HAI Convention News

Program Update: Rolls-Royce

 - February 18, 2008, 4:33 AM

Serving perhaps as a testament to the current strength of the world helicopter market, engine maker Rolls-Royce (Booth No. 1917) is celebrating the delivery of its 30,000th Model 250. This particular engine, a Model 250-C30HU, was installed in an MD Helicopters Model 530F. Approximately 16,000 Model 250s remain in service, according to the company. For more than four decades the Model 250 has been a leading powerplant in most light single turbine helicopters, including the Hughes/MD 500 series and the Bell 206.

Another milestone that served to underscore the health of its business was Rolls-Royce’s announcement that it received FAA certification of its 300-shp Model RR300, a derivative of the Model 250, in December. The RR300 has a single-stage centrifugal compressor and fewer parts than the Model 250. The RR300 is expected to have a 2,000-hour TBO, thanks in part to a lower takeoff rating and lower turbine temperatures.

Scott Crislip, president of helicopters for Rolls-Royce, said the company anticipates entering into full-rate production on the RR300 soon. He added that this year’s production of the engine model would be in the “hundreds,” with Robinson the lead customer for its R66 five-seat, light-single. Robinson had been flying an uncertified version of the RR300 in its R66 “flying testbed,” but will now begin certification flight testing with the certified engine. Crislip said Rolls-Royce was pleased with the data Robinson obtained on the new engine.

He noted that the company is using the RR300 as an opportunity to revamp its supply chain with “much more brought-in content” from outside suppliers, streamlined engine assembly and reduced manufacturing time. He added that Rolls-Royce is using new computer design tools for faster collaboration with the RR300’s suppliers, Robinson and future engine customers. Helicopter builders Enstrom, MD and Schweizer have all expressed varying degrees of interest in the RR300 and have signed MOUs for it. Several fixed-wing OEMs also have expressed interest.

Rolls-Royce obtained certification for the RR300 in just under 24 months, shaving six months off its typical engine development program schedule, according to Ken Roberts, executive vice president of helicopters and small gas turbine engines.
Roberts said Rolls-Royce is on “the cusp of serial production” of the RR300. “We still see tremendous market interest–beyond Robinson–and we are confident that the engine will be broadly accepted in the market,” he said.

Roberts said Rolls-Royce spent “millions” of dollars revamping its small engine production line for the Model 250 and its new Model 300. He said both engines will come off the same assembly line and the company will have the ability to “intermingle” production. Other investment includes a new test cell. “It’s a significant multimillion-dollar investment,” he said. Roberts added that the new production line will lower the cost of the engine and its manufacture and improve manufacturability.

While Rolls-Royce’s priority is building the RR300 for Robinson and then other OEMs, Roberts said it is possible that the RR300 eventually will be retrofitted into older helicopters with lower power requirements, such as the Hughes 369. “We plan to target retrofit buyers,” he said.

Robinson founder Frank Robinson expressed caution about the R66’s development schedule, which will affect RR300 production. While he said the company is aiming to get the R66 certified as quickly as possible, perhaps even this year, he called the prospect of it actually happening by then “highly unlikely.”