A major component of the $63 million Transportation Education Center is the aviation test cell. This test cell has been a long time coming. The original plan when Aviation Technologies was established in 1965 was to provide a test cell so that students could safely run engines. That original proposal was cut due to budget constraints and has lain dormant for more than 45 years until now.
The new test cell will impact the department and students in a number of ways. First and foremost is safety. Students and faculty will be able to operate engines in a safe and controlled environment. Over the years students have run engines outdoors in aircraft and on test “buggies”. There have been a number of break-aways, a number of engine fires, and always the spinning propellers and fan blades providing an extra element of danger. The new test cell, with its fire suppression systems and state of the art exhaust handling systems, will provide a level of safety never before experienced at SIUC.
Another great attribute of the engine test cell will be its capacity to deepen the knowledge and understanding of students about the engines that they operate and maintain. In the past, students have only had the aircraft on-board gages and instruments to rely on when making adjustments. They had no capacity to record multiple readings electronically, or to study airflow, pressures, and temperatures at each stage of the engine’s operating cycle. The new test cell will be packed with the most advanced instrumentation and data acquisition equipment. There will be a dynamometer for measuring horsepower and torque. For the first time, students will truly be able to make scientific observations of engine operating cycles in a safe and secure environment.
A third positive attribute of the aviation test cell will be its impact on faculty and student research. This facility will provide a research laboratory like no other. Several faculty members currently conducting research on engines are about to get an injection of high technology that will turbo charge their research agendas. This increased emphasis on research will provide more opportunities for students to get involved with research in the form of undergraduate research assistantships.