West Palm Beach Growth Fueled by New Test Cells

Thursday, June 16, 2016

It was a not-so-cold December day in West Palm Beach, Florida. Well, almost every day is like that, but this one … was different.

"There was a very specific day, it was December 18," said Craig Stickler, project manager for the new auxiliary power unit, or APU Test Facility, in South Florida. "This building was constructed with tilt wall construction, so all the walls were formed on the ground. Then we had a 300-ton crane come in and lift and tilt the walls on the foundation."

It was a significant step for the new APU building, one of many West Palm projects that Pratt & Whitney's Facilities and Services has been overseeing in the past year.

"So the ramp is here for production, which means the ramp is here for facilities. We have to make certain that we stay one step ahead. We are doing our very best to meet our customers to understand what's next for the game," said Renee Welsh, senior director for Facilities & Services.

The almost 15,000-square-foot building houses six test cells, with room to expand to two more. Matthew Enochs, development test manager in West Palm Beach, said the design to allow expansion makes sense.

"Once you build a building, it's concrete. Why not build some spare capacity? It's much easier now than do it later," Enochs said.

For Welsh and her team, she said the job was about pleasing the customer, as well as the local and state governments.

"Because it is about the community, it is about involving registrations, regulations, making sure we work with the community on – landscaping," Welsh said. "Particularly in Florida, there is a great deal of flora that we need to manage. If we dig a hole, we have to commit to replacing that big hole with something."

"APUs are very small jet engines, so they had to have air missions and noise reduction. So the exhaust stacks of the facility have a silencer built into them that meets our sound requirements and air emissions at our campus here in West Palm," said Bill Booth, project manager, West Palm Beach Facilities.

But the sight of workmen isn't relegated to one area on West Palm's large property. Not far from the APU site another indoor production test stand, this one for the PurePower® PW1100G-JM engine, is moving closer to completion.

"All the test cells in Florida, up to this point, have been development test stands, which are not conducive to production testing," said Bryan Brunner, project manager for the A10 test cell.

If the sun is shining in Florida, you can bet that there is a plethora of work happening below it. The folks in facilities wouldn't want it any other way.

"It's a fresh look at the facility and it's exciting to be a part of all the activity and knowing you are on the front line," Booth said.

"It's about change, it's about growth and it's here – Pratt & Whitney is here!" Welsh said.