Ramstein opens prototype facility

Capt. Jenny Lovett
Kaiserslautern American

***image1***The Air Force’s first indoor test facility for T-56, or prop, engines was opened by the 86th Propulsion Flight at Ramstein in March after two reversions and a year’s worth of construction.

Noise regulations restrict engine runs from anytime other than normal daylight working hours, said Senior Master Sgt. Phillip Arnts, propulsion flight chief. “Having the capability to engine test at night, during quiet hours and on holidays enables maintenance crews to double their engine testing production capacity.”

The augmenter was split in half and reinsulated. The four guide vanes replaced old roll-up doors to facilitate better air flow. A new high expansion foam fire suppression system was installed replacing the hallon system, said Staff Sgt. Justin Morrison, 86th Maintenance Squadron propulsion flight.
The $2.2-million prototype, commonly referred to as the Hush House, is equipped with four cameras and state-of-the-art instruments, said Sergeant Arnts.

“The instruments allow us to gauge the engine efficiency on a computer system similar to the flight instruments on the C-130 Herk,” he said.

As a backup, there are two other Airmen on the other side of the facility who monitor the cameras to check for visual fluid leaks and foreign objects as well as engine functions from a perspective that the controller doesn’t have, said Staff Sgt. Greg Mathes, test cell NCO in charge.

Yet another Airman watches the gauges and calculates engine torque to ensure overload doesn’t occur and accurate readings are maintained.

“Calculating engine torque is important because it’s the true measurement of how efficient the engine is,” said Sergeant Mathes. 

The propulsion flight has seen a significant increase in the need for T-56 engine and propeller repairs since Sept. 11 and this facility provides double the testing capacity. 

“Not only do we repair Ramstein engines, we are in charge of repairing every propeller and the majority of T-56 engines that come out of the (Central Command) area of responsibility,” said Sergeant Arnts. “Before 9-11, we averaged two engines and four props a month. Now, it’s nearly nine engines and 24 props.”

The increase illustrates the need for the test facility since German law is specific about noise pollution.

“Now we have the capability to run tests anytime of the day or week and still be in compliance with noise abatement laws,” said Sergeant Arnts.