Ten years after jumping into the business aviation industry, GE Aviation (Booth 244) is preparing its Passport turbofan to enter service on the Bombardier Global 7500 and is progressing on development of the Catalyst turboprop that is poised to challenge Pratt & Whitney Canada’s ubiquitous PT6 series for forward-fit applications.
Certified in 2016, the Passport underwent 4,000 hours of testing and 3,400 cycles. Brad Mottier, v-p and general manager of GE Aviation’s Business and General Aviation and Integrated Systems division, described the turbofan powerplant as a “scaled down version of the Leap [commercial airline] engine.”
But as important as testing is, GE understands that the support network is even more important. In addition to global coverage through its service centers, GE plans to ramp up the infrastructure for its mobile repair teams.
Based at the engine production/maintenance facility in Struther, Kansas, the teams currently service around 75 GE CF34 engines annually in North America. Lufthansa Technik services GE engines in Europe, and its mobile support teams currently handle around 40 CF34s annually. The teams are being trained and readied for the Passport’s entry into service on the Bombardier Global 7500 by year-end.
Selected to power Textron Aviation's new Denali turboprop single, the Catalyst engine is roughly 250 hours into its test program in Europe and slated to begin altitude testing in Canada in November. Mottier pointed out that certification testing in 2018 “is more demanding than it was 50 years ago. For example, we test for ice crystal ingestion. That didn’t happen back then.”
The Catalyst is scheduled to fly next year on its launch airframe, Textron Aviation’s Denali single. But, he said, GE plans to conduct trials before then on the company’s King Air flying testbed.
Mottier said that while GE has been approached for possible retrofit programs, the level of reworking that would be required in structure, systems, and flight deck instrumentation dictate that the Catalyst turboprop is best suited to forward-fit programs on new designs. A turboprop pilot himself, Mottier said he was anxious to fly behind a Catalyst engine, describing its single-lever operation as “jet like” and pointing out that the simplicity of controls makes the center console that much smaller and access to the pilot seats that much easier.
He also discussed how GE’s smaller H-series turboprops are installed on the Diamond Aircraft Dart-550 proposed military trainer, which is currently looking for buyers. It too has a single-lever control, as well as a +8g to -4g oil system for aerobatics and sustained inverted flight.