As discussions continue with a myriad of airframers examining a 90-seat turboprop, GE is examining existing and new technology for potential engines to power those aircraft.

In the past couple of years ATR, Bombardier, Embraer and Chinese manufacturer Xian have all disclosed they are studying larger turboprops, with Xian offering a direct challenge to ATR's current 72-500 model through the MA700.

At last week's Regional Airline Association convention in Salt Lake City, GE manager CF34 project development Chuck Nugent said earlier that the manufacturer is examining a couple of options in approaching an engine for a larger 90-seat turboprop. Those evaluations include a new clean-sheet design based on GE's e-core technology programme or using an application from existing turboshaft engine offerings that power its helicopter models.

"The bigger question for us is really the growth of that market", and how it evolves, Nugent says.

While GE plans some spending to evaluate and study turboprop engine options, Nugent stresses that the manufacturer is still in the evaluation phase and has not launched a new engine.

Yet discussions with airframers continue as GE marketing leader regional aircraft Andre Robert says the company has had discussions with Xian "to understand their needs and ways to participate in that programme and study".

As its studies of a larger turboprop continue, ATR head of sales John Moore says the airframer is holding discussions with all engine makers and had not ruled anyone out at this point.

Moore says some customers have told ATR that if a 90-seat turboprop was currently available they would purchase the aircraft. "That is one of the driving forces for us to take a more serious look at it."

ATR has set certain criteria in justifying a new aircraft and the associated expense, Moore explains. "No-one has told us they can't achieve that."

Source: Flight International