With a new turbofan entering service late last year and two other engines in development, it might seem like GE Aviation’s plan to expand into the business aviation market beginning a decade ago is now well underway. But that’s not how the executive leading that charge views it. “We are on a journey, and we are really at the start of that journey,” GE Aviation v-p and general manager of business, general aviation, and integrated systems Brad Mottier told AIN.
That journey began to some degree with the jointly developed GE Honda HF120 engine powering the HondaJet and the CF34-3B on the Bombardier Challenger 650, but more recently with the 18,000-pound-thrust Passport that entered service with Bombardier’s Global 7500 ultra-long-range business jet last December. With two Global 7500s already delivered, the Passport is meeting or exceeding key performance parameters such as specific fuel consumption, weight, emissions, and noise, Passport product manager Laurence Vigeant-Langlois told AIN. “We’ve validated it in the field with those two aircraft flying now,” she added.
Featuring a high-performance core similar to the CFM Leap, 52-inch fan “blisk”—fan blades and disk fashioned from a single piece of titanium—and a compressor with a high-pressure ratio of 23:1, the engine is bearing out its reputation within the company as a sort of environmental teetotaler, Mottier said. “Jokingly, some of our people here say that it’s really a marvel because it doesn’t have a drinking problem, it doesn’t have a smoking problem, and it’s not overweight.” GE continues to have discussions with OEMs about adding the Passport to other airframes, he added.
At the same time the engine has rolled out, so, too, has a team of GE people well-versed in the powerplant, GE Aviation services product manager Jim Stoker told AIN. “We’ve got a pretty extensive service and support network today,” he explained. “We support nearly 3,000 business jet engines that are out flying with our concierge level of service [called OnPoint], but we’re expanding the coverage particularly in the critical areas where we think the Global 7500s are going to go.” These areas include Asia, the Middle East, and Australia, Stoker said, as well as the U.S. and Europe. And those service support people already have a great deal of experience, having been with the Passport from the beginning. “I think, at the end, it was somewhere in the mid-20,000 hours of support experience all across the engine [development] and flight test programs,” Stoker said. “That’s part of the seamless entry into service that we have been working around,” added Mottier.
Concurrent with the entry into service of Passport, GE (Booth R115) is well into the development of the Catalyst, its first clean-sheet turboprop engine that will power Textron Aviation’s Cessna Denali single-engine turboprop. GE Aviation general manager of turboprops Paul Corkery told AIN the company has done more than 1,000 hours of testing on three engines and 300 hours in an iron bird on the engine's Fadec in the Czech Republic and Canada. More than 670 engine starts have been made in cold and hot environments ranging from -60 to 125 degrees F. And it just wrapped up altitude testing, up to 41,000 feet, in Canada.
GE’s goal for the up-to-1,600-shp engine is to have 15 percent better fuel burn across the flight profile and more than 10 percent more power at altitude. “What we’ve learned thus far is…all that is meeting and exceeding our expectations,” Corkery noted. Testing is underway at three test cells with a fourth coming online. By the fourth quarter of this year GE expects to be testing the Catalyst on a King Air flying testbed, he added.
“I love this engine and this program because it is modernizing a cockpit and a flight control like no other engine has done in this marketplace,” said Mottier, himself the pilot of a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-powered Cessna Caravan. “And when we say that we have exercised the prop through its full range of pitch from beta, to fine pitch, coarse pitch, feather—plus the engine—that’s all integrated into the Fadec. All of those schedules have been validated for steady state and transient operability in the altitude chamber and now…the prop cell. So a huge amount has been accomplished.”
Corkery added that GE is “on alignment” with Textron’s schedule for the Denali and is meeting its milestones. Textron Inc. CEO Scott Donnelly said on the company’s first quarter 2019 earnings call that the Denali is expected to make its first flight this year.
Still early in development at GE is its most recently announced new engine, the Affinity, which will be the powerplant of Aerion’s AS2 supersonic business jet. Affinity’s configuration, engine architecture, size, and preliminary design is complete and calls for two fan blisks, a low-pressure system wrapped around GE’s most popular narrowbody engine core and a proprietary exhaust system, said Stoker, who also oversees the Affinity program. “Ideally, you want those double fans, low bypass ratios for supersonic flight,” Stoker explained. “The challenge with us here is we’ve also got to meet commercial aircraft requirements for noise and emissions. Think about this as a blending of our experience on military engines, our commercial engines as well as our bizjet engines, and being able to take that and find the right balance such that we’re able to meet that supersonic performance while still being able to meet subsonic requirements like Stage 5 subsonic noise.” A major design review in 2020 between GE, Boeing, and Aerion is the next milestone in that development program, he added. Aerion has slated first flight of the AS2 for 2023.
Even with three new engines at different stages, Mottier insists this is just the beginning. There is plenty of work and new engines ahead for GE Aviation. “We’re on the path,” he said. “And I think you will see even more engines in the future.”