Turboshaft manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) is working on a series of near-term upgrades for its current engine range, even as it develops a future replacement for its ubiquitous PT6 powerplant due to arrive in around five years’ time.
Irene Makris, vice-president sales and marketing, helicopter engines at the Longueuil-based company, says that given the depressed state of the rotorcraft market “nobody has the money for a clean-sheet” engine.
Instead, it is proposing the “evolution of its existing product line”, adding new high-temperature materials to the hot section and improving the aerodynamics of the compressor and turbine in order to boost fuel efficiency.
“This allows us to respond to our customers in the timeline they are looking for of around 18-24 months,” she says.
Some technologies will be transferred across from the geared turbofans (GTF) currently being developed for commercial airliners by parent company Pratt & Whitney adds Tim Swail, vice-president customer programmes, customer service.
"Between ourselves and our parent we have access to a huge array of technology from the GTF and beyond,” he says. “We are a leader in cooler technology ourselves at Pratt & Whitney Canada.”
However, he declines to be drawn on the precise nature of the upgrade or which engines they will be applied to.
Further ahead, P&WC continues its development of a successor to the 50-year-old PT6, a programme given added impetus by rival GE Aviation’s plans for its forthcoming advanced turboprop family of engines.
P&WC’s PT6 replacement will be in the 1,500-2,000shp (1,120-1,490shp) range and will power helicopters with a maximum take-off weight of around 10t.
“Right now when we look at what customers are asking for, that’s the range where we are looking at growing our current engine,” says Makris.
Discussions with the helicopter OEMs on potential applications for the new engine are already ongoing, she says. However, beyond the Airbus Helicopters X6 – an 11t aircraft currently in its early concept phase – no new developments in the identified weight class are ongoing.
P&WC intends to build the turboshaft family around a common core, allowing it to scale the engine as required.
In addition, the company is already testing a series of undisclosed “disruptive solutions” designed to deliver fuel-burn savings well beyond the typical 5-10% seen when moving from one engine generation to the next.
“We already have the parts and modules in test and with the results we are seeing today it is very promising,” says Makris.
In the meantime, it is continuing to work with Airbus Helicopters and other manufacturers on the development of systems to allow one powerplant on a twin-engined rotorcraft to be idled on flight, a technology that promises to deliver a significant fuel saving.
Elsewhere, the manufacturer has also increased the time between overhaul (TBO) for two of its engine models. TBO on the PW210 – variants of which power the AgustaWestland AW169 and Sikorsky S-76D – moves from 3,500h to 4,000; and on the PT6B-37 for the AW119Kx from 3,000h to 4,500h.
“This offers a significant reduction in direct maintenance cost for our customers,” says Swail.