Regional airliner rivals ATR and Bombardier may still be no closer to announcing their long-anticipated new 90-seat twin turboprops, but Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC) is determined to be ready with the necessary powerplant for program launches that it views as inevitable. Next month, the engine maker will resume testing of the compressor unit for its proposed New Generation Regional Turboprop engine and it expects to have all testing complete by mid-year.
“We’re staying very close to these OEM customers and we have no doubt about market demand for a 90-seat aircraft,” Richard Dussault, P&WC’s marketing v-p for regional and helicopter.
The testing conducted so far has involved more than 500 points of instrumentation. The engineering team has tested the stability of the compressor across the full operating regime, including lower speeds. They are also doing operability testing.
Regardless of how long it may take for a new twin turboprop platform to emerge, P&WC is continuing to enjoy significant growth for its installed base of engines in the Asia Pacific region. The PW100 family is a key driver in the trend, largely based on a surge in orders for ATR72-600 aircraft by Indonesian carriers Garuda and Wings Air (a Lion Air subsidiary).
“There is an infrastructure dimension to this growth,” said Dussault. “With over 10,000 islands in Indonesia, larger carriers want to develop regional markets that will eventually need larger aircraft. But these often involve short segments and that’s where the turboprops can make it work from an economical standpoint since they burn 40 percent less fuel on the same sectors. Airlines there [in the Asia Pacific region] are very sensitive to cost, especially when their local currency is weak.”
December 2014 will mark the 30th anniversary of the PW100’s entry into service. Initial type certification was achieved back in December 1983 and since then P&WC has certified no fewer than 37 different versions of the family, including the PW150A that powers Bombardier’s latest Q400 aircraft. “From the base PW100 we have kept growing the engine, mainly by investing in the materials used and we have also improved the maintenance performance so that the TBO [time between overhaul] is at 15,000 hours,” Dussault said. “We have certainly enjoyed the rebirth of turboprops [in the regional airline sector] since 2003.”