BAE Systems Wind Tunnel facilities are used to develop and test supersonic aircraft and missiles. Wind speeds in the tunnels can be up to six times the speed of sound and it is essential that the air is dry, free from contamination and temperature stabilised to ensure that the test results are accurate and repeatable. BAE Systems wind tunnels in Warton include six air storage vessels, with each vessel housing several hundred air-to-air heat exchangers. These, over the course of a number of years were found to be exhibiting signs of corrosion. This had the potential to disperse impurities into the air in the tunnel, so it was necessary to procure 540 new heat exchanger units to replace the existing units.
Several companies tendered for this project and the contract was awarded to heat exchanger specialists Thornhill Group.
Liz Thompson is a project manager with BAE Systems’ Test & Evaluation Engineering team and explains why Thornhill was selected: “We were keen to work with a UK based company so Thornhill being relatively close to us combined with the competitive pricing and reputation of working well with other companies made them the strongest contender for this important project.”
Once awarded the contract, Thornhill’s team made several visits to BAE to completely understand the requirements and determine a plan to meet them on time and on budget.
Thornhill proposed that the heat exchanger units would be fabricated in ASTM A316/316L stainless steel natural finish which allowed them to guarantee that none of the coating would flake or any corrosion or degradation would occur in use for 10 years.
Thornhill also developed designs that meant that the new units fit perfectly into the existing air vessels.
Liz Thompson says: “With a project of this size unexpected issues inevitably arise. We were able to work closely with Thornhill’s during these time and were very pleased with the way that Thornhill’s dealt with these in a professional and efficient way. Our close working relationship resulted in the order meeting all of our requirements and was delivered on time and schedule. I will have no hesitation in using Thornhill’s again and would recommend them to others looking for heat exchanger services.”