GE Aviation is readying two new turboshaft programs, one civil and one military.
On the civil side, GE works with Bell as it completes certification of the Bell 525 super-medium twin-engine helicopter later this year. GE provides its CT7-2F1 engines for the 525. The engines received FAA certification in 2019. “We are actively supporting the  flight test campaign to work through that closure,” said Elissa Lee, GE director of commercial rotorcraft programs.
The 2,129 shp (maximum, 1,979 shp takeoff) CT7-2F1 is a derivative of GE’s CT7/T700 engine family, 25,000 examples of which GE has delivered to date. The new engine features an improved-life high-pressure turbine, engine electronic control unit, and a health and usage monitoring system (HUMS). GE will offer its TrueChoice flight hour maintenance program for the engine. Interest in TrueChoice is growing from operators of other CT7 platforms, especially among the Sikorsky S-92A community, Lee said.
Lee said that GE intends to establish a rotorcraft operating center based on what it furnishes to its fixed-wing customers to provide remote diagnostics and analytics. “We’ve been working with some key customers on how we can provide that product to expand our services offering,” she said, adding that GE would say more about it at Heli-Expo. However, Lee did say that the company plans to make it available to commercial customers including Bell, Leonardo, and Sikorsky. A start date depends on demonstrated customer interest, but the nuts and bolts already are there. “It’s something that we use today internally,” Lee said.
In the commercial rotorcraft space, GE continues to focus on digital capabilities as a means to “better support technologies and product offerings for sustainable aviation” as well as study “additive technologies” (3-D printing) in its engine manufacture. “It’s about where it fits on the engine and how it helps make a market change for the engine,” she said. GE is pursuing the technology for the CT7 family. “When we're ready to make an announcement on that, we’ll let you know,” Lee said. “They are seeing that there is untapped value from their perspective.”
On the military side, GE is pressing ahead with its Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP, now designated T901) for the Army, according to Mike Sousa, GE manager for advanced programs. The company designed the T901 as a plug-and-play replacement engine for legacy Army rotorcraft including the AH-64 and the UH-60. It will also power the service’s Future Attack and Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) and the semifinalists, Bell and Sikorsky, eagerly await the delivery of those engines from the Army to enable the continuation of competition for that contract. The new engine provides a 50 percent increase in power, to 3,000 shp, and a 25 percent reduction in specific fuel consumption.
Replacing the engines on the legacy helicopters could require 6,000 units or more, making it a substantial program akin to GE’s T700, some 20,000 of which the company has delivered to date.
“[We're] in the middle of testing the engine right now," explained Sousa. "We’re testing components every day of the week and collecting a variety of measurements. Then it will be tested at various altitudes in an altitude test cell that negates the need to obtain the data by flying the engine on an actual aircraft. Once that testing is complete and the Army signs off, the engines will be delivered to the OEMs to test them on their aircraft."