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Rolls-Royce selects AeroTEC to modify Boeing 747

Rolls-Royce investing $70mn working with AeroTEC to create a flying digital hub testing the latest engines

Rolls-Royce has chosen aerospace manufacturer AeroTEC to modify a former Qantas Boeing 747-400 to test the next generation of cutting-edge technologies for its engines.

Rolls-Royce will use the aircraft to test current and future jet engine technology that will transform flight, reduce emissions and set new benchmarks for efficiency. A $70mn investment will create a flying digital hub, analysing more flight test data than ever before.

As a flying testbed, it will be fitted with the latest testing capabilities and for the first time, will test engines which power both commercial and business aircraft. New systems will obtain better data faster than ever before, and technologies will be tested at higher altitudes and faster speeds. Flying testbeds are used to conduct altitude testing and monitor technologies in flight conditions.

The new aircraft will support the Rolls-Royce IntelligentEngine vision, where engines are connected, contextually aware and even comprehending, starting from their time on the testbed.

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When complete, the aircraft will work alongside Rolls-Royce’s existing flying testbed, a Boeing 747-200, which has completed 285 test flights to date. 

Gareth Hedicker, Rolls-Royce, Director of Development and Experimental Engineering, commented: “The Queen of the skies will become the jewel in the crown of our global test programmes. This is a significant investment that will expand our world-leading test capabilities even further and will allow us to obtain more flight test data than ever before. After transporting millions of passengers on this beloved aircraft for 20 years, we’re excited to power it into the future.”

Lee Human, AeroTEC President & Founder, added: “The AeroTEC team is proud to partner with Rolls-Royce to modify, build and commission this new flying testbed. This airborne laboratory will enable the development and certification of new, highly-advanced engine technologies designed to increase efficiency and minimise environmental impacts. Our engineering, modification, and test teams in Seattle and Moses Lake are already hard at work preparing to bring Rolls-Royce’s vision to reality.”

Rolls-Royce is investing $70mn (£56mn) in the acquisition and refurbishment of the aircraft. This is in addition to a £90mn investment in Testbed 80, the largest and most intelligent testbed in the world, currently under construction in Derby, UK, and set to be commissioned in 2020.