With no launch customer yet, Silvercrest testing continues

 - February 26, 2008, 5:39 AM

Though still without a launch program for its new 9,500- to 12,000-pound-thrust engine, Snecma has reported good progress in development work for its new Silvercrest powerplant series for large business jets and small regional airliners. As of
the end of January, the French manufacturer had completed 35 hours of combustion testing since starting work on this phase of the $100 million development on Nov. 30, 2007.

The work on a test rig at its Villaroche facility near Paris is intended to validate the design and core performance. Ignition and initial core runs have reached up to 19,800 rpm, representing 85 percent of takeoff thrust. Snecma engineers have also reported positive results from work on rotor blade characteristics, the high-pressure compressor and turbine, as well as tip clearances, compressor pressure ratios and stall margins. Core testing will continue until the end of this month, after which the results will be applied to the next design phases of the program.

Safran subsidiary Snecma has said that it could complete certification of the first versions of the Silvercrest series by 2011. It anticipates that the first business aircraft applications could enter service around 2013, followed by the first engines for
the regional airline market around 2015 to 2016. The manufacturer expects the engines to deliver fuel burn 10 to 15 percent lower than comparable existing engines in the same class.

According to executive vice president for commercial engines François Planaud, Snecma is the first engine manufacturer to run a core engine demonstrator to validate a brand-new engine concept in the 9,500- to 12,000-pound-thrust market segment. He told AIN that early phases of the engineering tests have yielded “outstanding results” and added that negotiations are under way with prospective risk-sharing partners and clients. Snecma introduced Silvercrest at the 2006 NBAA Convention.

According to Snecma, Silvercrest will also deliver at least a 25-percent improvement in climb and high-altitude cruise performance over current engines in its class. A significant reduction in the parts count has been another significant design goal for the Silvercrest team.

A typical target application for the engine is a long-range, super-midsize to large-cabin aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of between 45,000 and 60,000 pounds. However, Snecma has already missed out on opportunities to power both Dassault’s new super-midsize business jet and the just-launched Cessna Citation Columbus large-cabin jet.

Italy’s Avio and fellow Safran subsidiary Turbomeca are partners in the Silvercrest core demonstrator program. But Snecma has said that it is still too early to select design and manufacturing partners for the program, in which it intends to retain at least a 51-percent majority stake.