How Do U.S. Air Force Test the World’s Fastest Jet Engines?
The U.S. Air Force is home to some of the fastest jets in the world. It’s up to the jet propulsion technicians and maintenance crews to keep their engines up to tip-top shape.
Jet flight systems are constantly being tested and maintained, but one of the most impressive technologies is the “Hush House,” which creates the conditions to assess these complex wonders at full power.
A hush house is an enclosed, noise-suppressed facility used for testing aircraft systems, including propulsion, mechanics, electronics, pneumatics, and others. Installed or uninstalled jet engines can be run under actual load conditions.
In the hush house, aerospace propulsion technicians like Michael Smith have the important job of testing jet engines. It’s their responsibility to make sure these massive machines won’t malfunction or explode mid-flight.
“If the Hush House didn’t exist, the only way they would be able to test the engine is in the jet and that’s very dangerous because that’s causing damage to the aircraft if something goes wrong,” Michael Smith explains. “So, if something goes wrong here, it’s contained. We can put it out with a fire suppression, it doesn’t damage the aircraft or the personnel and it’s a lot safer.”
A hush house is large enough to accommodate an entire manned or unmanned aircraft. Some facilities are also equipped to test additional capabilities such as weight and balance, night vision and low lighting, water intrusion, heat soaking, and wind evaluation.
U.S. Air Force hush houses are specifically designed to withstand these extreme forces.
“The hush house is a concrete structure with thick walls and thick glass windows,” Lee Langston, professor of mechanical engineer at the University of Connecticut, told Seeker. “They’re constructed such that they are acoustically treated so that they contain the noise, and constructed strong enough to contain an engine that has blown up.”
Even if it doesn’t blow up, technicians need to be really careful around the engines they’re testing.
“You see the big flame coming out the back,” Smith says. “That’s afterburn. It’s when the fuel is lighting in the exhaust to give it that nice blue color.”
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