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GE to launch improved version of Walter M601

GE Aviation and newly acquired partner Walter Engines intend to soon launch a higher powered and more reliable version of the Czech manufacturer's M601 turboshaft engine.

The flat rating for the new variant will increase from 775shp (580kW) to 800shp, says Chet Fuller, general manager of marketing for GE Aviation, adding that additional variants at alternate thrust levels are also planned, and that GE plans to introduce 3-D aerodynamic shaping technology for the compressor and redesign the turbine, seeking to boost the engine's reliability.

"Walter had done much of this prior to our showing up," he says.

The upgraded M601 will be aimed mainly at the retrofit market for twin-engined powered business and utility aircraft, including the Beechcraft King Air and Cessna Caravan. The market is dominated by the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6 turboshaft, which has sold more than 30,000 copies worldwide compared with 1,600 for Walter.

By offering a more reliable and less expensive alternative, GE believes it can offer a strong business case for the retrofit market, says Fuller: "If you look up what a 1980 King Air goes for, an owner who has just spent $1 million to $1.2 million is not going to want to hang $600,000 worth of engine overhaul on his airplane."

The Walter acquisition, completed on 3 July, is viewed within GE as the centrepiece of the company's plan to dramatically increase its share of the business and general aviation market. In January, GE formed a new business unit headed by Brad Mottier to grow its revenues in that market from about $500 million annually to up to $6 billion, Fuller says. "Walter Engines is the foundational propulsion system for that business model," he says.

With Walter occupying the utility turboprop market, GE also intends to grow into the business jet market with the HF120 for Honda Aero and the CF34 for the Bombardier Challenger. The acquisition of Smiths Aerospace has also yielded a presence on the new Gulfstream G650, with the actuator system.

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