The term game-changer is grossly overused in aviation, but few would dispute that the arrival on the market of Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PT6 turboprop 50 years ago this year did indeed change the engine game. The breakthrough technology that allowed this innovative turboprop to displace the piston and radial engines of the day was P&WC’s combination of the “free-turbine” and “reverse-flow” inlets.
“There was a big gap on the market at the time in engines that could take aviation to all parts of the world,” explained Denis Parisien, P&WC’s general aviation vice president. “Our engineering team knew they were onto something big that would change the face of aviation.”
What sealed the PT6’s family’s place in history was the flexibility of the design, which has allowed the Canadian manufacturer to mix and match components and introduce the latest technology to squeeze ever more value out of the powerplant, which now has been used for more than 136 applications.
At the end of July, P&WC delivered its 80,000th PT6 and there are now more than 23,000 engines in service with around 6,500 operators in more than 180 countries. The annual production rate for all versions of the engine still stands at more than 1,000 units.
These operators now have the opportunity to connect via the company’s PT6nation.com portal. This has already doubled its number of followers and is to be expanded to include additional forums and blogs in which operators can exchange experiences, positive or negative. “We’re not there to hide anything,” said Parisien. “We looked at all the possible negatives [of opening up to online comment] and felt it was time for operators to have something different.”
Serious gear-heads will likely enjoy the site’s exclusive video interviews with members of the PT6 engineering team, sharing their recollections of how this epic engine took shape and how it has exceeded their expectations.