ATR has entered advanced discussions with Pratt & Whitney and General Electric (GE) on powering a new, larger-sized commercial turboprop, and says it will decide whether or not to launch such a product next year.

"You know we are discussing with two to three engine manufacturers but not just general discussions, but in a very detailed way, and namely Pratt and Whitney and General Electric and they have very, very interesting things for us," says Mario Formica, head of marketing for ATR, the EADS-Alenia joint venture, which manufactures the 50-seat ATR 42-500 and 70-seat ATR 72-500.

ATR 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 today during a press briefing at the Regional Airline Association (RAA) convention in Milwaukee.

GE Aviation is offering a turboprop engine based on a derivative of the GE38 turboshaft it has 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 on the market today. GE is eyeing a service entry of 2015 for the engine.

Asked if GE might scale the programme to support a next generation 50-seat turboprop Nugent says: "Currently our thought process is to utilise the core size defined by the GE38 and use that for potential opportunities. Propose that for potential opportunities."

Pratt & Whitney 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 Pratt and Whitney 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.

ATR, meanwhile, is also progressing with its Series 600 programme. The airframer unveiled the -600 successor variant for its ATR 42 and 72 models in late 2007. Flight testing of the ATR 42-600 began in March. ATR expects to receive certification in November 2010 with first deliveries scheduled for the second half of 2011, says Formica.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news