|Courtesy of Pratt and Whitney Canada;
|Courtesy of Pratt and Whitney Canada;
By James Wynbrandt
July 30, 2013 - Wednesday, July 31, 2013 is PT6 Day at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2013, highpoint of the weeklong celebration of the PT6 engine's 50th anniversary.
Pratt & Whitney Canada's (P&WC) legendary turboprop powerplant, the PT6, powered a revolution, bringing the efficiency, power, and reliability of turboprop engines to aviation. Attesting to its influence are the many P&WC flags flying at the many booths of OEMs that use the PT6 in their aircraft.
Since its introduction in 1963, P&WC delivered more than 52,000 PT6 engines in a whopping 90 variants; they've powered more than 130 different aircraft models and flown in excess of 390 million hours.
But despite its age the little engine that did has kept pace with the times.
"We are very proud of how the PT6 engine has evolved," Denis Parisien, vice president of general aviation at P&WC, told AirVenture Today at the company's booth. "We've injected new technology into every version of the engine, making today's engines lighter, more powerful, and more fuel efficient than they have ever been."
Compared to the first 450-shp engine of 1963, today's PT6 has a 40 percent improved power-to-weight ratio and up to 20 percent better specific fuel consumption; it's offered in models up to four times more powerful.
Powerplants on display at Booth 2132 in Hangar B include the PT6A-41 and PT6A-65.
But the anniversary celebration extends far beyond the P&WC booth.
In honor of the occasion, almost a dozen PT6-powered aircraft models are on display today on Phillips 66 Plaza: Air Tractor, Beechcraft, Cessna, Daher-Socata, Embraer, Epic, Lancair, Piaggio, Pilatus, Piper, and Quest.
Also today: At 2:30 the EAA Welcome Center presents a seminar and retrospective providing insights into the design, operation, and maintenance of the engine.
And P&WC will deliver its 80,000th engine - a PT6A-60A - to Beechcraft, the launch customer that took delivery of the very first PT6. The -60A powers the King Air 350i.
As part of the weeklong golden anniversary celebration, at KidVenture Campus the company has a PT6 engine and boroscope on display, so youngsters can examine the interior of the engine without dismantling it, just as mechanics do.
Throughout the week the Skyscape Theater at the EAA AirVenture Museum will screen a PT6 documentary series, The Legends Behind the Legend, featuring the pioneering engineers who developed the engine, the sixth design their project produced (hence the PT6 name).
Additionally, a new video P&WC created for the anniversary is being shown on the Jumbotrons on the show grounds.
On Monday the company launched its e-store on PT6 Nation, the engine's dedicated website, offering merchandise to the 40,000 PT6 Nation fans and followers. It also unveiled a customer service mobile application designed to provide the world's PT6 operators with instant access to a variety of services.
Yesterday the company announced a new engine modification program with Blackhawk Modifications of Waco, Texas, which has STC programs to upgrade the PT6 engines on a variety of legacy King Air and other turboprop aircraft.
On Thursday the company is sponsoring a table at the Gathering of Eagles, offering for auction a VIP trip to the Montreal F1 Grand Prix valued at $15,000. On Friday the company will participate in the press conference for Disney's new animated movie, Planes, screening that night; Dusty the crop duster, the animated film's star, is powered by a PT6.
"Operators find better ways to use the PT6 engine than we anticipate," said Nicholas Kanellias, P&WC's general manager of general aviation programs. "People have found ways to put them in cars, boats, and trains, as well as airplanes.
"It's fun being part of that."
Meanwhile, many owners of piston-powered aircraft in the 300- to 500-hp category dream of having a turboprop aircraft of that power range. P&WC is working on such engines, but the technology is currently in the demonstrator phase, Parisien said. "It's not ready for launch by any means. We'll see where that leads."
Founded in 1928 and based in Longueuil, Quebec, Canada, today P&WC produces turboprop and turbofan engines covering power ranges up to 20,000 pounds of thrust. (Sister company Pratt & Whitney, based in Hartford, Connecticut, produces turbofan engines above 20,000 pounds of thrust. Both are subsidiaries of United Technologies.)