General Electric is evaluating whether to return to manufacturing turboprop engines for commercial aircraft and if it makes such a move then Czech engine manufacturer Walter Engines will be its partner in the venture.

GE Infrastructure president and CEO, John Rice, confirms the company is considering manufacturing turboprop engines for commercial aircraft.

He declines to give a timeframe for a decision but says the growth in the turboprop market is one reason behind GE’s purchase last year of Walter Engines, a turboprop and piston engine manufacturer in the Czech Republic.

Rice says if GE returns to manufacturing turboprop engines for commercial aircraft then the initiative will draw on the resources of GE in the USA and Walter Engines in the Czech Republic.

Walter Engines today mostly makes engines for general aviation aircraft but its M601E engine powers the L-410UVP-E20 commuter produced by Czech manufacturer Let Aircraft Industries, while the M601F powers the improved L-420.

The Let 410 is a 19-seat turboprop aircraft and one of Eastern Europe’s most successful aircraft exports.

Rice was speaking to Flight premium news service Air Transport Intelligence today at a press event in Singapore to announce an expansion of GE Aviation Services’ component repair operation in Singapore.

GE Aviation Services general manager for global operations, William Fitzgerald, was also at today’s event and says a move back into manufacturing turboprop engines represents “a great opportunity”.

Turboprops are more fuel efficient than jet engines and turboprops is a growing segment of the market, he says.

GE is synonymous with jet engines but it made the CT7 turboprop engine for Saab 340 aircraft before that aircraft’s production stopped in May 1999.

At last month’s Regional Airline Association (RAA) annual convention in the USA, GE general manager for the CF34 project department, Chuck Nugent, said GE was studying whether to start manufacturing turboprop engines again.

He said the impetus for this was the fact turboprops are now a fast growing segment of the market.

Pratt & Whitney Canada is the major manufacturer in this segment thanks in part to its relationship with turboprop aircraft makers ATR and Bombardier.

But last month Embraer president and CEO, Frederico Fleury Curado, revealed that the Brazilian aircraft maker was analysing the potential for a new commercial turboprop.

GE has a strong relationship with Embraer because GE CF34 engines power Embraer 170 and Embraer 190 regional jet aircraft.