The low-cost small turbofan engine being developed by Williams International for next-generation light aircraft will be flight-tested in a prototype designed specifically for the revolutionary powerplant.

The FJX-2 engine will be flown in a prototype aircraft provided for the research-and-development project by Williams International. It is believed that the aircraft will be built by Burt Rutan's Scaled Composites.

The aircraft will be used to test the powerplant through the entire flight envelope anticipated for a variety of production aircraft which may be developed by general-aviation manufacturers following demonstration of the enabling propulsion technology, says the firm.

The aircraft will initially be powered by the earlier-model Williams FJX-1 turbofan. It will have its debut at the 1997 Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) meeting in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

The FJX-2 engine will power the aircraft during the fourth year of the project. NASA officials say that ground-testing of the FJX-2 is set to begin in 1999, and NASA plans to fly it the following year at the EAA fly-in.

Williams International believes that the engine will become part of a new line of commercial products for the US company, best known for providing the military with small turbofan and turbojet engines for cruise missiles, unmanned air vehicles, missiles and decoys.

In late September, NASA's Lewis Research Center selected Williams International and Teledyne Continental Motors to develop powerplant technology for future light aircraft. The R&D contracts were finalised in mid-December.

Williams International and the space agency will share the cost of developing an advanced turbine engine as part of NASA's General Aviation Propulsion programme. NASA is contributing $37 million for the four-year co-operative agreement. Overall, the project will cost $100 million, with NASA contributing 40% and Williams the remainder.

The new turbofan would power single-engine, four-place, and twin-engine, six-place, aircraft and be capable of more than 200kt (370km/h), says Williams International. It would offer about 3kN (700lb) of thrust and comply with future emission and noise requirements.

A mock-up of the FJX-2 turbofan, was recently exhibited at the US National Business Aircraft Association show in Orlando, Florida. It will feature a high bypass ratio and a simple, lightweight configuration. Company officials say that it will incorporate components derived from the FJ44-1, including the wide-sweep fan and combustion system. Other technologies are derived from automotive gas-turbine research aimed at high volume low-cost production.

Source: Flight International