EBACE Convention News

Silvercrest still seeking an airframe to hang on

 - May 13, 2009, 9:29 AM

Snecma launched the Silvercrest core-engine demonstrator program in 2006, built the engine in 2007 and successfully completed testing of it in March 2008. Now the company is continuing its talks with airframers to find a first application for the 9,500- to 12,000-pound-thrust engine. “The Silvercrest is being considered for many programs,” said Laurence Finet, general manager of the Silvercrest program.

The French engine builder (Booth No. 1143) targeted the Silvercrest at large-cabin and long-range business jets, as well as 40- to 60-seat regional jets. Although the Silvercrest engine was considered but not selected, by Cessna for the now-suspended Columbus 850, Snecma believes the engine is well-placed for business jets entering service starting in 2013. “The Columbus required a thrust of only about 8,800 pounds, so the Silvercrest was not a good fit for it,” Finet explained. (Cessna selected the Pratt & Whitney Canada PW810 for the Columbus.) However, she said, the current economic situation has caused airframers to focus more on the question of  “How can we sell more of our present airplanes?” than “What should we build next?”

“A few years ago there was much discussion about the development of large-cabin and long-range business jets, which was very encouraging for us,” Finet recalled. “So we decided to go ahead with testing the Silvercrest core engine. We didn’t do this just for fun.”

The core engine ran 80 hours, including 60 hours with combustion on. The takeoff setting was tried, at more than 20,000 rpm. Snecma claims fuel burn to be 15-percent lower than that of current engines. Nitrous-oxide emissions are expected to be 50-percent better than ICAO’s CAEP/6 standards. Noise levels are expected to be 20 dB better than Stage 4 limits.

Finet said Snecma does not plan to do any more testing of the core engine, which was rated at about 10,000 pounds thrust. “The tests we did were very successful, so we’ve done enough for the time being. The next testing we do will be on the application engine itself.” She did say that some engine technologies developed in other research that Snecma is doing, such as LEAP-X and VITAL, could be incorporated into an eventual Silvercrest engine “to make it state of the art.”

The company also sees applications for the Silvercrest in 40- to 60-seat regional jets. While turboprops and larger regional jets are replacing many of the present generation of 50-seat regional jets, Loic Nicolas, Snecma general manager, business aviation market, said a market for a next-generation replacement aircraft could materialize in 2017 or 2018. “Maybe it will be a turboprop or maybe a jet. On some routes, turboprops are better, but on others, airlines may prefer the additional speed of a 40- to 60-seat jet with Silvercrest engines,” he said.

From the time the program receives full engine launch–the green light that follows an aircraft maker’s selecting the engine– Snecma anticipates it will need three years to get the powerplant certified. The company expects to appoint partners in the full program, since the $100 million core engine program already involved two such collaborators. Turbomeca (like Snecma, a Safran company) helped design the centrifugal compressor, and Avio helped with the combustor.

Snecma believes its history of outstanding customer support with its CFM56 engine will translate to business aviation. These include dedicated field service engineers around the world, spare and lease engines available in the U.S. and Europe, and remote engine health monitoring services.