Snecma readies Silvercrest for first flight

Snecma is making final preparations for the first flight of its Silvercrest 11,450lb-thrust (51kN)-class business jet engine, with the powerplant already installed aboard a Gulfstream II flying testbed.

The French manufacturer is aiming to achieve EASA certification by mid-2015, ahead of service entry on the new Dassault 5X in 2017.

At present, seven ground-test articles have been produced, with simulated high-altitude trials currently taking place at a French government-owned facility west of Paris, says programme director Laurence Finet.

Production-standard engines are also in assembly at Snecma’s Villaroche, France plant for delivery to Dassault later this year, she says.

Snecma is “finalising the aircraft” ahead of its maiden sortie, which Finet expects to happen “very shortly”.

Initial trials will take place in the USA, before transferring to Istres in the south of France, where the bulk of certification test activity will be conducted.

Although dependent on demand from customers Dassault and Cessna – which has also selected Silvercrest for its Citation Longitude – Finet expects “a pretty significant ramp-up” of engine production over the first three years following certification, from an initial rate of two per month.

“Our engine assembly line is completed and we are finalising the production system both at Villaroche and at our sister company Aircelle [which will produce the Silvercrest’s nacelles],” Finet says.

Testing has been progressing “quite well”, she says, and “although we still have a lot of work ahead of us, I am quite optimistic that our certification testing will go smoothly”.

Ground trials still to be performed include bird-ingestion tests and high-cycle block tests. Icing and ice ingestion evaluations will not take place until late in the year, however, due the requirement for colder conditions.

Meanwhile, Snecma continues to evaluate potential for the use of components produced via additive layer manufacturing (ALM) in the Silvercrest.

The company displayed a number of ALM-produced high-pressure compressor vanes at last year’s Paris air show, and testing of the parts is under way. “We are running them in an engine right now,” says Finet. “It is something we are looking at closely to see what potential they have.”