GE Aviation Picks Up Speed in the Turboprop Market

 - January 13, 2010, 9:34 AM

When it acquired Czech-based Walter Engines in 2008, General Electric signaled to the industry that it was significantly boosting its commitment to the turboprop community. Renamed GE Aviation Czech, the company moved into a 135,000-sq-ft facility in Prague that includes CNC machining centers, EDM and NDT capability and a new surface-treatment plant. The most recent addition includes three new automated engine test cells for development, certification and serial production acceptance testing of turboprop engines. Some 400 employees work at the new facility.

The company has received a research grant from the Czech government valued at about $4 million to assist it in incorporating advanced technologies into its existing Walter M601 series engine, which is being used in a new King Air upgrade program by Smyrna Air Center.

“We believe King Air 90 owners and operators are hungry for an engine option like the M601 from GE,” Erick Larson, COO of Smyrna Air Center, told AIN. “Our relationship with GE Aviation lends credibility to the project and gives us much greater exposure for our Power 90 conversions.” Smyrna Air Center holds the rights to the Power 90 conversion STC.

Smyrna Air Center, near Nashville, Tenn, is a GE-designated engine installer for the Walter M601E engine on the King Air 90, and its Power 90 has been named the GE preferred engine conversion for the King Air 90.

According to Larson the FAA-approved STC conversion covers the replacement of the King Air 90, A90, B90 and C90 original PT6s with the more powerful 751-shp M601E-11As.

“The M601E-11A engine delivers faster rates of climb, higher flight levels and faster cruise speed than current engines and lower acquisition and maintenance costs compared with competing conversions,” Larson said.

Immediately after GE acquired Walter Engines the company launched the 800-shp H80 turboprop engine, designed to power utility, agriculture, business and general aviation aircraft.

According to a GE spokesperson, “The H80 combines the elegant, robust design of the M601 with GE’s 3-D aerodynamic design techniques and advanced materials to create a more powerful, fuel-efficient, durable turboprop engine with significantly enhanced hot-day takeoff performance and high-altitude cruise speeds.”

The H80 features an extended service life of 3,600 flight hours and 6,600 cycles between overhauls. Component testing as well as aeromechanical and performance testing are currently in progress and the company anticipates the first engine to test will begin running this quarter, with certification expected in the middle of the year.

GE Aviation has recently named Premier Turbines its designated repair Center in North and South America for both the M601 and H80. Premier Turbines will offer heavy repair services, exchange engines and rentals, line replacement unit rotable pools and field service support to all existing and future M601s and H80s in the Americas region. GE Aviation will provide the necessary OEM parts to meet Premier Turbines’ needs. Premier Turbines will be ready to accept M601s for repair by March.