Honeywell expands engine offerings, plans return to helicopter business

 - February 1, 2007, 5:44 AM

Barry Eccleston wants to take Honeywell back into the commercial helicopter business in a big way, while at the same time finding another airframe on which to hang the company’s newly renamed HTF7000 turbofan, which now powers only the Bombardier Challenger 300.

The engine manufacturer’s LTS101-850 turboshaft currently is mounted in the Coast Guard’s HH-65 (Eurocopter Dauphin), and Honeywell is developing an FAA-certified variant of that engine called the LTS101-700D2. The company plans to propose the engine for retrofit in existing helicopters, particularly the Eurocopter AS 350B2 AStar.

“With the -700D2 variant,” said Eccleston, “you get about 14 percent more takeoff power, about 18 percent greater hot- and-high performance, improved fuel consumption and longer life compared with the existing engine.”

Honeywell expects to reveal more about its proposals for re-engining existing helicopters at this month’s Helicopter Association International Heli-Expo in Anaheim, Calif.

The LTS101-850, which currently produces about 800 shp, can eventually be boosted to 1,000 shp, according to Eccleston, v-p and general manager of Honeywell’s propulsion systems enterprise. He sees this increase in power as the manufacturer’s ticket to re-enter the commercial helicopter business, a market Eurocopter and French engine builder Turbomeca have dominated for the past several years.

Bell Helicopter has already announced plans to regain market strength in the commercial helicopter field by upgrading existing helicopters and designing a series of new helicopters that it has dubbed the modular affordable product line (MAPL). Honeywell is proposing a 900-shp version of the LTS-101, which it has rebranded the HTS900, for the retrofits and as OEM-provided engines in some current production models. When Bell launches the MAPL series, Honeywell will offer a 1,000-shp engine.

“So we’re taking this engine–which was initially a commercial engine–and we’re basically redeveloping it to 900 and eventually 1,000 shp, and looking to get back into the commercial helicopter business as a serious competitor to Eurocopter in the commercial helicopter field.”

Expanding the Aircraft-engine Market
Meanwhile, while the company continues to develop other iterations of its TFE731, the current star in the Honeywell engine constellation is the HTF7000, which began life as the AS907. The sole customer for the 7,000-pound-thrust engine is Bombardier, for the Challenger 300, but Eccleston wants to change that.

“The strategy for this year is obviously to expand the program,” he said. “The Challenger production rate grows this year, but [we] also [need] to find second, maybe third applications for this engine. It’s going to become a big brother as successful as the TFE731, and the super-midsize marketplace is, I think, where all the action is going to be over the next couple of years.”

The HTF7000 is the first clean-sheet engine design since the TFE731, which entered service in 1972. While the TFE731 does a “great job” in the 3,000-pound- to 5,000-plus-pound-thrust range, Eccleston said Honeywell knew that the market was going to grow, particularly in the super-midsize category. Honeywell needed an engine to cover 6,000 to 8,000 pounds of thrust.

The HTF7000 entered service aboard the Challenger 300 in December 2003. Eighteen airplanes are now flying, with 11,000 hours among them.
Boasting that the engine meets or exceeds specifications on thrust, weight, sfc, noise and emissions, Eccleston added that pilots “love the engine, love the airplane; this is becoming the benchmark in the super-midsize application.”

Honeywell put 30,000 testbed hours on the engine before it went into service, and there were hundreds of hours of conversations with customers to find what they wanted in terms of performance, maintainability and cost.

“We put in place all of the infrastructure to support the engine before it went into service… although when it went into service we didn’t need it because the engine has performed flawlessly,” he asserted.

One of the reasons behind the HTF7000’s painless entry into service, Eccleston recalled, is that the manufacturer developed a version of the engine for regional airline reliability. The AS977 was to go on the four-engine Avro RJX, a program that was later canceled.

While the HTF7000 is the newest addition to the product line, Eccleston cites the TFE731 as the bread-and-butter of Honeywell’s engine business, and versions of the classic are still in production in the form of the -2s, -3s, -4s and -5s. The company produced 108 of the engines last year, mostly the 731-5BR, which powers the Hawker 800XP.

Also, Honeywell is refining the TFE731-20/40/60 variants, introducing a -50, a clipped-fan version of the TFE731-60 that is in the Falcon 900EX. The -50 will have about 5,000 pounds of thrust and is expected to be certified next year.

Eccleston said Honeywell recertified the -20BR for the Learjet 45XR, which “dramatically improved” the performance, particularly in hot-and-high conditions. The -40R is in the Gulfstream 100 and is also going in the Gulfstream 150.