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The expansion of the Winnipeg test centre is part of a move by General Electric’s aerospace division to boost its operations outside of the United States. (Jim R. Bounds/Bloomberg)
The expansion of the Winnipeg test centre is part of a move by General Electric’s aerospace division to boost its operations outside of the United States. (Jim R. Bounds/Bloomberg)

GE to expand Winnipeg jet engine testing facility Add to ...

General Electric Co. is refurbishing its airplane engine testing facility in Winnipeg with a $26-million investment that will include rebuilding a wind tunnel.

The company first opened an engine test facility at Winnipeg’s airport in 2011, but in its first years it focused mainly on cold weather conditions – certifying engines for their icing performance. Last year, an upgrade was begun to allow it to work year-round, so it can also test engines when hit by birds, dust and hail, and perform endurance testing.

Now the company is planning an even bigger upgrade that will see the wind tunnel expanded and test stands rebuilt to hold much bigger engines, including the advanced GE9X, which is currently under development. It is expected to take until 2017 to complete the upgrade, in time to bring in the powerful, fuel-efficient GE9X. The engine, which won’t enter commercial service until 2020, will be used on Boeing’s 777X planes currently being developed.

“This is an upgrade to a lot of the equipment to be able to handle a much larger size engine,” said Rahim Ladha, director of communications at GE Canada. The GE9X, he said, “is among our most advanced engines ever built.”

GE Aviation’s Winnipeg test facility is a joint venture with StandardAero, a huge engine maintenance and repair company that has a large operation at the Winnipeg airport.

The expansion of the Winnipeg test centre is part of a move by GE’s aerospace division to boost its operations outside of the United States. The company said Thursday it is making the shift because it can’t get access to export bank financing in the U.S. It needs that financing to support $11-billion (U.S.) in “sales opportunities in the pipeline,” said David Joyce, president of GE Aviation. “The uncertainty around [export financing] in the U.S. requires that companies such as GE create alternatives in order to compete internationally.”

The U.S. Export-Import Bank’s official lending authority expired in June and has not been renewed by Congress.

GE Aviation said it will expand its operations in countries where export credit agency financing is available, including Canada. As well as the Winnipeg facility, GE Aviation has a robotics and automation R&D centre in Bromont, Que.

As part of its international expansion, GE Aviation is building a turboprop engine development and production operation in Europe, where it plans to spend more than $400-million.

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