GE is investigating a host of improvements to its newly certificated H80 turboshaft engine as it seeks additional forward-fit and retrofit applications for the retooled Walter M601 engine. Improvements include a boost in power from 800shp (597kW) to 850shp, introducing engine trend monitoring and upgrading engine control systems.
To date, the H80 has been selected by Aircraft Industries for the re-engined Let L-410 twin and by Thrush Aircraft for the Thrush 510G single-engined agricultural aircraft. The L-410 uses the 657shp Walter M601 engine. GE, after purchasing Walter in 2008, designed a new core for the engine but kept the gearbox and accessories. Both aircraft are slated for entry into service later this year.
H80-powered L-410 during a test flight
Paul Theofan, president and managing executive of GE's business and general aviation turboprops division, says "seven or eight" other certifications are under way, largely administrative given that European Aviation Safety Agency and US Federal Aviation Administration certifications are now in hand for the engine as of December and March, respectively.
Certifications for Russia, China and several South American countries are among those expected in the near future.
"Once we achieved the certifications, the interest levels have peaked for some of the customers we have talked to," says Theofan. The company plans to build about 75 engines this year, several for "test flights" for new customers. GE has provided a test engine to the Smyrna Air Center in Tennessee for a King Air C90 re-engine programme. Smyrna replaces the C90's original Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 engines with M601s under its Power90 supplemental type certificate, but is investigating an H80 option.
Incorporating an engine monitoring system will be key to extending the H80 beyond 3,600h (8,800 cycles) before overhaul, says Theofan, and incorporating a full-authority digital engine controller is "not out of the question". The H80 has a hydromechanical control system but includes a digital autostart feature to prevent "hot starts". The engine does not require mid-life hot section inspections and, combined with the elimination of fuel nozzles in the engine, it produces lower direct operating costs than competitors, Theofan says.
The video below, provided by GE, shows the H80 flying on the Thrush 510G and L-410.