The GE Honda joint venture last Thursday fired up the first conforming version of its new 2,095-lb-thrust HF120 engine currently slated for certification in 2011. Initial engine tests are typically completed in a sea-level test cell, with high-altitude performance testing conducted onboard an aircraft. GE Honda used an altitude chamber for this first run because the choice allowed for considerably more instrumentation–600 separate measurements on this engine– to more thoroughly understand engine performance.
The altitude chamber also allows engineers to set any flight condition, including those outside the normal performance envelope, such as temperatures as low as minus 30 degrees C to as high as plus 130 degrees C. After several hundred test hours, the engine will be removed from the altitude chamber and run for another 500 cycles in a test bed at sea level to look for unexpected wear. Thirteen engines and cores will be used in the test program at six different sites in both the U.S. and Japan.
GE business and general aviation division market leader Sean O’Day said the company has not been wasting time during the economic slowdown, but has instead been investing and growing new systems to better position the company for the expected return of better business times. “Customers are demanding more systems integration to provide more efficient propulsion,” he said. “We are looking at three key technology areas: the H80 turboprop, the HF120 and the TechX engine for large-cabin aircraft.”
The H80 development project, an original design of Walter Engine in Prague, Czech Republic, is now located in new buildings with new test cells. GE, which acquired Walter in 2008, plans to invest some $4 million in grant money received from the Czech government in the program. The H80–on schedule for 2011 delivery–is the engine planned for the planned King Air C90 conversion, as well as the launch powerplant for the Thrush agplane.
Regarding the TechX engine, O’Day would confirm only that the powerplant will be a clean-sheet design for large-cabin business jets and not an upgrade of the CF34. The new engine will incorporate GE technology advances learned in-house for large aircraft engines. Planned to run in the 10,000- to 20,000-lb-thrust range, the engine could be delivered by 2015.
Two key systems being developed for business aircraft are a secondary power distribution system for the Gulfstream G650 and the integrated vehicle health management (IVHM) system. The power distribution system is claimed to be lighter and more reliable than units used in other aircraft and allows units to be placed closer to the actual power source. The IVHM can transmit on-board operational and equipment information to the ground via datalink for analysis by customers, maintenance providers and the manufacturer, allowing GE to pre-plan and pre-position field and product support to reduce aircraft downtime.