From secret projects to damaging delays and changing loyalties, it has been a busy, and sometimes turbulent, few years for the business jet engine manufacturers. Four of the big six – GE Aviation, Pratt & Whitney Canada, Rolls-Royce and Safran – have new programmes in advanced development or final stages of flight testing, while Honeywell and Williams International have latest versions of their powerplants on recently-certificated aircraft. This is our update of progress so far.
PRATT & WHITNEY CANADA
Pratt & Whitney Canada has had a good year, adding the relaunched Dassault Falcon 6X to its tally of business jets powered by versions of its 10,000-20,000lb-thrust (45-89kN) class PW800 engine. The airframer had originally chosen the Safran Silvercrest for its 5X – replaced by the 6X in February – but ditched its fellow French manufacturer last December after repeated delays and problems with the all-new engine.
The 6X, scheduled for first flight in 2021, sees the United Technologies subsidiary consolidate its position with Dassault, whose 8X and 7X trijets and 2000 twinjet are all powered by versions of the 4,700-8,000lb-thrust class PW300. The Honeywell TFE731-powered Falcon 900LX is the only exception to P&WC’s dominance.
The PW800 is also the engine on Gulfstream’s latest pairing, the G500 and G600, which are due to enter service later this year, and next year, respectively. P&WC usurped the Savannah-based manufacturer’s regular propulsion partner Rolls-Royce when Gulfstream selected the PW814GA and PW815GA variants to launch the G500 and G600 in 2014.
The only glitch for P&WC has been a contractual dispute with Nordam that saw the US aerostructures supplier halt production of the nacelles for the Gulfstream engines in July, and enter Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Gulfstream intervened in September to settle the spat and allow Nordam to restructure its business.
Nine years ago, it all looked very different for the PW800 after Cessna cancelled the large-cabin Columbus, a year after the P&WC engine was launched. Until the new Gulfstreams were announced, the Columbus had been the PW800’s sole application.
On the turboprop side, P&WC’s PT6A continues to be ubiquitous, powering just about every aircraft in the twin-engine and single-engine markets, including the Piaggio Aero P180 Evo, the Textron Aviation King Air and Caravan, the Viking Twin Otter, the Daher TBM series, the Pilatus PC-12, the Quest Kodiak, and the Piper M500 and M600. The Canadian manufacturer is developing an uprated version of its long-running programme, as GE Aviation emerges as a rival with its Catalyst engine.
By contrast, it has been a dismal 12 months for Safran, which saw its first dedicated business jet engine, the 1,200lb-thrust Silvercrest rejected by Dassault, which even cancelled the programme – the 5X – the engine was destined to power. A catalogue of delays and technical hitches has left the French aerospace company with just one application, the Textron Cessna Citation Hemisphere.
Textron had earlier switched from the Silvercrest to the Honeywell HTF7700 when it redesigned the super midsize Longitude in late 2015, before announcing that the French engine would power the Hemisphere it launched at the same time.
However, the US manufacturer said in May it was suspending development work on the large-cabin programme while Safran carries out a redesign of the high-pressure compressor. Failure to convince Textron that it has the right solution could see the US airframer following the same path as Dassault.
On 6 September, Dassault and Safran said they had reached an “amicable” compensation settlement over the cancellation of the 5X programme, with the engine maker to pay $280 million on top of an earlier “cash contribution” it already stumped up.
Bombardier’s Global 7500 flagship – formerly the Global 7000 – is the sole platform for GE Aviation’s 10,000-20,000lb-thrust class Passport engine, with the 7,700nm (14,300km)-range large-cabin jet due to enter service later this year. A flame-out incident last year was one of the few hitches to a flight test campaign that went fairly flawlessly since its first sortie in 2016.
The Passport features a core scaled down from the Leap airliner engine produced by GE’s CFM International joint venture with Safran, as well as innovations such as titanium fan blisks.
Elsewhere, GE is developing its Catalyst turboprop engine for the Textron Aviation Cessna Denali, the first major challenge to P&WC’s dominance of this market with the PT6. GE is also working with Aerion to develop a concept for a supersonic engine.
After losing out to P&WC on the Gulfstream G500 and G600 and GE Aviation on the Bombardier 7000 (now the 7500), Rolls-Royce surprised the world of business aviation when it was revealed in May that the UK manufacturer had been working with Bombardier to develop a new engine family for large-cabin jets.
The Canadian airframer relaunched its two in-service Global products as the Global 5500 and 6500, powered by the Rolls-Royce Pearl 15, a powerplant range that had been in development and testing for six years. Until that time, it looked as if R-R’s long dominance of the sector was over, even as it made great play of research and development work into its Advance2 propulsion concept.
Hiding their efforts from competitors, Bombardier and R-R had been conducting extensive certification preparations, and even flew a re-engined Global 5500 over the Atlantic to European Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition in Geneva in May, keeping its arrival secret until the eve of the show.
The Pearl 15 replaces the BR710 engines on the Global 5000 and 6000, improving thrust-specific fuel consumption by a claimed 7%. The layout of the new engine’s core bears many similarities to the BR725 variant that powers the Gulfstream G650, with a two-stage high-pressure turbine and a compression ratio that is 50% higher.
One downside for R-R was Textron’s decision to end production of the Cessna Citation X+, the world’s fastest business jet, after 22 years, although output of its AE3007C for that aircraft had slowed considerably recently.
After switching from the Safran Silvercrest, Textron Aviation opted for the Honeywell HTF7700L to power its super-midsize Longitude, which is due to enter service this year.
Textron was the fourth manufacturer to choose the 7,000lb-thrust HTF7000 engine family, following Bombardier for the Challenger 300 and 350, Gulfstream for the G280 and Embraer for the Legacy 450 and 500, arguably giving Honeywell a wider portfolio of customers and types than any other business-aircraft engine manufacturer. Its 3,500-5,000lb-thrust TFE731 powers the Learjet 70 and 75.
Williams International’s latest win for its FJ44 family was the PC-24, the first jet from Pilatus. The light jet, launched in 2013, entered service earlier this year. The Michigan-based engine maker says its FJ44-4A-QPM is its first model to be certificated as a complete integrated module. It is also its first design with a health-monitoring FADEC system.
Variants of the FJ44 also power the Nextant 400XTi and the in-development SyberJet SJ30i, as well as the Textron Aviation Cessna Citation CJ3+ and CJ4. The smaller FJ33 powers the world’s only single-engine business jet, the Cirrus SF50 VisionJet.
Source: Flight International