One of GE Aviation’s smallest engines has been making big headlines around the world. The Advanced Turboprop engine, designed and developed in just over two years, ran for the first time on Dec. 22 at GE Aviation’s facility in Prague, Czech Republic. The engine, which features advanced technology not seen in the Business and General Aviation market, is expected to enter service in 2019. Here are five items to note about the engine:
It’s the first clean-sheet turboprop engine to hit the Business and General Aviation (BGA) market in more than 30 years. Pratt & Whitney Canada has commanded the BGA turboprop market since it introduced its PT6 turboprop more than 50 years ago, producing over 50,000 of these engines. While the PT6 is widely considered a reliable engine with great market share, it is not known in the market as an advanced engine. The GE Aviation BGA team is introducing 79 new technologies to this market. GE believes their advanced technologies give the Advanced Turboprop engine a competitive advantage over the PT6, allowing airframers to design and build a better overall aircraft that is more powerful, more affordable to operate, quieter, cleaner and safer.
The technology is a difference-maker. Pilots flying standard turboprop aircraft have to manage the propeller and engine separately with multiple control levers. The Advanced Turboprop features a Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system that allows for single-lever control. This will simplify and reduce workload in the cockpit, allowing aircraft to be easier and safer to fly. The automated control system will enable better performance, better power during climb and takeoff, better efficiency at cruise, and reduced noise. The engine also includes two stages of variable stator vanes and cooled high-pressured turbine blades, developed for GE’s large commercial engines and flown more than 1.3 billion flight hours. The sum of the Advanced Turboprop engine’s technologies will allow for up to 20 percent lower fuel burn, 10 percent higher cruise power and a 33 percent improvement in time between overhaul (TBO).
It’s 3D-printed parts offer even more of an advantage. GE’s first engine intentionally designed for additive manufacturing minimalized 855 separate components into just 12, shaving off more than 100 pounds in weight. More from GE Reports.
The engine has deep roots in Europe. The designing, manufacturing and early testing is taking place in Europe, with more than 400 engineers around Europe, including the Czech Republic, Poland, Italy and Germany. In 2016, GE finalized an agreement with the Czech government to build its new turboprop headquarters for development, test and engine-production in the Czech Republic. When complete and at full production rate, this new facility is expected to have 500 additional employees. GE Aviation Czech has already added around 180 jobs, with another 80 expected this year.
The engine is expected to begin test flights on the Cessna Denali later this year. GE picked up great momentum when the Advanced Turboprop engine was chosen by Cessna to power its new single engine, clean-sheet design in 2015. When installed on the Denali, the Advanced Turboprop engine’s efficiencies will allow for a larger cabin experience with a comfortable 6000-foot cabin altitude at a 30,000-foot cruising altitude. By the time the Denali enters into service, the engine will have completed more than 2000 hours of testing.