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Cell 3 West (649)

Built: 1969
Decommissioned: 2002

Cell 3 West was the last altitude test cell to be built at Pyestock in 1969. Its construction was prompted by the need to test a new breed of large civil turbofan engines, such as the Rolls-Royce RB207 and RB211, over their full flight envelopes.

The existing infrastructure for the new testing facility was mostly in place and so the new cell was plumbed into the existing suction manifold at the end of Cell 3. New exhauster capacity was also required as the demands of these engines (with their triple-shaft designs and high-bypass ratios) absorbed all the existing exhauster resources at Pyestock. So Number 10 Exhauster was built to the north of the cell and a cold air plant was constructed to its west. Even though it was mainly a capability enhancement to Cell 3, Cell 3 West was a test cell in its own right.

A view of Cell 3 West whilst walking southward down G Road.
05|05|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

The engine chamber was constructed above ground and had the largest diameter of any of the altitude test cells at Pyestock. It had a 25ft. diameter and was 40ft. long (with a 30ft. long working section). The cell was built at ground level and so the exhaust manifold passed through two cascaded right angle bends in order to accommodate the height difference to the entrenched suction manifold. The exhaust manifold was fitted with bulkhead doors which were shut during non-testing periods. The atmospheric to exhaust manifold pressure difference helped to keep the pressure tight seal.

The front dome of the cell and inlet ducting could be removed to expose the inside compartment. This allowed easy access to the engine at the time of installation. The inlet ducting was 77 ft. long of which 43.5ft was external to the cell.

Initially the engines under test were directly coupled to the intake so all tests were of the connected type.

Looking north-east across the Engine Chamber of Cell 3 West.
05|05|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

The engine chamber could be run with or without cold air. The air could be drawn direct from atmosphere through an intake silencer or through the newly build cold air plant. This plant used 30% aqueous ammonia solution pre-cooled to -50°C in a cold store which could supply enough cold air to permit the RB211 engine to run for approximately 30 minutes at full flow. The air temperature could be reduced to -40°C in the cell which was equivalent to a civil aircraft cruising at an altitude of 40,000 feet. Either water (wet icing) or ice particles (dry icing) or a combination of both could be injected into the cooled inlet air stream.

It was possible to measure engine thrust as the engine mounting included special features to permit the movements required for thrust and drag measurements. The engine was clamped to a support frame which was itself supported from flexible rods attached to the roof of the cell. The mounting permitted small deflections which were used to measure the thrust. The engine installation also included an automatic-connect bulkhead featuring a large proportion of engine instrumentation and other services which were identical to the sea-level installations at Rolls-Royce, so the speedy interchange of engines was possible.

Cell 3 West Test Area

Both steady-state and transient instrumentation were available. Test information was fed through to the SDS 9300 computer in the Computer Building with the PDP7 data acquisition unit in support. 300 pressures and 200 temperature points for steady state conditions and 30 channels of UV and 28 channels of magnetic tape of transient conditions were available. (The later installation of the ICL 1904S computer allowed 700 pressures and 800 temperature channels to be used along with 36 channels of UV and 32 channels of magnetic tape). A control room adjacent to the cell was used to operate the test plant, the engine and its associated auxiliaries.

The fuel system was tapped off Cell 3 and was of similar design. The spray cooling water system operated on a circulatory basis. Two banks of nozzles were provided and each was fitted with on-off and flow-control valves. The quantity of water injected was carefully controlled to ensure that just enough was sprayed into the gas stream to maintain an acceptable gas temperature at inlet to the exhausters.

Cell 3 West control room looking north-east.
24|03|07 © Simon Cornwell 2007

During its lifetime, the cell was readily adapted for new tests under differing conditions. It was converted to allow free jet testing so that full-flow cold air tests could be undertaken at flight operating altitudes. The cold-air plant was expanded with extra tanks to further decrease the temperature range or allow tests to run for longer. With these modifications, the simulated wet-icing testing of full-scale helicopter rotor blades, as well as the Rolls-Royce Olympus 593 with Concorde intake, could be tested under simulated wet icing conditions.

In its final years, the cell was used for icing certification tests to CAA and FAA regulations. These could be conducted by the installation of a spray rake that provided an icing cloud of controlled Light Water Concentration and droplet size. In addition to full engines, air frame components could be tested and helicopter de-icing carried out. The cell was also being considered for sea-level testing but itís unknown whether this modification was ever carried out.

Cell 3 West was closed in 2002 when the rest of its support network (the Air House and Cell 3) were also closed.

Cell 3 West Walkthrough...

Looking east along the trench connecting the cell to the suction mains. Looking west towards the vertical exhaust duct which rises up to connect to Cell 3 West. Taking the stairs parallel to the vertical exhaust duct. Southern side of the exhaust duct connecting to the back of Cell 3 West. Northern side of the exhaust duct connecting to the back of Cell 3 West. The sloping concrete wall at the back of Cell 3 West by the vertical exhaust duct. Eastern view of vertical exhaust duct. Looking east along the side of Cell 3 West by the Engine Control Room. Elevated view east along the back of the cell including the vertical exhaust duct. Elevated view east along the top of the back of the cell.
View west towards the covered section of the cell. Looking west along the southern half of the roof of the Engine Chamber. Detail of wiring connected through the roof of the southern part of the Engine Chamber. Standing on the top of the Engine Chamber looking east towards the suction mains. Elevated view west towards the Air Intake Cooler. Detail of the crane controller booth by the northern wall of the cell. Interior of the crane controller booth looking east. General elevated view of Cell 3 West looking east along its southern flank. Southern flank of the Air Intake Cooler and Cell 3 West looking east. Looking east along the southern flank of Cell 3 West.
The front dome of Cell 3 West looking east. Looking east towards the front dome of Cell 3 West from the Air Intake Cooler. Looking west towards the Air Intake Cooler from the front dome of Cell 3 West. View east into the Engine Chamber from the front dome. Looking south-east across the Engine Chamber of Cell 3 West. Low view west along the floor of the Engine Chamber. Looking north-east across the Engine Chamber of Cell 3 West. Looking north-east across the Engine Chamber from the southern walkway. Looking north-west across the Engine Chamber from the southern walkway. General view north-west across the Engine Chamber.
View west along the Engine Chamber from the exhaust duct. Gradually moving into the exhaust duct, view west. View west from halfway along the exhaust duct. Grill at the back of the interior of the exhaust duct, looking east. Detailed view of the front dome, looking south-east. General view of Cell 3 West from the north-west. General view of Cell 3 West including the Air Intake Cooler from the north. Detail of cell door and walkway to control room looking south. Wiring in the Instrument Kiosk looking north. Cell 3 West control room looking north-east.
View south-east across the Cell 3 West control room.

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