Turbomeca keeping design engineers busy

 - November 15, 2006, 5:47 AM

Turbomeca is ready to launch new variants of its helicopter engines. The French manufacturer (Hall 4 Stand B12) is working on technology demonstrators that can be the basis for a preliminary powerplant. But before launching any such program, it is waiting for the market to clearly indicate the need for new Arriel or Arrius turboshaft engines.

“We use demonstrators to validate the technologies we have developed upstream,” Charles Claveau, director of Turbomeca helicopter engine programs, told Aviation International News. Using a demonstrator, the company can launch a new engine “any time,” he said.

In the 800-shp class, engineers are currently running a demonstrator called the Tech 600, which indicates its capacity of 600 kilowatts. “We are employing it to validate the compressor and combustor for an engine that could supersede the Arrius,” Claveau explained. A preliminary design of the Arrius 3, a more powerful variant in the Arrius family, is already on the drawing board.

Another demonstrator, the Tech 800, in the 1,100-shp class provides a foretaste of the future Arriel. Also referred to as the Athena, it is in the MTR390/Ardiden class, while the Tech 1500, focuses on a growth version of Ardiden. The Tech 3000 is in the RTM 322 class (see box).

“We are aiming at shortening cycles to 36 months,” Claveau said, explaining that Turbomeca’s technology developments are linked to market forecasts. This approach increases flexibility and reduces the overall risk of the engine not being selected for an application, he said.

Claveau said that customers have been consistently asking for engines with enhanced reliability and lower operating costs, which includes reducing specific fuel consumption (SFC). They also have been seeking lower weight and better performance, two attributes that formerly were top on priority lists.

“We will not fight for ten pounds because the power-to-weight ratio is already high; and we’d rather focus on reliability and operating costs,” Claveau said. However, he added, cutting SFC makes the engine more complex, which increases the acquisition cost.

The company currently is developing several derivatives, two of them in the Arrius family. For the Eurocopter AS 355NP, the Arrius 1A1 incorporates a new-generation single-crystal material in its high-pressure turbine blades. Capable of operating at higher temperatures, the 1A1 should improve one-engine-inoperative performance. Certification is pegged for late this year.

The other derivative, the Arrius 2G2, is designed for the Kamov Ka-226. It is simply an adaptation of the existing 2K2 which powers the Agusta A109 LUH.

The Ardiden, a new engine in the 1,200-shp class, has been running since September last year. Intended to re-engine the HAL Dhruv, the Ardiden should begin flight tests this fall. Certification has slipped to next year.

The company is also working on a new version of the TM333, the 2M2. This development is for HAL’s Cheetah helicopter.

In the military field, Turbomeca is developing a growth version of the RTM 322 for Oman’s NH 90s. It is increasing power from 2,400 to 2,600 shp.

And it is Flamenco time for the MTR390, as the company develops the -E version for the Spanish Tiger.

Finally, the Makila 2A is closing in on full certification, with an extended time between overhaul and relight capability up to 8,200 feet and down to minus 45 degrees Celsius.

On the customer support side, the so-called MORE initiative–launched in 2002– is translating into results, Turbomeca claims. The number of field reps has grown from 28 in 2003 to 42 this year. Service engineers now number 34, based in four hubs: Dallas, Texas; Sydney, Australia; Tarnos, France; and soon Rio de Janéiro. The number of Turbo- Support service centers has jumped to 25.

The Safran group subsidiary is planning a major reorganization and extension at its design and production site in Bordes, southwest France. A $125 million investment will see the site grow from 37 to 62 acres, beginning in January and lasting for about 18 months.

Last year, Turbomeca produced 864 engines; this year it expects that figure to increase more than 25 percent to 1,100 and, similarly next year, to 1,400. “Both the civil and the military markets are growing fast with fleet renewals,” Claveau said.