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NOAA launches T56 engine upgrade on WP-3D fleet

A US civilian agency will launch an upgrade programme for the venerable Rolls-Royce T56 engine, the engine maker announced on 11 November.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will upgrade two four-engined Lockheed WP-3D Orion weather research aircraft, plus two spares with the Series 3.5 retrofit kit, says Tom Hartmann, senior vice-president at Rolls-Royce North America.

R-R promises the Series 3.5 upgrade will reduce fuel consumption of the T56 by greater than 7.9%. The package replaces the stage one turbine of the T56 with a single-crystal blade and the high-pressure compressor blades with a design using 3D aerodynamic modeling.

“The anticipated fuel savings and reliability provided by the Series 3.5 engine enhancement package could mean getting an extra pass through the storm instead of heading back to base,” says NOAA Corps commander Devin Brakob in a media release.

R-R still hopes to attract orders to upgrade the hundreds of T56-powered Lockheed Martin C-130Hs still in service with US and foreign militaries.

The US Air Force is expected to certificate the military airworthiness of the engine upgrade by the end of November, Hartmann says.

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