NGTE Pyestock, Farnborough - October 2011
Visited with fishbrain, Gone, HiddenShadow and NickUK
Pyestock is a 250 acre site that contained the most comprehensive range of aero engine altitude test facilities in Europe. It originated in 1946 when the Engine Department of R.A.E. Farnborough merged with the Whittle Power Jets team to form The National Gas Turbine Establishment. In 1983 Pyestock became part of the R.A.E., the major air system research establishment of the Ministry of Defence Procurement Executive. It is now defunct, and has been for about 10 years. In terms of usage, talks (and legal proceeding) surfaced recently regarding creating a massive storage depot facility within the site, an inevitably disgusting plan that was fiercely opposed by amazing locals. Naturally, they were met with this response
in late 2010 rendering much of the rational, community-inspiring, fund-raising efforts of this group of hippies totally useless.
For our industrial pilgrimage, the original plan was to sleep in the car nearby and hit the monster site early the next day, but with late addition Gone in attendance, he twisted our arm into hopping the fence in the pitch black and making our way to the Airhouse for a few hours kip. This was by far the best idea, waking up in the Air House was definitely the best way to start the day... although, maybe Gone thinks differently now.
The Air House contains eight electrically driven compressor/exhauster sets which were used to supply high pressure air to the inlet of military engines to simulate high forward speed at low altitude. These machines could also extract the engine exhaust gases and lower the cell pressure so producing the required altitude conditions.
The test cells were are all linked with a central computer controlled data gathering system which enabled the tests to be monitored on-line using graphical displays on video units. The one in the Air House is where we bedded down.
After we’d awoken, Gone was straight up the gantry crane - and after hearing what sounded distinctly like a camera colliding with every steel beam on the 60ft drop to the lower levels... coupled with the resounding words, "Fuck! That was my camera guys!" - I assumed the obvious had happened and winced accordingly (like a mudderfugger).
I think I'm right in saying Gone had managed a staggering zero pictures before the old smashy smashy occurred but, credit to him, Gone was very philosophical about his loss and we were soon on our way to Cell 3.
Cell 3 was mainly used for military engine testing. The engine was lowered into the test cell through an access lid on the top and the lid is then bolted down to form a pressure vessel. I almost lost my camera and lens at this point... so kids, insure your cameras and lenses! I took a couple of crappy pics of the Sahara doors and the other StarWars-inspired behemoth on eastern side toward the Plenum Chamber... but I shall spare you them.
Cell 4 was a supersonic free jet test facility used for engine intake compatibility testing. It looks as impressive as it sounds! I can guarantee that these pictures do this place no justice whatsover!
Number 10 Exhauster was an additional exhauster for Cell 3, Cell 3 West and Cell 4. The Parsons/Frosty axial exhauster housed in this building was used instead of the No. 9 Exhauster when the latter was being serviced, or used in parallel when maximum output was necessary.
Cell 3 West the last altitude test cell built on the site. The while plastic opening gives access to the largest test cell on the site, brimming with engine mounting points, various sensors and other equipment.
The cell is a continuation of Cell 3, picking up the exhauster main from the Air House, and bringing the air flow above ground, into the steel shed in which the cell is housed. The fact I said 'Air House' in the last sentence excuses the picture of the Air House below, I trust.
The Plant House housed two Metropolitan-Vickers axial-flow compressor/exhauster sets and a Parsons air-bleed gas turbine. These supplied air to the pressure and suction mains controlled via a control room at the end of the hall. The Aero 'Catherdral' is situated within this building and is double the size of the other cubicles that line the main hall on both flanks of the building, obviously intended for far larger testing equipment.
Back to the Airhouse for some rooftopping and to play 'spot the jeep' - where somewhat bemused I watched the other lads running around the bouncy roof from corner to corner, studying the route of the jeep for no serviceable reason.
After the chillax up top we made our way out with just one final point of call... the Main Stores, which houses the carcass of a nifty little plane which is best viewed at the end of this report... fishbrain
All in all, an exhausting yet relaxed explore with some noisy hip-hop fans who don't know when to STFU or GTFO.
Massive plaudits to fishbrain for enduring the drive there, the 15-hour explore and the drive back without killing us all. Gone, I'm sorry for your loss... move on. NickUK and HiddenShadow, i'm writing this so you don't feel left out. Thanks for viewing,
Oh, go on then...