The GE engine-testing facility located out past the runways near the north end of the Winnipeg airport is getting a $7-million injection of new equipment.
Among other things, it will help StandardAero, the Winnipeg jet-engine maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company, to step up to a new level of support for the most popular line of GE jet engines.
The additional investment at what was initially a cold-weather engine-testing facility is further evidence of the successful ongoing partnership between GE Aviation and StandardAero, which operates the facility for GE.
The federal government is putting in $1 million, StandardAero is making a $4-million investment and GE is putting an additional $2 million into the project.
Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, said the intent of the investment is to expand the scope of an already buoyant aerospace sector in Western Canada.
It means StandardAero will be able to provide an enhanced suite of maintenance, repair and overhaul services on the most popular line of GE jet engines, the CFM56. Nearly 23,000 of those engines have been delivered to more than 500 customers around the world.
Those are the engines used on the most popular Boeing and Airbus jets -- including those used by WestJet, with whom StandardAero signed a 12-year contract in 2009. They will also be used on Boeing's new 737 MAX, the new Airbus A320neo, and the C919 built by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMOC).
StandardAero is certified to conduct a range of MRO services on those engines.
The new investment will allow StandardAero to be part of the engine-certification development process when in-service engines receive specific types of alterations.
The new investment is expected to create as many as 40 jobs over time.
It will also mean the non-profit West Canitest R & D (WestCaRD) will have access to more equipment and test data.
WestCaRD works with engineers and students at the University of Manitoba and Red River College using the specializing test equipment at the GE Aviation Testing Research & Development Centre for outside research projects.
Bob Madigan, the StandardAero vice-president responsible for the GE test centre as well as StandardAero's CFM56 and CF34 engine operations, said the new arrangement means a lot to the future development of StandardAero's operations in Winnipeg.
"It is an important business development for us," Madigan said. "It allows us to continue to grow our capabilities and give us the opportunity to broaden our model base."
The $50-million GE Aviation Testing Research & Development Centre opened in February 2012.
A year later, GE spent another $2.5 million extending the concrete base to allow the huge wind tunnel to be moved back farther to allow different types of testing in the summer.
Since then, an additional building has been erected on the site and some of the new investment will go toward specialized equipment to move the engines around the site and to StandardAero's facility not far from the airport.
Daniel Verreault, GE Aviation's country director for Canada, said the arrangement being developed with StandardAero is unlike anything GE has with any other partner.
The design and operation of jet engines are intensely regulated and require an exhaustive development and certification process.
Verreault said any modifications done during servicing of the engines -- including introducing new materials or redesign of a certain part or the introduction of better material -- also needs to be planned, studied, tested and certified.
"That is the development process," Verreault said.
"We are bringing StandardAero into the development process for two CFM56 models. That's never been done before by our firm."