Honeywell developing new engine technologies

 - October 16, 2006, 6:29 AM

A new powder-metal turbine disk that Honeywell calls Alloy 10 might show up soon in an engine near you, according to Ron Rich, director of advanced technology development for Honeywell Engines, Systems and Services.

Honeywell will deploy its proprietary high-temperature disk alloy for the first time in a military APU after many years of development. The company believes it will use Alloy 10 in its next commercial engine, and Rich said there is a good possibility it could be used for upgrades in existing engines such as the TFE731s.

“We work hard on materials that allow us to operate in the temperature regimes that we’re interested in but don’t force us to push the envelope with that given material,” he explained.

Meanwhile, Honeywell’s predictive trend monitoring (PTM) program will help detect the functional health of an engine as it operates. The objective of PTM is to help improve aircraft availability.

“When you think about the fractional ownership operators such as Flexjet or NetJets, out-time is critical for them,” said Rich. “It also allows you to better understand the engine as it is operating so that you can schedule maintenance [rather than fall victim] to unscheduled maintenance.”

The ability to detect a defect that occurs is the prognostic side of the equation; the ability to determine the issue is the diagnostic side. Rich said Honeywell is exploring PTM control technology that could adjust for normal engine wear and optimize the performance of the engine for the particular flight being made.

“You do this continuously all of the way until it’s time to do maintenance on the engine,” he said. “Those are technologies that we are working on today that you’ll find in some of our future products soon.”

Although it has just started flight-testing the new TFE731-50, a scaled-down version of the TFE731-60, Honeywell is currently working on an HTF engine series that would replace the TFE731 family. It would be in the same thrust class as the 731–4,000 to 6,500 pounds of thrust–although it could drop below 4,000 depending on market demand.

“What we see is a family of engines that will span that large thrust range and bump right up against the bottom end of the HTF7000,” Rich said. “Currently the technology that we have in [mind] for that series of engines has been in development for some time.”

Honeywell is also involved in the government’s versatile affordable advanced turbine engine (VAATE) project, a program focused since 1985 on developing technology for new propulsion engines.

According to Rich, VAATE has two components for Honeywell–developing turboshaft technology and turbofan technology. Rich concedes that the military is interested only in military-type turbofans, but explains that the common core can be used in medium- to high-bypass-ratio engines that might be of interest to business aircraft customers.

“Interestingly enough,” Rich said, “we have determined that the multi-purpose core is a good choice for our VAATE technology numbers with the Air Force Research Laboratory in Dayton. And it is a common architecture that we will be developing to enhance future technology that can be [used] in both the military and commercial marketplaces.”

Honeywell is currently in the design/development phase of the four-year, $46 million program, which began in October 2003. The engine has passed critical design review and was running on test rigs. “We’ll move from design to hardware to test this year,” said Rich.