GE Aviation’s turboprop business takes off

Since GE’s acquisition in mid-2008, GE Aviation Czech s.r.o., formerly known as Walter Engines, has been busy — launching a new engine, being selected to power a new aircraft, receiving a Czech grant and expanding its services and support network.

About 18 months ago, GE Aviation acquired certain assets of Walter Engines, a Czech Republic-based manufacturer of small turboprop engines and high precision machined parts for the aviation industry. Renamed GE Aviation Czech, the business moved to a 135,000-square-foot facility in Prague in early 2009. The facility includes CNC machining centers, EDM and NDT capabilities and a new surface-treatment plant. The most recent addition includes three new automated engine test cells for development, certification and serial production acceptance testing of turboprop engines. About 400 employees work at the new facility.

Immediately after the acquisition, GE launched the H80 turboprop engine, which will produce up to 800 shaft horsepower (shp) to power utility, agriculture and business and general aviation aircraft. The H80 engine combines the design of the M601 engine with GE’s 3-D aerodynamic design techniques and advanced materials to create a more powerful, fuel-efficient, durable turboprop engine while enhancing hot-day takeoff performance and high-altitude cruise speeds, according to company officials. The H80 engine will also feature an extended service life of 3,600 flight-hours and 6,600 cycles between overhauls. Component testing as well as aeromechanical and performance testing are underway. The first engine to test will begin running in the first quarter of this year with certification expected in mid-2010.

At last summer’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, Thrush Aircraft selected the H80 engine to power an improved version of its 510-gallon, 10,500-pounds gross weight Thrush crop duster. The H80-powered Thrush 510 is expected to enter service this summer. At NBAA, Thrush and GE announced the H80-powered Thrush 510 launch customer, a joint venture between Boschung Global AG and Inter Sinex AG of Switzerland. The venture plans to operate the aircraft in Kazakhstan, which is the world’s seventh largest producer of grains and a major exporter of wheat.

Also at Oshkosh, GE Aviation named the Power 90 as the GE Preferred Engine Conversion for the King 90 aircraft and Smyrna Air Center as a GE Designated Engine Installer for the Walter M601E engine on King Air 90 aircraft. Smyrna Air Center of Smyrna, Tennessee, holds the rights to the Power 90 conversion Supplemental Type Certificate (STC). Power 90 is an FAA-approved STC conversion for King Air 90, A90, B90 and C90 aircraft in which the original engines are replaced with the 751 shaft-horsepower (shp) Walter M601E-11A engines. The E-11A engine delivers faster rates of climb, higher flight levels, faster cruise speed than current engines and lower acquisition and maintenance costs compared with competing conversions, according to GE Aviation officials.

During the National Agricultural Aviation Association (NAAA) annual meeting last month, Cascade Aircraft Conversions signed an agreement to purchase M601E-11 and M601D-11 engines from GE for its engine conversion STCs on Thrush and Air Tractor 300, 400 and 500 series aircraft.

GE Aviation also announced at NAAA the selection of Premier Turbines as its Designated Repair Center in North and South Americas for M601 and H80 engines. Premier Turbines will offer heavy repair services, exchange engines and rentals, line replacement unit rotable pools and field service support to all existing and future M601 and H80 engines in the Americas region. GE Aviation will provide the necessary OEM parts to meet Premier Turbines’ needs. Premier Turbines will be ready to accept M601 engines for repair in the first quarter of 2010.

Meanwhile, the Czech Government awarded research grants valued at about $4 million to GE Aviation Czech. The grants will assist the company in incorporating advanced technologies into its existing Walter M601 series engines. These research grants were the first grants GE Aviation has received from the Czech Government.

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