Surging demand at Turbomeca creates factory capacity crunch
Turbomeca, the French helicopter turbine engine manufacturer, predicts the helicopter market overall will experience continued strong growth for the next two years before cooling somewhat. In that span, the company will be working overtime to keep up with demand.
Turbomeca vice president of market and products strategy Charles Claveau offered an overall assessment of the helicopter market, saying the biggest impediment to growth isn’t the sagging economy but rather production capacity. “Today our view is that our business will increase for at least the next two years,” he said. “After that it will stabilize or continue to slightly increase because we think that today the markets are limited by production capacity of the helicopter manufacturers.” By 2010 deliveries will reach the upper level of market demand and afterward will stabilize at around 1,500 engines per year, he said. At present, Claveau noted, Turbomeca’s business is split approximately 50:50 between military and civil buyers.
Turbomeca these days is enjoying something old and something new, with a 30-year-old family of engines still going strong and two new products for the turbine helicopter market. The venerable Arriel family now includes 28 versions and, Claveau noted, “By the end of last year we produced 7,763 of these engines, and 777 in the last year alone.” He said Arriel reliability is reflected in a 3,500-hour TBO for the Arriel 2 series.
In all, Turbomeca offers various turbine models in seven distinct engine families: the Arrius, Arriel, TM 333, Ardiden/Shakti, MTR390, Makila and RTM 322. Versions of Arriel engines power 10 groups of helicopters built in the U.S., Europe, India and China. Six rotary-wing models each fly with a pair of Arrius turbines.
Arriel engines in versions ranging in power from 650 to 950 shp fly aboard the Eurocopter EC 130 and EC 155 family, the Ecureuil AS 350 and Dauphin AS 365, as well as the Sikorsky S-76A++, C+ and C++. In addition, Arriel power is the choice for the Chinese-built H410/425 (Z9) and Z11 helicopters along with the multi-market EC 145/U.S. Army UH-72A Lakota light utility helicopter. “Last year we produced and delivered 61 engines for the Lakota,” Claveau reported.
He added, “Today we are working on preproduction toward a new evolution of Arriel 2 and have a goal to decrease maintenance cost of the engine by 15 percent. This involves redesign of the compressor to increased efficiency, and also reworking the flow-through design of combustion and power turbine sections.” Its Tech 800 demonstrator program has been launched to qualify technologies needed for engines producing from 1,000 to 1,500 shp.
The latest production version of the Arrius (and the smallest of the Turbomeca engine family in terms of shaft horsepower), the 1A1 was introduced in December 2006 as an option for the Eurocopter AS 355 NP Ecureuil. Production of the Arrius 1A1 began last year, and 30 engines had been delivered by the end of last year. Turbomeca expects to ship 39 of them this year.
The 710-shp Arrius 2G2 for the 7,000-pound twin-engine general utility class Kamov 226 is the next in line. One engine is in the prototype stage, with certification expected next year. Somewhat further out, the Arrius Tech 600 technology program launched last year has the goal of “demonstrating the technology for the next evolution of the Arrius family,” Claveau said. He noted that emphasis is on an increased compressor ratio and improving combustion chamber efficiency while reducing its production cost. “We have as our main concern the compressor because we want to decrease fuel consumption. We will have started development of a completely new engine based on this technology in 2010,” he added. There are a total of 13 versions of Arrius today, ranging from about 500 to 1,000 shp.
The Tech 600 and Tech 800 technology demonstrator programs, with goal achievement milestones of 2009 and 2010 respectively, are being conducted at Turbomeca’s Bordes headquarters in western France. A 1,080-shp TM 333 2M2 was certified last year for a new version of the single-engine Chetan military helicopter, built by Hindustan in India. Turbomeca certified the 1,200-shp Ardiden 1H last year for the Indian Dhruv helicopter. Also certified last year was the latest version of the RTM 322 family, which powers the EH101 Merlin and the NH 90. At 2,650 shp it is the most powerful in the line of Turbomeca engines.
A 1,465-shp version of the MTR390E, being readied for the improved Eurocopter Tigre military helicopter, performed its first test cell run in December.