More than halfway into 2020, GE Aviation still expects the first flight of its new Catalyst turboprop engine on a King Air 350 flying testbed and delivery of the first engine to Textron Aviation this year, a company spokesman told AIN this week. The clean-sheet engine will power Textron Aviation's Cessna Denali turboprop single.
“GE’s Catalyst program continues to move forward with engineering and certification testing,” the spokesman said, adding that to date, Catalyst has more than 1,800 hours of combined operation and 10 engines have been assembled. At NBAA-BACE in October, GE officials explained that newer turboprop testing standards and engine preparations for the flying testbed were delaying Catalyst’s flight testing and delivery. GE and Textron Aviation originally expected first flight of the Denali in late 2019.
The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted GE operations, particularly its commercial engines business as Airbus and Boeing pulled back on production in the face of their airline customers parking thousands of airplanes and deferring or canceling airplane orders. GE has also laid off or furloughed thousands of workers since March.
Certification testing of the engine has been extensive and GE recently completed development testing for icing certification. Other development tests have included altitude (41,000 feet in an altitude chamber), vibration, durability, ingestion, and integrated prop controls. Earlier this week, a Textron Aviation spokeswoman told AIN that work on the Denali continues but wouldn’t “speculate” on development timelines for the turboprop single because of the pandemic’s impact to the Wichita airframer, along with its suppliers and regulators.