Northern Manitoba facility to cold-test massive jet engine

Thompson, Man., is home to a growing industry of cold-weather testing, mostly on automobiles. But today, a local company will begin tests on the largest engine the city has seen.

Jet engine to be tested in Thompson, Man., facility is the largest the city has seen

The Glacier ice testing facility in Thompson, Man., is where a giant Rolls Royce XWB engine will be cold-weather tested. (Marcy Markusa/CBC)

Thompson continues to capitalize on its frigid winters.

With over 200 days of sub-zero temperatures, the northern Manitoba city is home to a growing industry of cold-weather testing for engines and equipment.

Most of what gets tested are cars and trucks, but on Thursday morning, one company will start testing the largest engine the city has seen.

A giant Rolls Royce XWB engine is in place at a complex owned by a company called MDS AeroTest. The engine is ready to face weeks of sub-zero temperatures courtesy of the company's Glacier ice testing facility.

Called a "beast" by MDS staff, the massive state-of-the-art engine is around 20 feet in diameter and powers jumbo passenger jets.

The 'beast' arrives

MDS general manager Don Pereira says just getting the "beast" to Thompson was a feat itself. It was flown into Winnipeg on an Antonov, the world's largest cargo plane. From there, the engine was carried by truck on Highway 6.

Pereira said the engine arrived in Thompson on Feb. 12.

"That day was probably about people who were moving behind this beast, saying, 'Boy, that thing is going a little bit slow,'" he said.

The MDS facilities are a series of buildings, but most of the actual testing will take place in what looks like a giant horn.

This particular jet engine is being tested to see how it copes with frozen rain, so it will be hung inside the "horn" and constantly sprayed with icy water.

Pereira said he hopes this leads to demands for more tests on this scale — and not just in the winter. That could mean expansion for the company.

"For the community of Thompson, it's about having great high-tech employment opportunities for the young people," he said.