NASA's Lewis Research Center has selected Williams International and Teledyne Continental Motors (TCM) to develop powerplant technology for next-generation light aircraft.

Williams International and NASA will share equally the cost of developing an advanced turbine engine as part of NASA's General Aviation Propulsion (GAP) programme. The four-year co-operative agreement - expected to be finalised within 60 days - is valued at $37 million.

The new-design turbofan would power single-engine aircraft with six or fewer seats and capable of more than 200kt (370km/h). The low-cost power plant, offering less than 4.45kN (1000lb) of thrust, would comply with future emission and noise requirements.

Ground-testing of the advanced turbofan is set to begin in 1999, and Leo Burkardt, GAP programme manager, says that NASA plans to fly it the following year at the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Convention and Fly-In in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

In the second development, Mobile, Alabama-based TCM and NASA will fund equally a $9.5 million, three-year project to develop an "intermittent combustion" (IC) engine for entry-level general-aviation aircraft.

Following completion of negotiations, the company will develop and flight-test a new-design diesel-fuelled reciprocating power plant for single-engined, four-seat aircraft capable of less than 200kt (370km/h).

The improved reliability engine in the 149kW (200hp) class, running on Jet-A fuel, must also meet future emission and noise standards. Ground-testing of the IC engine is to begin in 1998, and Burkardt expects NASA to offer flight demonstrations at the 1999 Oshkosh Fly-In.

While NASA will make some of the engine-development research available to other engine makers, Williams and TCM will retain a portion of the GAP-related technology. How much of the research will remain proprietary remains to be seen.

The GAP project aims to reduce the price of IC engines by half, and to reduce the cost of small turbine engines by a factor of ten.

Source: Flight International