As the operator advances the throttle, the Allison J35 turbojet engine’s whir turns to a roar when the afterburner ignites, producing a fuel flow that would empty a car’s gas tank in 22 seconds. Operators need no previous experience to make this cross section of the turbojet sing. It’s an interactive display at the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, Allison Branch museum, designed to educate and entertain.
The museum’s engines—including the World War I-era Allison Liberty; the rare Allison X-4520 in which 24 cylinders form an X; and the Rolls-Royce AE series on the Lockheed C130J Hercules, Cessna Citation X, and Bell-Boeing V-22 Osprey—have been rebuilt by volunteers with a level of precision that demonstrates how aircraft engines run “like a flying Swiss watch,” according to David Newill, president of the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, Allison Branch, and director of market research and analysis for Rolls-Royce Defense. Newill and other Roll-Royce employees and retirees volunteer their time to offer free guided tours of the museum, giving visitors an inside look at what went in to producing and restoring the engines.
“We’ve used the most modern technology on our oldest engine,” he said of the Liberty. The distributors and spark advance were 3-D printed to complete the engine’s restoration. The Liberty engine, built in the early 1920s, is credited with changing the future of Allison.
Allison’s V1710 and Rolls-Royce’s Merlin are on display for history buffs to debate the merits of the two engines, produced in the 1930s. Producing 1,000 horsepower, the V1710 was tested on an Army Consolidated A-11, then the Curtiss-Wright XP-37 and Bell XFM-1. The Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, Bell P-39 Airacobra, and Lockheed P-38 Lightning, and North American P-51 Mustang used the V1710 engine. The first Rolls-Royce Merlin engines, also producing 1,000 horsepower, are best known for powering Hawker Hurricanes and the Supermarine Spitfires. A more powerful version of the Merlin later powered the P-51 Mustang.
The museum also notes Allison’s role in the space race. Allison built the fuel and oxidizer tanks for the Apollo command module and lunar excursion module for the moon landing.
Present-day engines on display include the Rolls-Royce RR300 turboshaft engine for Robinson’s R66 and the Model 250 series turboshaft engines installed on certain Bell and Hughes models.
Entertaining for the whole family, the museum offers interactive displays for children as well as technical descriptions for engineers and easy-to-understand comparisons for those who aren’t. Based at the Indianapolis Rolls-Royce facility 20 miles from Indianapolis Regional Airport, the museum offers free one-hour public tours from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. The address is 2601 West Raymond St., Indianapolis, IN 46241.
Heading to AOPA’s Indianapolis Fly-In on May 31? With plenty of fun for the whole family in the Indianapolis area, from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, you might consider extending your visit a couple of days. Pilots might consider touring the Rolls-Royce Heritage Trust, Allison Branch museum or signing up for aerobatic lessons at Indianapolis Regional Airport in advance of the fly-in.
Two local restaurants top the must-try list, according to Indianapolis-based pilots: St. Elmo Steak House, which serves some of the hottest cocktail sauce around, and Edwards Drive-In, which was featured on the Travel Channel’s Man vs. Food in 2010. Whether you’re dining on choice steaks or chowing down on a pork tenderloin sandwich, both of these restaurants will delight your taste buds.
As the AOPA Fly-In nears, please let us know if you are planning to attend and how many will be with you. RSVP to reserve free lunch tickets for AOPA members and their immediate family (lunch will be catered by Edwards Drive-In), and purchase $5 tickets for the pancake breakfast hosted by local EAA Chapters. The fly-in will feature educational seminars, exhibits, aircraft display, and a Pilot Town Hall with AOPA President Mark Baker, U.S. Sen. Joe Donnelly, U.S. Reps. Larry Bucshon and Todd Rokita, and Indiana State Sen. Brandt Hershman.
Pilots flying in for AOPA's Indianapolis Fly-In should download and review the flight procedures in advance. Check the weather and file a flight plan with DTC DUAT, the official weather sponsor of AOPA’s Regional Fly-Ins. If you need a rental car, book it through AOPA for exclusive discounts from Enterprise, National, and Alamo.