most leading aerospace companies,” said Christensen.

The new jet engine test stand will create 35 new positions at Rolls-Royce’s Stennis Space Center location and the building of both testing stands required many local contractors and builders, he said.

When asked about why Rolls-Royce chose Stennis Space Center, Christensen said, “Essentially, it’s a good, solid, strong work force. It’s a work force that comes to work on time, gives an honest, good day’s work, doesn’t mind working overtime, will do what it takes… to get things done. It has a tremendous skill set that these companies are looking for. And it’s the business climate we offer. That starts in Jackson with a legislature that is attuned to the business needs and making sure business needs are met. Then all the way down to the community level, like Hancock County Board of Supervisors or Hancock County Port and Harbor Commission, making sure they roll out the red carpet and are doing the things they have to do to attract businesses like this.”

Martin Flinders, the facilities engineering manager for Rolls-Royce, said the company has been trying to use as many local resources as possible. He said 60 German engineers came to Hancock County for nine months during construction and stayed at local area hotels and representatives of Rolls-Royce stayed at Bay Town Inn Bed and Breakfast while in town for the official opening of the testing stand.

After the opening of the jet engine testing stand, Rolls-Royce and INFINITY Science Center celebrated Rolls-Royce donation of the first Trent 1000 engine tested at the first testing stand built in 2007.