Powering Regional Aviation

The regional airline industry is spoilt for choice and the healthy competition has seen engine manufacturers fine-tuning their engines to capture the growing regional aviation market

Issue: 3 / 2014By R. ChandrakanthPhoto(s): By Eric Drouin - PowerJet, GE Aviation

Reportedly Airbus is working on a small aircraft which will be powered by hybrid electric engines, signalling its foray into regional aviation market. According to Airbus Group Chief Technology Officer Jean Botti, the regional aircraft powered by electric engines with seat configuration of 70 to 90 may become a reality in 15 to 20 years. The aircraft could take off and land using electric power.

Airbus is already working on an all-electric two-seater plane, powered by two electric motors with a combined output of 60 kilowatts, hoping this technology will serve as a step to bringing electric motors on to larger aircraft. The two-seater E-Fan will be built at Bordeaux in South West France and production could start at the end of 2017. Botti added that he would like to see a prototype for a regional jet in 2030. What a future for regional aviation!

Going back over 50 years, we look at Pratt & Whitney Canada (P&WC), a company that delivered the PT-6, the first production engine of its turboprop brainchild. What the P&WC engineers possibly did not realise at the time was that the PT-6 would draw a deep and enduring line in the sands of the global aviation industry. “Getting it right” would be the PT-6’s hallmark for the next half-century. Today, P&WC’s iconic engine still performs like no other. In 2013, the PT-6 engine celebrated its 50th year in flight.

P&WC’s Dominance in Turboprop

Beginning with the 500 to 1,700 shaft horsepower (shp) class PT-6A engines, powering the first 19 passenger commuter airliners in the 1960s and through the 1980s, P&WC’s dominance in the turboprop segment of the airline industry has grown to an impressive level. The family of PW-100/150 engines whose first model was certified in 1984, has accumulated more than 100 million flight hours, reinforcing its place as the engine of choice for modern turboprop-powered regional aircraft around the world. Offered in 31 models, more than 6,000 PW-100 engines have been produced, covering a wide range of power rating from 1,800 shp to over 5,000 shp.

With more than 51,000 PT-6 engines manufactured and powering some 130 applications, no other engine can compare. The most remarkable fact is that the PT-6 is still the most popular engine and has a bright future ahead. The PT-6A, PW-100 and PW-150 turboprop engines continue to play a key role in the development of the regional airline industry for half a century through their outstanding reliability, durability and exceptional operating economics. The popularity of the P&WC’s turboprop engines continues to grow thanks to their unmatched fuel efficiency and environment friendliness.

Subsequently came the PW-100/150 engines which power airliners produced by ATR of France with the ATR 42 and 72 aircraft, Bombardier Aerospace of Canada with the Q-100, 200, 300 and 400 series aircraft and Xian Aircraft Company of China with the MA-60. The flexibility of the family of PW-100 engines has also made it popular for a variety of other applications such as the Bombardier CL-415 forest fire control aircraft and CASA C-295 transport aircraft. The PW-100/150’s fuel efficiency and low emissions, together with the company’s steadfast commitment to continuously inject the latest and most advanced technologies into its engines, has led many airlines to renew their fleet with PW-100-powered aircraft.

Mitsubishi Aircraft has selected the award-winning Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan TM engine to power the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ). The Mitsubishi Regional Jet is the nextgeneration regional jet that will offer both top-class operational economy and outstanding cabin comfort. By featuring a gamechanging engine, state-of-the-art aerodynamic design and noisereduction technology, the MRJ will significantly cut fuel consumption, noise and emissions. The PurePower PW-1200G engine is the exclusive power plant for the MRJ aircraft and is scheduled to enter into service in 2017.

GE Invests in CF-34 Family

The CF-34 sparked off one of the most important events in commercial aviation—the introduction of the regional jet. The latest CF-34 engine is the CF-34- 10. Aircraft readiness, on-time departures, reliability and costeffective operation are all important measures of a successful regional aircraft engine. Dependability is inherent in the CF-34. The engine’s dispatch reliability rate remains at 99.95 per cent with more than 80 million flight-hours and 65 million cycles completed since the first CF-34-3A1 engine entered service in 1992.

