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Rochester Site Phase III Building and Fuel Flow Lab

Technical Information

Catalogue No: PW03139
Picture Type: Rochester Photo Negative
Topic: Sites / Facilities
Title: Rochester Site Phase III Building and Fuel Flow Lab
Date: 6 Mar 1985
Width (mm): 127
Height (mm): 102
Copies: 1
Location: Negatives Cabinet PW ("W" Negs) [RAA Office]

The Fuel flow business was important to Elliotts and a new fuel-flow test laboratory—the most advanced in Europe, if not in the world—was opened at Elliott-Automation's Rochester factory on November 20 1964 by Mr Neil Marten, Parliamentary Secretary to the MoA.

Enclosed in a blast-absorbing concrete emplacement, it was designed to test fuel flow equipment for the new generation of supersonic aircraft where fuel temperature of 150°C or higher would be encountered, and units would be required to operate at rigid standards of accuracy under extreme conditions of temperature (up to 200°C ambient) and in areas of extreme vibration.All controls and observers are in a separate building and several closed-circuit TV cameras give a view of critical parts of the system. Hot water and freon are used respectively as heating and cooling media. The laboratory is suitable for developing flow-measurement systems for supersonic airliners or VTOL aircraft. 

The Laboratory can achieve gravimetric calibration accuracy within an error band of ±0.1% of flow rate under the following conditions:

1. Flow rates from 50 to 120,000 lb/hr through three different bores of pipe.

2. Fuel temperatures from -55°C to +180°C.

3. Ambient temperatures from -60°C to +200°C.

There is also a Vibrator capable of producing a maximum thrust of 500 pounds with frequencies of up to 3,000 c.p.s. for resonance searches.

Mass-flow test measurement is effected by weighing the fuel as it accumulates in a tank mounted on a weighing balance, the whole unit being housed in a sealed container filled with nitrogen.

Fuel measurement systems such as Tank capacity, Fuel Flow rate, Fuel Remaining, Fuel Consumed were all big business for Elliott Bros (and subsequent names) and a snapshot of the platforms to which these were fitted can be gained from one of the Company databases:

AV8B, Buccaneer, Concorde, Dominie, EFA, Fiat Rig, Hawk, HS125, HS146 (BAe146), Javelin, Sea Venom, Sea Vixen, Valiant, Scimitar, P1127, Phantom, Phoenix, Trident, Transall C160, MRCA (Tornado), Finnish Hawk, G222, VC10, RB211 and RJ500 engines.........

There have been a number of piecemeal additions to the Rochester site after a long period of stability with the Hangars and Assembly Shops together with a miscellany of buildings up at the South end of the Airport. The first major additions were in the early 1960s when the three Towers were constructed and completed by 1966. At the same time the offices along the South side of the Assembly factory were made double storey.

As the business expanded various sites around Rochester and Chatham were acquired, such as the New Road Building for the research centre (FARL), Hopewell Drive for a Training School, and Gads Hill in Gillingham for a Drawing Office and an ATE (eg D-LASAR) group plus, for a few years, a small project engineering group (WFG2) and the EMC Test facility.

The next new building was the Corsair Building, named after the A-7 Corsair HUD programme, which was opened in 1978 on the South side of the site. This was a largely prefabricated construction estimated to have a lifespan of some 15 years but it was still standing in 2022. By 1980 the new Phase III Building dedicated to the growing business in flight controls was operating, and finally on that strip of land the Falcon Building, for the growing research and development of diffractive optical elements, was completed in 1983.

As the business began to contract in the 1990s the outpost buildings were closed down and some considerable refurbishment was done on the main site. The Restaurant was developed into a modern facility and the Towers had significant improvements such as new windows and air-conditioning.

However the basic structure of the site is showing its age and in reality most of the buildings are not suitable for the modern era. The Hangars in particular are very expensive to maintain. An attempt was made in 2004 to plan for a glossy new factory complex but nothing came of that.  More recently the site management has been looking at a site transformation that would replace the older buildings with modern office and manufacturing facilities, and the planning for this is progressing well.

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