ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. --
Sitting in front of a computer screen in the Propulsion Systems Evaluation Facility (PSEF) at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, also known as PAX, some 700 miles away, PSEF test engineer Leo Rubio speaks to analysts and monitors test data as if he was actually in the control room at Arnold Air Force Base.
Using the facility known as the Remote Data Room, or RDR, the Arnold Engineering Development Complex and PSEF engineers, who have been collaborating for close to a year, witnessed their efforts come to fruition during a test of the Pratt & Whitney F135 engine in the SL-3 test cell at Arnold in January.
According to Seth Beaman, NAVAIR aeropropulsion test analyst at Arnold, the development of the room was spearheaded by John Kelly, branch head for Test Operations and Facilities Engineering at PAX River.
“Because the Navy and Air Force have a combined interest in the F-35 program, John Kelly brought the idea to AEDC as a way for his team at PAX River to remotely support test,” Beaman said. “The Remote Data Room serves as an extension of AEDC and provides a secure room for supporting various test programs.”
Before the F135 engine test, Kelly had some reservations on how the setup in Maryland, comprised of four monitors and two keyboards, would work.
“One thing we worried about was the latency when working in real time; will there be dropouts or will we see a number of data points from a minute ago or a second ago,” Kelly said.
However, trial runs proved successful, with new data points being received within milliseconds.
Kelly said he would like to see the room eventually set up with four work stations and two big screen TVs so that they can see the engine running in the test cell.
Rubio mentioned that another added benefit of the Remote Data Room is that it will cut costs for both NAVAIR and AEDC because less travel will be needed between the two locations.
“It will reduce the cost for NAVAIR support of a test at AEDC (Arnold Air Force Base) since an individual is not required to physically be on TDY (temporary duty) for the duration of a test program,” he said. “This also provides analyst coverage for test programs that allow the AEDC analysts to be spread out across more programs since PAX engineers will be able to serve remotely as an analyst during a test.”
In preparation to assist with data analysis during engine tests, Rubio completed AEDC training for basic data analysis.
“NAVAIR personnel at Arnold have already completed the training, but I am the first employee specifically from PAX to have completed the training with the Remote Data Room function in mind,” he said.
Rubio explained he had previously put his new training to use during another engine test at Arnold.
“The goal was to work with my counterpart at AEDC, Seth Beaman, to develop a training curriculum that would work to get NAVAIR personnel certified as basic-level analysts. The original plan was that I would go down to observe and possibly complete some of the training. I ended up integrating myself well with the test team and taking on more of the training and serving as a test analyst during all of their air-on periods for this test program.”
Rubio mentioned his other colleagues at PAX River will be able to complete the basic-level analyst training through the RDR.
“The folks with AEDC have placed all of the trainings onto a network drive that is accessible through the RDR,” he said. “This means that more PAX personnel can complete the training and potentially become basic-level analysts through the same certification process.”
Having spent time at Arnold AFB from March to June 2019, Rubio left impressed by the AEDC team members and the facilities.
“One unique aspect to the testing at AEDC is that they perform altitude testing as opposed to Sea Level Static testing,” he said. “This allows test teams and customers to subject their engines to representative conditions that they would see in an installed condition, excluding inlet/exhaust variations depending on the aircraft installation, which is a remarkable capability. Here at PAX we don’t possess that capability since it essentially requires a city block’s worth of space to house the facility components required to simulate thousands of feet of altitude at a variety of Mach numbers.”
Beaman added that the RDR has offered the ability to view side-by-side the data received from both ground and flight tests of the same engines.
“Here at Arnold, we work on the ground test data and at PAX River they have the flight test data, and now it is possible to compare the two during live tests,” he said.