HAI Convention News

Rolls-Royce’s RR300 engine to power new helicopter class

 - March 15, 2007, 9:21 AM

Rolls-Royce yesterday formally introduced the cat that Frank Robinson let out of the bag on Thursday, the Model 300 turboshaft engine that will power Robinson’s five-place R66 and likely other helicopters in its class.

Earlier in the week, Rolls-Royce indirectly referred to the Model 300 program as “the worst best-kept secret of the year,” while deflecting specific questions about the successor to the Model 250’s low-end versions. Friday, Scott Crislip, Rolls-Royce president for helicopters and small gas turbine engines, repeated the description, then said the 300-shp (takeoff power) RR300 “has gone from vision to engine in two years.”

Rolls-Royce also announced memoranda of understanding with Enstrom Helicopters, Schweizer Aircraft and MD Helicopters to “discuss future applications of the new RR300 engine family.” Though the engine will first fly in rotorcraft, Crislip said he has not ruled out other applications, including airplanes.

The RR300, which shares the Model 250’s type certificate, has accumulated more than 150 test hours at the Rolls-Royce Indianapolis facility. The first two flightworthy engines were delivered to Robinson’s Torrance, Calif. plant on February 1. Crislip said the RR300’s first flight will be on a Robinson helicopter as engine and airframe development proceed apace. Rolls-Royce expects the RR300 to gain FAA certification by next year, with production engines to follow.

Rolls-Royce and Robinson began conferring on a turboshaft engine for the R66 several years ago and agreed on the Model 300 program in September 2005. The RR300’s design TBO of 2,000 hours is specifically tied to the standard Robinson airframe’s factory-overhaul interval. Rolls-Royce, Robinson and his engineers have been in continuous contact, producing what Crislip said is “a specific product for Frank’s needs.”

When Rolls-Royce identified the need for a lighter, simpler, more fuel-efficient and less expensive turboshaft at the bottom of the Model 250 power spectrum, it first considered a simple update of the 250 but in the last couple of years realized that a new approach was needed, Crislip said.

Compared with the original Allison 250-C18 engine, the RR300, at 215 pounds installed, is approximately the same weight, although slightly taller and wider. Crislip did not discuss price but stated that, combined, its acquisition and direct operating costs represent “a better value engine.”

The RR300 will also deliver better fuel specifics.