Three months after its official opening last October, GE Celma’s new test cell at Tres Rios, Brazil, is providing expanded capacity, and a state of the art facility for post-overhaul GEnx testing.
Housed in a newly-built, 5,700 square meter (61,354 square foot) building not far from Celma’s headquarters and main MRO complex at Petropolis, the Tres Rios test cell, is currently supported by a staff of 25, and is one of the largest aeronautical engine testing facilities in South America, according to Julio Talon, Plant Leader for GE Celma.
Construction of the test cell, and its supporting infrastructure commenced in 2017 and took 18 months. But, as Talon explains, planning for the facility--one specifically designed to support the GEnx-1B and -2B which power the Boeing 787 and 747-8, respectively--actually began one year earlier.
As Talon notes, prior to the time that the test cell was built, those GEnx engines overhauled in Brazil had to be sent to the OEM’s facility in Peebles, Ohio, for testing after the overhauls were completed. “This delayed delivery of the serviced engines to our customers by two to three weeks,” he says. “The new test cell eliminates this delay. Most of the GEnx engine customers who use our Celma, Brazil facility, are actually located in the Middle East and Asia.”
While the test cell’s initial deployment is for GEnx testing, Talon reports that other GE engines, including the CFM56, CF6 and LEAP families are likely to be added by the end of 2020, which is when the Tres Rios test cell will be prepared to accommodate them. In fact, he says, GE Celma is starting to implement LEAP overhauls for the first time—with full overhaul capability on stream in 2020.
“GE needs to increase LEAP MRO capacity, and there is an opportunity to do this at Celma over the long term, especially as our CFM56-7B business begins to decrease,” says Talon. In that regard, he reports that GE Celma’s LEAP support will cater to a more regional group of carriers, such as Sao Paulo-based Azul, which is the program’s launch customer.
For 2019, Talon projects that nearly 75 GEnx engines will be put through the new test cell, and that is likely to remain steady for another three to four years. “However, when the other models go through the test cell, the total, including the GEnx engines, is likely to be as many as 600-700 per year,” he says.
The Tres Rios test cell’s sole usage, Talon stresses, will be exclusively for overhauls, and not be used for research and development purposes. The test cell, he points out, incorporates Bar silencers which reduce noise by 50 percent.
Talon notes that the Tres Rios test cell joins two others operated by GE Celma. One, located at Petropolis, is configured for the CF34 and the CFM56-7B, while the other, at Rio de Janeiro, is used for CF6 and CFM56-5B testing.