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GE brings Catalyst to shake up turboprop market

While Textron Aviation may talk of its new single-engined turboprop, the Denali, as a game-changer, the real catalyst is the powerplant that drives the 1,780nm (3,300km)-range aircraft.

Appropriately named, GE’s Catalyst, is the first new, clean-sheet turboprop developed for the business and general aviation market in more than 30 years, and according to the company at EBACE, it is demonstrating new advances in testing that have never been achieved by a competing turboprop in this segment.

In April, a GE Catalyst, equipped with a new, state-of-the-art, 2.7m (105in) composite McCauley propeller ran at full power and maximum rpm at the Czech Technical University’s new test cell in Prague.

“This engine is modernising the cockpit and flight controls like no other engine has done in this marketplace,” says Brad Mottier, vice-president and general manager for GE Aviation business and general aviation and integrated systems.

The engine and propeller exercised the pitch system using a full authority digital engine control system with integrated propeller control. The full-range pitch testing included beta, fine pitch, course pitch and feather – all integrated and controlled by the FADEC.

The programme has completed more than 1,000h of testing between three engines and 300h of testing on the FADEC in Textron’s iron bird, which is used to validate integration between systems and the Denali aircraft.

Catalyst is the first turboprop engine in its class to introduce two stages of variable stator vanes, cooled high-pressure turbine blades and 3D printed parts. It performs at what GE says is an industry-best 16:1 overall pressure ratio, enabling the engine to achieve 10% higher cruise power compared with other single-engined turboprops.

When installed on the Denali, these engine efficiencies will help operators deliver a typical mission with one pilot and four passengers enjoying a larger cabin experience for a range of 1,600nm at a comfortable 6,000ft cabin altitude at a 31,000ft maximum cruising altitude.

Initial testing up to 41,000ft in an altitude chamber was completed earlier this month, validating performance and operability.

Since the first Catalyst engine start in December 2017, GE’s test fleet of engines has racked up enough hours and cycles to simulate more than three years of operations in the field, Mottier says.

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