AEDC turns 70 on Friday

The payoff to nearly a decade of groundwork and work on the ground was realized 70 years ago with the push of a switch.

On May 3, 1954, the first turbojet engine test was initiated in the T-1 Test Cell of the new Engine Test Facility at Arnold Air Force Base.

This event marked the engine test in ETF and represented the first simulated flight test of an engine at what was then known as Arnold Engineering Development Center.

This test was conducted on a J47 turbojet engine. During the initial run, a simulated altitude of 30,000 feet at a speed of approximately 500 miles per hour was achieved.

“Engineers and technicians operated the jet by remote control from a nearby control room where meters and gauges recorded the jet’s performance,” a news release issued on the date of the test reads. The test runs with the J-47 are to shakedown and calibrate the test cell and the facility. Later tests will be concerned with developing and operational testing turbojet and ram-jet propulsion units for the aircraft industry and the armed services.”

The J47 engine was later used to power the B-47 Stratojet bomber.

In February 1952, the J47 was selected as the engine that would be used to calibrate ETF.

Shakedown work in ETF began in the summer of 1953 and was expected to take a little more than three-quarters of a year to complete. On Aug. 27, 1953, the first engine was fired at AEDC during an outdoor, open-air instrumentation test near ETF. For this checkout, the engine, also a J47, was test fired using a specially designed and constructed thrust stand.

“Instrumentation testing of the J-47 engine will obtain engine performance data before calibration and shakedown tests begin in the Engine Test Facility this fall,” a news release issued on Aug. 31, 1953, reads. The J-47 tests will probably require two months to complete all the necessary engineering data.”

This open-air firing occurred just months after construction on the ETF was completed and a little more than two years after President Harry Truman visited the complex in June 1951 to dedicate AEDC in honor of Gen. Henry “Hap” Arnold. In July 1953, the new facility was declared essentially complete. This followed around 10 years of planning, including three years of actual brick-and-mortar construction.

ETF was the first of what were considered to be the four major facilities in the early days of AEDC to go into full-scale operation. By the time the J47 was tested in the ETF T-1 cell, wind tunnels in two of these major facilities – the Propulsion Wind Tunnel and what would later come to be known as the von Kármán Gas Dynamics Facility – had been producing test data for several months. The fourth – referred to as the Ramjet Addition, which was designed to test ramjet engines at greater simulated speeds – made its first operational run several years later. 

The T-1 test cell is now inactive. The last test conducted there occurred in December 2000 on F100-PW-220 engine. The facility has been inactive since the conclusion of that test.

Pictured: Gen. Thomas Power, then-commander of the Air Research and Development Command, center, punches the start button on May 3, 1954, to initiate the first turbojet engine test in the new Engine Test Facility at Arnold Air Force Base, Tenn., while Brig. Gen. Sam Harris, commander of what was then known as the Arnold Engineering Development Center, left, looks on. Not only did this begin the engine test in ETF, but it also represented the first simulated flight test of an engine at AEDC. Seated at the ETF control room console are test crewmen J.D. Higgenbottom, foreground, and I.F. Bailey. (U.S. Air Force photo)


Lucky Knott

Lucky Knott

One of Southern Tennessee's most experienced and recognized news broadcasters and play-by-play sportscasters. News and Sports Director for Rooster 101.5 FM, 93.9 The Duck and Whiskey Country 105.1, and 95.9. He is currently the play-by-play voice of the Coffee County Red Raiders (31 years) on The Rooster 101.5 and can be heard M-F broadcasting our local news. Lucky has done play-by-play for 3,993 (and counting) sports events on Radio & TV. He also served four years as the Public Information Officer for the Coffee Co. Sheriff's Dept. and taught Radio/TV for six years at Grundy County High School.

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