Pratt & Whitney Canada sinking money into the future

 - March 5, 2011, 4:30 AM

Pratt & Whitney Canada landed at Heli-Expo 2011 (Booth No. 421) with two new engines to display and $1 billion in research and development funds available to invest over the next five years.

“We plan to stay number one,” said Raffaele Virgili, v-p of customer service, “and to do that, we need to invest in the future.”

To that end, $300 million of that investment, announced in December, comes in the form of a repayable contribution from the Canadian government under the Strategic Aerospace and Defense Initiative program.

P&WC is recruiting engineers, bringing in some 200 more to support development programs and pushing the total engineering workforce to more than 1,500 in Canada.

According to Virgili, P&WC continues to invest in its proven PT6 variants, the latest being the PT6C-67C for AgustaWestland’s AW139. The engine has also been selected for Eurocopter’s EC175. The PT6C-67E model, producing 1,700 shp at takeoff, is expected to be certified this year. “And we are continuing to invest in other PT6 variants,” said Virgili.

Also new is the PW210 Twin-Pac, a 1,000-shp package P&WC describes as “setting the stage for a new era of advanced helicopter engines [and] “helping shape a new generation of single- and twin-engine helicopters.”

The PW210 has been picked by Sikorsky for its new S-76D, scheduled to go into service in 2012. The engine was also selected last July for AgustaWestland’s AW169, for which deliveries are expected to begin in 2015.

Some of P&WC’s goals in engine development are expected; compact architecture, better power-to-weight ratio, greater reliability, improved fuel consumption and lower harmful gas emissions.

According to Virgili, a strong fourth quarter made 2010 “a good year” for P&WC, although the 2,800 engine deliveries was slightly below 2009 delivery totals. And he added that while 2011 deliveries are expected to be about the same as 2010, “We see things improving. The order book remains a bit flat, but there is a lot of discussion of new platforms, and we are well positioned to take advantage of an improving economy. You can only win if you have something to show.”

P&WC, a United Technologies company, added Virgili, is building a proven track record. “Since 1970,” he said, “Pratt & Whitney Canada has produced 12,000 engines [comprising] a total of 31 engine models on 25 aircraft models, with a cumulative total of 43 million flying hours.”

As for Heli-Expo 2011, Virgili sees it as a springboard. “I expect a lot more activity; a much more positive show than last year, and much stronger attendance.”