Improved Thrush to be powered by GE

Officials of Thrush Aircraft were showing off the improved Thrush 510 at this summer’s Oshkosh.

But the crop duster wasn’t parked at a Thrush exhibit. Instead, it was parked at the GE Aviation exhibit. That’s because officials with the Albany, Ga.-based company have chosen GE Aviation’s new H80 turboprop engine to power the improved version of its aircraft.

The Thrush crop duster will be the first application for the H80 engine and the first North American engine installation for the Walter M601 engine family, according to GE Aviation officials. GE bought the Czech Republic-based Walter engine line about a year ago.

Thrush1The Thrush crop duster has been around for about 40 years, which meant it was “overdue” for some updates, said Jody Bays, vice president. “We’ve been able to get 200 pounds off the aircraft,” he said, noting the hopper has a capacity of 510 gallons.

The improved Thrush 510 features a 29,000-hour wing spar life with no mandatory inspections of the wing spars, he added. Additional features include a tubular steel fuselage and cockpit roll cage, removable fuselage skins, and chromate-treated aluminum surfaces for corrosion prevention — all designed to maximize pilot safety, reduce maintenance times and enhance productivity, he said.

The H80 combines the turboprop design of Walter Aircraft Engines’ M601 series engines with GE Aviation’s 3D aerodynamic design techniques and advanced materials, said Brad Mottier, vice president and general manager of GE Aviation’s Business and General Aviation organization. These technologies deliver more shaft-horsepower (shp), improved engine fuel efficiency and increased temperature margin, enhancing hot-day takeoff performance and high-altitude cruise speeds, he added.

The H80 engine also features an extended service life of 3,600 hours and 6,600 cycles between overhauls.

To date, the engine has accumulated more than 3,000 cycles during successful hot section demonstration tests. Certification testing is set to begin later this year, with certification expected in early 2010, Mottier noted.

The new Thrush 510 is expected to gain certification about three months after the H80 is certified. That’s probably next summer, with customer deliveries beginning soon after that, according to Bays.

Thrush officials are quick to note there is “nothing wrong” with the Pratt & Whitney PT-6 engine that has powered the crop dusters over the last four decades.

Thrush Aircraft's Jody Bays (left) and Lew Blomeley at AirVenture.

Thrush Aircraft's Jody Bays (left) and Lew Blomeley at AirVenture.

“But you need to have competition,” said Lew Blomeley, engineering manager. “If there is no competition, things don’t move forward.”

Bays noted that if the new GE engine does as well as the GE engines that power military and commercial aircraft, “this is going to be a phenomenal engine,” he said.

“GE is as big in the engine world as Boeing is in the aircraft manufacturing world,” he said. “If Boeing said it was making a light plane, wouldn’t you be interested?”

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