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home | the buildings | air house (621)
 

Air House (621)

Built: 1961
Decommissioned: 2002

The Air House was an integral part of the site's expansion to cater for the new breed of supersonic jet engines. It was clear that the new Cell 3 (constructed in 1961) would require more high pressure air or more suction capability than the Plant House could provide and so the Air House was constructed. It performed one function: to generate right atmospheric conditions to fly a supersonic jet engine on the ground.

The building was one of the most eye-catching structures erected at Pyestock. Its steel frame was mostly covered in glass and the eastern side was dominated by eight enormous atmospheric exhaust silencer stacks (one for each of the compressor/exhauster sets installed inside). Its size was also emphasised by the massive array of pressure mains and suction mains that snaked away on either side of the building, thus providing clear views of the structure in the cramped north-western corner of the Pyestock site.

Internally the building was dominated by its turbine hall in which eight GEC centrifugal compressor/exhauster sets were mounted in two-storey concrete plinths. These were connected to the air network in the floors below whilst a large loading bay and gantry crane to the south of the turbine hall allowed heavy machinery to be installed or removed. A control room overlooked the turbine hall whilst a single corridor, running the entire length of the building, provided access to all the individual air filter rooms.



Sunset through the Air House. Eastern side of the building.
31|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007


Each compressor/exhauster could supply high pressure air to the inlet of engines to simulate high forward speed at low altitude. They could also extract the engine exhaust gases and lower the cell pressure so producing the required altitude conditions. The outputs of one compressor/exhauster set could be fed into the inputs of another, leading to extremely high pressures, or a large amount of suction, as required.

Classic north-west view of the Air House turbine hall.
03|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007


They were built up of a steam turbine at one end, two low-pressure 3:1 compressors, one high-pressure 3:1 compressor and an electric motor at the other end. Therefore each machine could produce 3:1 to 9:1 pressure ratios depending on how the three compressors were run. The 8000 horse-power steam turbine was originally used to start and accelerate the machine to constant running speed of 3000 rev/min, at which point the 36,500 horse-power electric motor was synchronised with the C.E.B. grid frequency and then the electric motor could be switched in.

Air circuit for a G.E.C. exhauster/compressor installed in Air House


The building changed little over its working life. At some point, the compressor/exhauster sets were modified so they could be electronically started with variable frequency power source this relieved the dependency on the Battle Test House for the necessary steam. This modification also probably prompted the modification of the control room, where each of the large control consoles for the compressor/exhausters was replaced by a much smaller semi-circular control panel in the centre of the room.

The Air House control room looking south.
21|04|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007


The Air House was one of the most iconic and photographed buildings on site. Both the elegant eastern flank with its sky-blue towers or the red-and-white compressor/exhauster sets in the turbine hall became synonymous with Pyestock. Official publications all reproduced these familiar views. But its fate was entwined with Cell 3 and Cell 4; and as these testing chambers fell into disuse then the power-hungry Air House was also obsoleted. It closed in 2002.



Air House Walkthrough...

Cluttered northern flank of the Air House looking east. The eastern side of the Air House seen from the high pressure mains by Cell 3. Setting sun casting rays through the eastern side of the Air House. Air House as seen from the Computer Building looking south-west. Detail of the eastern flank and atmosphere exhaust stacks of the Air House. Trolley rail along the eastern side of the Air House looking south. Looking east from the trolley rail towards the Plant House Cooling Tower. Detail of the trolley looking south. Trolley rail along the eastern side of the Air House looking north. The Air House atmosphere exhaust stacks looking north-west.
Southern end of the Air House including the loading bay doors looking west. Southern end of the Air House as seen from the Dry Air Mains. Southern end of the Air House, Dry Air Mains and Ceca Drying Plant looking north-west. Western side of the Air House looking east. Western side of the Air House as seen from Cell 3 West. North-western corner of the Air House and the Sub Atmospheric Mains. View from the south-western corner of the Air House looking south-west across the Sub Atmospheric Mains. Door into the south-west basement of the Air House. North-south ground-floor walkway looking north. View north across the ground-floor plant room.
North-south ground-floor walkway looking south. View east through the air inlet and Sub Atmospheric Mains towards the ground-floor of the turbine hall. Walkway east into the ground-floor of the turbine hall. Ground-floor in the turbine hall looking east towards the atmosphere exhaust stacks. View west from the first floor looking up at the Air House control room. Northern double door with access into the ground-floor of the Air House. View west of the stairs up to the first floor. Looking west along the northern flank of the Air House on the first floor. View east along the northern flank of the Air House on the first floor. Narrow walkway south by the eastern flank of the Air House on the first floor.
The loading bay, looking south-west, from the first floor. Loading bay looking east. Looking north-west in the loading bay at the turbine plinths. The loading bay looking west from the second floor. Turbine hall looking north. Looking east across the turbine hall to the atmosphere exhaust stacks. Looking east across the turbine hall to the GEC compressor/exhauster sets. Looking west at the exterior of the northern end of the control room. View south down the GEC compressor/exhauster sets. View south down the GEC compressor/exhauster sets.
Looking south down the turbine hall. View from the eastern wall looking west across the turbine hall to the control room. Detail of one of the GEC compressor/exhauster sets. The turbine hall looking north-west from the bottom of the stairs to the gantry. View west across the loading bay from the bottom of the stairs to the gantry. Looking west across the loading bay from the bottom of the stairs to the gantry. The underside of the gantry looking west. The crane and loading bay as seen going up the gantry stairs. Looking west. The turbine hall as seen going up the gantry stairs. Looking north-west. The gantry track mounted along the eastern flank of the Air House.
Vertical stairway to the next level of the gantry. Drop down to the loading bay. Wheels and tracks of the gantry and the small walkway to the east of it. The loading bay and gantry crane looking west from the top of the gantry. Classic north-west view of the Air House turbine hall. Walkway west along the top of the gantry. View north across the turbines of the Air House. View north-east across the turbine hall. Detail of the western gantry track. View east back along the top of the gantry.
The loading bay from the top of the gantry looking east. The eastern wall of the Air House with the shadows of the atmosphere exhaust stacks. Detail of the gantry crane. Gantry operator's control booth below the gantry. Looking north across the turbine hall. Connecting room between the turbine hall and the back corridor. Looking west. Enclosed room between the turbine hall and back corridor. Looking west. Whole length of the control room looking north. Mid-length view of the control room looking north. Central semi-circular control panel seen looking south-east. Control room as seen from the elevated section looking south.
Looking east across the elevated section of the control room. Detail of keys hanging up in the elevated section of the control room. The semi-circular control panel as seen from the elevated control room. The Air House control room looking south. Access corridor running behind the control panels and meters. Looking north. The meter and fuse corridor behind the control panels. Looking north. Detail of S.E.B. Summator Total meter. Detail of M.O.D. meter. Wiring underneath the control room. Crawl underneath the Air House control room. Looking south.
Customised chair and spool of wire left in the crawl beneath the control room. Looking south-east. Air House corridor looking south. The turbine hall is on the left and the air filter rooms on the right. Air filter room looking west. Air House office looking south. Air House store room looking north. Air House corridor looking north. External steps leading to the Air House corridor, past the Air House office and onto the roof. Roof of the air filters and corridor looking south. Roof of the air filters and corridor looking north. Turbine hall roof looking south-west.
The tops of the atmosphere exhaust stacks looking east across the turbine hall roof. Detail of the top of one of the atmosphere exhaust stacks.

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