Having invested more than $2 billion in the evolution and continuous improvement of the CF-34 family of engines, GE is committed to the CF-34, a derivative of GE’s rugged, combatproven TF-34 which powers the US Air Force A-10 and US Navy S-3A aircraft. The CF-34 has evolved from this solid military experience base as a superior commercial engine with excellent performance margin, durability and a level of reliability that allows today’s 50 to 105 passenger regional jets to be flown with utmost confidence throughout the world. The CF-34 family is designed with a particular concern for its effect on the total flying environment both inside the cabin and outside.

The inherently quiet CF-34 helps make travel comfortable and more productive. Low noise also contributes to greater operational flexibility. The CF-34 is not only a quiet engine but it is also well within the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and International Civil Aircraft Organisation (ICAO) requirements for smoke and emissions. GE is so committed to the CF-34, that it has invested more than $1 billion over the last decade. GE’s CF-34 engine, the best-selling engine in regional aviation history, has surpassed 5,000 engines in service with over 170 operators. Every eight seconds a GE CF-34-powered regional jet aircraft takes off somewhere in the world and CF-34 engines travel the equivalent of 210 times around the planet each day, carrying 5,00,000 passengers to their destinations.

The CF-34-10E that powers Embraer’s E-190/E-195 regional jets and Lineage 1000 Business Jets has surpassed 1,000 engines in-service amongst 48 operators. The CF-34-10A engine was selected to power the new ARJ-21 regional jet from Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) and the FAA issued type certification of the CF-34-10A in July 2010. ARJ-21 flight testing is underway. The CF-34-8C5A1 engine that powers the CRJ-1000 NextGen aircraft engine is the newest CF-34-8 variant. More than 1,900 CF-34-8 engines are in service on Bombardier’s CRJ-700 (CF-34-8C5B1) and CRJ-900 (CF-34-8C5) and Embraer’s 170/175 (CF-34-8E5) aircraft. The engines have accumulated over 19 million flight-hours and 14 million cycles.

Snecma’s PowerJet

In the regional aircraft market, Snecma develops and produces the SaM-146 propulsion system for the Sukhoi Superjet 100 regional jet through PowerJet, an equal subsidiary with NPO Saturn. Snecma is also developing a new engine for business jets, the Silvercrest, which was already selected by Cessna to power the new Citation Longitude. Snecma has strengthened its presence in the large turbofan market by taking a stake in the Engine Alliance GP-7200, intended for the A380 super-jumbo jet. Snecma operates a global network of workshops and specialised subsidiaries to provide full maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services for its engines.

Rolls-Royce Strong Presence

Rolls Royce is a major manufacturer of aero engines for all sectors of the airliner and corporate jet market. Rolls-Royce powers more than 30 types of commercial aircraft and has almost 13,000 engines in service around the world. Demand for its products remains robust and underpins strong performance. In the corporate market, Rolls-Royce is the leader and powers the fastest, the longest-range and the largest business jets. In the past decade, its engines have powered seven new business jets into service, contributing to a total Rolls Royce-powered corporate fleet of more than 2,400 aircraft. Rolls-Royce holds more than a third of the regional market with the AE-3007 engines powering almost 1,000 Embraer aircraft.

The recently announced Airbus A330 regional passenger jet will be powered by the Trent 700 Regional, according to Rolls-Royce. The company confirmed the engine’s selection during a customer symposium in China which will be a key market for the A330 Regional. Airbus first announced the A330 Regional in September 2013 at the Beijing Air Show. The manufacturer designed the engine with reduced thrust specifically for regional operations, with the goal of saving operators $1 million per aircraft as compared to competitor engines. “Trent 700 Regional engines will also incorporate the latest performance upgrades, an EP2 package, available from 2015. This will deliver a further one per cent improvement, saving over 60,000 US gallons of fuel per aircraft per year,” said Tom Palmer, Director of Trent 700 Program, Rolls-Royce.

The regional airline industry is spoilt for choice and the healthy competition has seen engine manufacturers fine-tuning their engines to capture the growing regional aviation market.