ATR in advanced talks with GE, P&W for large-sized turboprop engine

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ATR is in advanced discussions with Pratt & Whitney and General Electric about a powerplant for all-new large turboprop. It says it will decide whether to launch such a product next year.

"You know we are discussing with two to three engine manufacturers, not just general discussions, but in a very detailed way, and namely P&W and General Electric. They have very, very interesting things for us," says ATR's head of marketing Mario Formica.

The EADS-Alenia joint venture, which builds the 50-seat ATR 42 and 70-seat ATR 72, has been studying the 90-seat market and expects to decide in 2011 whether to continue those studies.

This timeframe is fundamental since ATR "would like to enter into the market at around 2016", Formica said at the Regional Airline Association convention in Milwaukee.

GE Aviation is proposing a turboprop engine dubbed the CPX38, which is based on a derivative of the GE38 turboshaft developed for Sikorsky's CH-53K heavylift helicopter.

"The GE38 is the military turboshaft. What we're studying is a derivative, a turboprop, that would use a lot of the core," says Chuck Nugent, general manager of the CF34 turbofan programme. "That's what we're talking to airframers about."

Nugent says GE is confident the new turboprop engine can deliver "double digit fuel burn improvement" than what is available today. GE is eyeing a service entry of 2015 for the engine.

On the question of GE scaling the programme to support a next-generation 50-seat turboprop, Nugent says: "Our thought process is to utilise the core size defined by the GE38 and use that for potential opportunities. Propose that for potential opportunities."

P&W says it is working with airframers to define the objectives for a next-generation turboprop engine. "We're not being explicit right now in terms of what we need to do, but we intend to leverage our experience," says P&W Canada vice-president strategic planning and marketing Richard Dussault. He notes that "the technology suite that emanates from the [P&W] geared turbofan" will be leveraged in the next turboprop engine.

Meanwhile Formica says that the ATR 42/72-600 programme is progressing, with certification of the follow-on variants expected in November and deliveries due to start in the second half of next year.