This secretive base hidden in the outskirts of Appalachia, with its curvy terrain covered in thick deciduous forests and snaked with fuel pipes leading to massive concrete bunkers, is the type of place the Empire would hide a Death Star’s force field generator.
But this is Ohio, not a moon of Endor, so the portly, furry inhabitants here are beavers, not Ewoks, and the bleeding edge engines assembled and tested here will end up powering Boeing’s newest commercial airliners, not Imperial Star Destroyers.
General Electric has used this 6,700-acre expanse called the Peebles Test Operation—located an hour east of GE Aviation’s Cincinnati headquarters—since the 1950s, first as a rocket testing site, then for military and commercial aircraft engines.
Its isolated position has buffered it from prying eyes and, more importantly for neighbors, from the thunderous scream of the 1,800 jets engines tested here every year to meet FAA and European Aviation Safety Agency requirements.
Ohio, GE is developing the world's most sophisticated commercial jet engines.
Photo: GE Aviation
Prior to sending an engine to the airframer, Peebles runs a “break-in” test, running the engine through take-off, climb, cruise, and landing. For the larger engines, Peebles has two massive indoor testing spaces connected to control rooms with big screens, flashing buttons, and shiny levers. The near empty rooms themselves are about 40 ft. high, with one wall just a giant computer screen and another has a giant black hole leading to an exhaust stack, about the size of the 111-in. wide engine hanging in front of it. The engine sucks the air through the screen and funnels it into the fan, with the exhaust going into the stack. The auto coupling plate, the wired harness the engine hangs from, funnels all the sensor data to the control room for analysis. This is what it’s really all about there.
control room to detect any anomalies. It also looks like the inside of the Death Star.
Photo: John Hitch