One of the things I was interested to see at Moses Lake was the new testbed being fitted out for Rolls Royce. Rolls currently has a Boeing 747-200 that they use for airborne testing of their engines. I shot it at Tucson and posted about it here. They recently acquired a 747-400 from Qantas to use as a testbed and it was moved to Moses Lake for conversion by Aerotec. I don’t know the timescales for the conversion process but it will be interesting to see it when ready in house colors and hopefully with a big engine installed on one of the inboard pylons.
Around the world you can find plenty of parked Boeing 787s at the moment. Problems with the Rolls Royce Trent engines for this type mean that airlines have been pulling engines from various airframes in order to keep others flying. ANA uses Rolls engines on their fleet and I saw this aircraft being pulled around a taxiway at Haneda. Both engines were off making it look quite odd. It will certainly be a lot lighter than before but, somehow, I think that isn’t going to make it more efficient!
Two versions of the Boeing 787 have been in service for a while. However, development activities continue. The 787-10 is still undergoing flight test but work also continues on the older jets. Some of this is also related to the Dash 10. I had a post on my first encounter with the 787-10 which I wrote about here. I have since come across another of the test aircraft. This one is plain white and doesn’t benefit from the nice house colors that Boeing has.
Meanwhile, one of the 787-8 test aircraft has recently been testing the newest version of the Rolls Royce Trent 1000. I saw this engine when it was being tested on Rolls’ testbed in Tucson and that was in this post. Now it has been fitted to its intended platform and is undergoing trials. These have included lengthy flights around the US including one in which they traced out the planform of the aircraft across multiple states. If you are going to go flying for 18 hours, you might as well find a way to have fun with it. The aircraft is carrying the same logo on the engine nacelle that was on the testbed. Hopefully, the delayed upgraded engine will soon be in service, not just on the Dash 10 but also on the other variants.
On my previous visit to Tucson, I saw the Rolls Royce owned Boeing 747 engine testbed. This was converted for the Boeing 787 Trent engine development program (hence the registration N787RR). The Number Two engine was removed and replaced with the test engine. The other three Rolls RB211s are unchanged. At various times the testbed has been reported to be without an engine in the test location but there was something there when I was last here – it’s just they didn’t fly. This time was different.
I saw the testbed when I left the airport after my flight landed. The following morning, I headed out to see what F-16 traffic there was and saw online that a flight plan had been filed for the testbed. I only had a certain amount of time before I was due to be at Hawgsmoke but it was supposed to fly long before that. Of course, test flying is not usually something that happens to a tight schedule and the takeoff time came and went. We were beginning to think we might miss it when the sound of some large engines spooling up reached us. A while later, out she came.
Engine testbeds require some careful control. Since one engine is significantly different in thrust from the others, there is a balancing act required to keep the thrust differential within the ability of the control surfaces to overcome. That means the max thrust is not always going to be used. Consequently, they use a good portion of the runway for takeoff rotating just passed our location. That meant I didn’t get the front quarter rotation shot I had in mind.
No matter, I still got to see it fly. The return was about six hours later and I was busy elsewhere at that time. I figured that was it for this trip. I was wrong. The morning of my departure, I had a little time to spare so went back to see what was happening. Amazingly, the testbed was already being crewed as I drove up. We got a repeat of the previous day and some similar shots. I guess I was compensating for not seeing it fly last time!
The Sikorsky Black Hawk is a ubiquitous helicopter. They are in service around the world and Sikorsky has a second production facility getting established in Poland. What is not so well known, though, is that Westland attempted to become a license producer of the helicopter for the UK and other markets. They went as far as to build an airframe from a knocked down kit. Meanwhile, another airframe was converted to with what was then the Rolls Royce/Turbomeca RTM322 turboshaft engine for testing purpose. Together, these two airframes were demonstrated at Farnborough. The Westland derivative was not ordered by anyone and both airframes were ultimately converted to other configurations and sold on to other operators.
A Rolls Royce is some people’s idea of the pinnacle of motoring. I have ridden in a couple and, while they were comfortable, they never really floated my boat. Cars and Coffee had two examples that I was looking at and the comparison was amusing to me. One was a brand new car that a dealer had brought along to show off. It was fitted with all of the latest toys and certainly would help relieve you of a chunk of your bank balance. However, the current Rolls styling is not to my taste and they look rather inelegant.
At the opposite end of the spectrum was a far older model that has been customized. Apparently, this had been a labor of love for a guy but he had sadly passed away. Not had been finished off by his family but they had then sold it on. It is a strange vehicle for sure. The classic Rolls shape is clearly identifiable but the cut down bodywork and the lowered suspension are a big deviation from the norm. I have no idea how much it cost to modify and I’m sure the value was to the guy rather than anyone else but it is a great example of creativity and commitment. I hope he was happy with it.
Something I hadn’t seen before was the Boeing 747 that Rolls Royce own and use as a testbed for the Trent 1000 engine on the Boeing 787. Appropriately registered N787RR, this was parked up close to a road. I actually spotted it first just as we landed. It was already dark and I saw the outline of the plane but had no idea what it was or why it was there. However, after picking up my rental car I came out near its parking spot so took a pass by. Being dark, there was nothing much to be shot but I decided to check it out again when it was daylight.
Apparently, this airframe had been sitting without the test engine for a while but there is now an engine fitted. Whether this means that they have been flying recently or are planning to soon I do not know. Unfortunately the test engine was on the side away from the road so was harder to show well in a shot. However, I still managed to get a few shots.