Spring Brings a Big Leap Forward in Lynnwood, Wash.
On a wet spring day in the Pacific Northwest, the raw bones of a building are rising out of the ground. Water pools on slabs of concrete. Steel support beams jut out like ribs. Men in orange vests pick their way through thickets of rebar, trying to hear each other over the din of an active construction site.
This is the scene at our Lynnwood, Wash. site, where this stone and metal skeleton will become a fully-formed, state-of-the-art testing facility in just a few months. The 12,000-square foot structure has been specially designed to test mass fuel flow transmitters, or flowmeters, at extreme operating conditions. We’re talking temperatures from negative 67 to as high as 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Pressures up to 3,000 psi. Eighteen-inch-thick, blast-proof walls. There’s no other facility like it in the world.
Flowmeters serve a critical function on an aircraft engine. They measure the rate at which jet fuel flows through the engine while in flight. This tells pilots and ground crews exactly how much has been used during a trip. Think of it this way: you want the captain to know exactly how much gas he or she has left in the tank before you’re over the Atlantic Ocean with no land in sight. You also want refueling crews to be absolutely sure they haven’t under- or over-filled the plane. Fuel flow transmitters provide that data. Crane’s flowmeters measure fuel flow by mass instead of volume, meaning that they report fuel levels much more accurately than traditional units. That’s good news, whether you’re the pilot, the fuel crew or the person in 18C.
The newest generation of fuel-efficient engines has different needs and requirements than older models. Engine makers need flowmeters that can function reliably at extreme temperatures and pressures. That means we needed a building equipped to handle some very intense testing. The new facility broke ground in September 2015 and is scheduled to be completed this summer.
Some of the flowmeters we’ll test in this new building are destined for CFM International’s* LEAP engine program. The LEAP family has been a market success to date, becoming the fastest-selling engine in commercial aviation history. The LEAP engine delivers a 15 percent improvement in fuel efficiency while producing lower CO2 emissions and a much quieter noise signature over previous models. There are currently more than 10,400 orders from nearly 100 customers around the world.
According to Fluid Value Stream Manager Ryan Sands, who is overseeing the new construction, the new building is critical to meeting the demand for the popular engines. “Our production volumes will more than double in the next five years while simultaneously shifting to much more intense testing processes,” said Sands. “Additionally, the state-of-the-art test systems we’re developing will double our testing speed and improve our measurement capability. It’s a very exciting time to be involved with the product line.”
Sands also noted that the development of this part for CFM required an intense design and calibration process between our Engineering and Operations teams, with input from aircraft OEMs. The LEAP flowmeter is the most accurate unit we’ve ever made, representing the knowledge we’ve gained in our 49 years of fuel flow transmitter production. The new test facility is helping to lay the groundwork for a new era of continuous improvement and development innovation.
Our customers don’t stop innovating, and neither do we. As the walls of the new building go up, it’s an exciting sign of things to come – not just for Crane, but for the whole aerospace industry.
* CFM International is a 50/50 joint venture between Safran and GE.