Wings Magazine

Road test to flight test

The superb facilities at Transport Canada’s Motor Vehicle Test and Research Centre (MVTC) in Blainville, Que., have much to offer the aviation industry, argues PMG Technologies, which manages the MVCT.

July 7, 2014  By Carroll McCormick

The superb facilities at Transport Canada’s Motor Vehicle Test and Research Centre (MVTC) in Blainville, Que., have much to offer the aviation industry, argues PMG Technologies, which manages the MVCT. To that end, PMG has joined the Consortium de recherche et d’innovation en aérospatiale au Quebec (CRIAQ) which facilitates collaboration between aerospace companies.

The Motor Vehicle Test and Research Centre has also tested aircraft. PHOTOs: PMG 


To introduce its capabilities to Quebec’s large aerospace industry this February, the MVTC hosted a CRIAQ research committee meeting at which members presented projects they are working on. Members also got the cook’s tour of the facility. They watched a car impact test on the 200-metre-long, indoor track and technicians demonstrated the Hi-Ge sled, which can accelerate a 3,000-kilogram (6,600 pounds) payload to a G-force of 92 in less than one metre (3.3 feet). Members also saw the crash test dummy workshop, environmental chambers and other test equipment.

MVTC joined CRIAQ in March 2013. “We became a member to be closer to the industry and to be able to offer our solutions to CRAIQ members and to support their innovations,” explains Claude Sauvageau, director, testing and capital projects at PMG Technologies.


CRIAQ has 54 industry members, 25 universities and research centres and 11 associate members under its umbrella. A not-for-profit organization, it is funded primarily by industry, the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and universities. The Quebec government funds committee meetings. “Our role is to bring together and help [members] build collaborative building projects. CRIAQ [also] helps fund the projects themselves,” says Clément Fortin, president and director general, CRIAQ.

Cameras at the MVTC can take 1,000 four-megabyte images per second.


Every two years, CRIAQ holds a research forum attended by as many as 1,000 people. This April’s forum included 200 delegates from 15 countries. In essence, CRIAQ is a speed dating R&D service to aerospace companies looking for project partners and collaborators.

“It brings together context, objectives, and partners you are looking for. Each company presents three slides. At the end of the day it signs a non-disclosure agreement with interested partners. Now, PMG can come to the research forum and say, ‘we’d like to collaborate,’ ” Fortin says.

Since PMG began managing the MVTC in 1996, Transport Canada has invested $50 million in infrastructure improvements. It asserts that it has the most accurate and reliable test facility in the world. Automotive Testing Technology International agrees. In 2012, it selected MVCT from competitors from around the world for its Crash Test Facility of the Year Award.

“We are capable of doing things that are far better than some other facilities,” Sauvageau says.

A Sikorsky S-76B undergoing tests in an environmental chamber. Photo: Sikorsky

PMG already has a history of doing research for aerospace companies: Rolls Royce, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Bombardier, Bell Helicopter and Sikorsky. In one P&WC project, for example, PMG built a vacuum chamber to simulate an altitude of 6,100 metres (20,000 ft.). It operated the vacuum chamber at -40 Celsius for P&WC 200-series engines. That program ran from 1997 to 2009.

PMG conducted the other projects in its two environmental test chambers. The smaller of them measures 3.4 m wide x 7.2 m long x 3.0 m high (11 ft. x 23.5 ft. x 9 ft 8 in). Rated at 30,000 BTU an hour, it can be cooled to -40 degrees C (-40 Fahrenheit) within three hours. It has a temperature range of -55º C to +85º C (-67º F to +185º F). Temperatures can be set and maintained to an accuracy of plus or minus 0.5º C (± 1º F).

The larger environmental chamber can swallow a good chunk of a Bombardier CRJ fuselage or most of a Sikorsky S-76B. It measures 6.4 m wide x 16.5 m long x 4.2 m high (21 ft. x 54 ft. x 13 ft., 9 in.). The doors are 3.2 m wide x 4.1 m high (10 ft., 6 in x 13 ft., 5 in.). It is rated at 444,000 BTU an hour and has the same temperature range and accuracy as the small chamber.

A Bombardier CRJ undergoing tests in an environmental chamber that can be chilled or heated from -55º Celsius to +85º C.  PHOTOs: PMG

P&WC summarizes the vacuum chamber and environmental chamber tests. “We tested the PW207E model for software validation from August 1999 to November 1999. We also tested the PW207E model for certification from December 1999 to January 2000. The purpose of these types of testing was to validate the engine control systems under simulated altitude operating conditions. We also used PMG facilities for other limited PW200 tests (cold tests), PT6 (cold start tests) and the PW127 program (cold start tests). The dates of those tests were confined to 1997 and 2008,” says Annick Lambert, manager, communications, marketing and business. P&WC. Sauvageau adds, “The engines were tested full time between 1997 and 2008.”

An impressive fact about the refrigeration units for the environmental chambers is that they can maintain a constant temperature – e.g., -40º C with a P&WC engine running inside. “We were running two to three shifts a day, with the engine running almost continuously,” Sauvageau recalls.

Bombardier tested a section of a CRJ fuselage in the large environmental chamber between 1996 and 2001. Bombardier was unable to provide details of the projects. However, Sauvageau recalls, “Bombardier did thermal analyses of the fuselage using 500-600 strain gauges. We [also] generated ice on the plane and then tested the effect of the ice on the opening of the doors.”

Commenting on its use of testing facilities in general, Lambert says, “Bombardier Aerospace has in the past years used facilities such as PMG to perform numerous test campaigns to develop and certify its products.

Able to accelerate payloads to 104 G-forces, this sled has crash test possibilities for aircraft. PHOTOs: PMG


“These tests range from component integration testing such as gas springs (allow a controlled drop of the door in cold weather), electric motors, seals in the passenger doors of our aircraft, to temperature cycling from +30 to -50 C to verify water ingress and freezing impact on the door mechanism (friction increase, jamming potential) and its rigging all the way to validating and certifying the operational handle loads to operate the doors while a thick layer of ice is formed on the periphery of the door and fuselage. The large chambers are used to recreate an environment to simulate extreme cold weather cases required by the certification authorities.”

PMG’s market research suggests that aerospace clients might also be interested in using the Hi-Ge sled for testing aircraft structures. It can accelerate payloads on its 3.5 m x 1.5 m platform (4.9 ft. x 11.5 ft.) to a maximum G-force of 104, with a peak energy of 678,000 N-m (500,000 ft. lb.).

MVTC’s family of sensor-packed crash test dummies, ready and willing to sign on to any ride, can collect occupant data. “I have seen photos of cockpits with dummies installed in the seats. Our competitors are getting business from the aviation industry, so we should be getting that Hi-Ge sled business. Maybe plane manufacturers would want to do it at PMG,” Sauvageau says.

“One of our roles is to bridge that automotive testing with aviation testing. It’s about learning to work together and find collaboration,” says Fortin. The trick, he adds, is for PMG to find its place among aircraft testing facilities. “It is a matter of PMG finding the sweet spot. I’m sure that with crash and environmental chambers testing, they can do things. It’s obvious,” he adds.

Noting that manufacturers could do their testing at home rather than in the United States or Europe, Sauvageau says, “We want to be able to offer a state-of-the-art solution to the aviation industry, while reducing the cost of their business.”


Stories continue below