P&WC eyes market for even larger engines

EBACE Convention News » 2007
May 10, 2007, 10:36 AM

Pratt & Whitney Canada’s (P&WC) progress in developing a powerplant for the proposed Bombardier C Series is contributing to research and development of engines for a future generation of large or heavy business jets. The so-called X10 program addresses requirements for 10,000- to 14,000-pound-thrust engines that could be candidates for Cessna’s “large cabin” concept, future Bombardier designs and Dassault’s super-midsize long-range aircraft, according to P&WC executive vice president John Saabas. In addition, the technology could be used to refresh existing designs in that class as manufacturers offer new aircraft in five years or so.

Saabas has assumed increased responsibility for day-to-day P&WC operations, as president Alain Bellemare has taken on the additional role as strategy and
development executive vice president at U.S. parent company Pratt & Whitney. P&WC has embarked on a C$1.5 billion ($1.3 billion), five-year investment program covering basic R&D in such areas as combustion, emission, noise and materials technologies, as well as manufacturing and new nonderivative engine designs.

Development of a powerplant for the C Series–which would have become PW&C’s biggest engine–has passed to the U.S. parent company after thrust requirements increased, as a consequence of Bombardier consultations with many airlines, Saabas said. Its requirements had grown to more than 20,000 pounds of thrust, the level that is an agreed demarcation between the two companies because P&WC does not have the proper equipment to lift or test powerplants of that size.

Ideas for an engine core developed during the C Series program could be applied to next-generation engines, according to Saabas. He said P&WC believes it has “a good understanding” of tough requirements as manufacturers seek a step-change in performance, fuel-burn and noise.

The resulting product also could be applied to a future helicopter requirement “if we want to make a turboshaft that big,” Saabas told EBACE Convention News. He said new engines will need to offer the minimum achievable fuel burn–at least a “five- to seven-percent improvement” on what is available today–while meeting much tighter emissions and noise regulations.

A major consideration is how P&WC would support a new engine through its existing service facilities. “We’re working hard to improve how we [interface] with customers who need reliable and very fast response, so we’re trying to revamp our back-office support in order to respond more quickly,” said Saabas.

P&WC already demonstrated a core similar to that proposed for its X10 engine as part of its advanced turbine fan integrator  technology program. That program led to the geared-fan for a possible next-generation turboprop shown at the 2003 Paris Air Show and had demonstrated new combustor technology aimed at providing oxides from nitrogen  emission standards some 10 percent better than current CAEP requirements. While the program remains active in demonstrating some new technologies, Saabas acknowledged that engine architecture has moved on from the early 2000s’ era of much lower fuel prices with greater optimization now required to meet fuel-burn requirements.

Like many other aerospace companies, P&WC has benefited from recent demand stimulated by continuing economic growth. Having doubled engine production since 2003, it expects to manufacture 3,000 units this year and perhaps as many as 3,500 units next year, said Saabas.

He acknowledged the difficulty in ensuring sufficient supplies to support increased production rates. “It’s always a challenge because when you grow, [supplies] must grow with you, but we’ve done it for the past three years,” said Saabas, acknowledging that the most critical areas for P&WC are precision castings and bearings.

Some 30 to 40 percent of next year’s production will comprise variants of P&WC’s ubiquitous PT6 turboprop, which has been around since 1961 in some 65 different forms or applications offering 500 to 1,800 shp. “There are a couple more derivatives in the [works],” said Saabas, who has identified an emerging helicopter requirement calling for an engine providing almost 2,500 shp.

Other current programs include the PW610F (for the Eclipse 500 very light jet), PW615F (Cessna Citation Mustang), PW617F (first examples recently delivered to Embraer for flight-testing on the Phenom 100), PW535B (Cessna Citation Encore+), PW535E (under development for the Embraer Phenom 300), PW307A (recently EASA-certified for the Dassault Falcon 7X), PW210 (to be certified next year for the Sikorsky S-76D) and PT6C-67E (recently selected to power the Eurocopter/Harbin EC 175/Z15 helicopter).

Asked about the company’s claim that the family of small PW600 engines developed for the VLJ market had “changed the way P&WC will design future engines,” Saabas said it had learned how to become better involved with fewer suppliers. The manufacturer also had learned about modularity, early involvement in the aftermarket and that processes must be “repeatable and durable,” he concluded.

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