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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedThe AirVenture answer factory: turbine division
By James Wynbrandt, EAA AirVenture Today
  

July 30, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin  - If you’ve ever had a question about any aspect of aviation, AirVenture is the world’s greatest answer factory.

The exhibitor booths and displays are staffed by experts who know every facet of their field and products, and are happy to share their knowledge—and not just with prospective customers.

So if you’ve ever been curious about the innards of a GPS or what goes into installing an aftermarket modification, don’t hesitate to march into one of the display areas and chat with one of the staffers.

Take turbine engines.

“We spend a lot of time with people who just want to know which end the air goes in,” said Ronald Schwedland, at the Williams International display (Booth 337). Schwedland, a retired manager and now a consultant with the Walled Lake, Michigan-based turbine engine manufacturer, graciously took on the issue of why turbine engines can cost as much as the aircraft they power.

According to Schwedland, designing and building the engine is the easy part. Proving its safety and airworthiness is the real challenge—and that adds to the cost.

“You could have an engine (designed and built) in 18 months.” said Schwedland, “But to get it certified takes another three years and tens of millions of dollars.”

The certification process includes data analysis and verification, spin testing for the rotors and, in addition, destructive testing. The engine must be capable of ingesting a 4-pound bird fired into it at 200 mph without exploding or breaching its housing, and of continuing to operate after a 1-pound bird is fired into it. These are the same standards to which airliner jet engines are subject to, though Williams engines power much lighter jets, including Diamond’s D-JET, the Cirrus SJ50, the PiperJet, and other single-engine “personal” jets and twinengine light jets.

“You end up destroying three engines” in the process, said Schwedland. “It’s just amazing all the things you have to do.”

While Schwedland spoke, a trio of Russians came in looking for a turboprop engine to power their prospective bushplane project.

Upon learning that Williams offers no turboprop powerplants, they asked for Schwedland’s opinion on the available options, and he patiently explained the pluses and minuses of Pratt & Whitney and Honeywell turboprop engines for the thrust range they wanted.

Williams, whose founder, Dr. Sam Williams, passed away this year, is showcasing its FJ33-5, FJ44-3AP, and FJ44-4 at AirVenture. All are currently in the last stages of the certification process, and the company expects certification on all by year’s end.

GE Honda Aero Engines (Booth 377) is another good spot for turbine enthusiasts. 

“We get a lot of people curious about our joint venture,” said Mel Solomon, manager of marketing for GE Honda Aero Engines out of Cincinnati, Ohio. 

“That’s the reason why we’re here,” Solomon explained. “To let people know about the engine and that we’re committed to this market for the long term.”

A partnership of GE and Honda, the company is working on certification of the HF120 turbofan, selected to power both the upcoming HondaJet and the Spectrum 33 from Spectrum Aeronautical.

An oversize labeled diagram on the back wall of the GE Honda display shows the interior of the HF120, and staffers can point out the hightech design features that enable the engine to target a 5,000-hour TBO, or time between overhauls. That TBO cycle is about 30 percent longer than competitors’.

Attendees interested in turboprops often put Rolls-Royce (Booth 176) on their itineraries.

“A lot of those people come in,” said Matt Haugk, the company’s director of marketing and strategy, from a display filled with gleaming mock-ups of the company’s powerplants.

Last year at AirVenture, Indianapolis-based Rolls-Royce introduced its RR500, currently undergoing certification.

The RR500 is expected to power new production aircraft as well as supplemental type certificate (STC) retrofits. And unlike turbofan engines, turboprops don’t have as rigorous a certification process—no bird strike tests, for example.

One major appeal of the RR500 is cost—it will sell for less than its predecessor, the venerable Model 250 B17. “We have developed a low-cost supply,” Haugk said, explaining the lower cost.

Certification of the RR500 is expected in 2011.

Meanwhile, the Model 250 B17 remains popular, and several aircraft with STC conversions—a Cessna 206, Cessna 210, Vulcanair Aviator, and Tradewind Bonanza—are on display at Rolls-Royce, along with a Maule sporting a factory B17 installation.

Yesterday Rolls-Royce and rotorcraft manufacturer RotorWay announced that the RR300, also on display, has been selected to power RotorWay’s Eagle 300 helicopter.

One question the exhibitors above can’t answer: How much does it cost?

None of these manufacturers make their prices public, as they negotiate individually with qualified buyers.

But for these exhibitors and attendees who crowd their display areas, AirVenture makes an ideal meeting place.

“We like this venue,” said Williams International’s Schwedland.

“A lot of people here supported (the development of) smaller engines, so Oshkosh is a great place for us.”
 

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