The Catalyst ™ engine, the first turboprop to be fully developed and manufactured in Europe in the last 50 years, completed its first flight on a Beechcraft King Air experimental aircraft on 30 September at Berlin Airport, for a total duration of one ‘hour and forty minutes.
The Catalyst ™ program was launched in 2015 and the entire design and development process took place entirely in Europe. Tests of the engine installed on the experimental aircraft began in December 2020 and, at the same time, GE Aviation Turboprop delivered the first airworthy engine to Textron Aviation for launch on the new Beechcraft Denali turboprop aircraft. To date, the 16 engines built have accumulated more than 2,600 hours of operation, completing 4 certification tests.
“We are very satisfied with the goal achieved today and are proud of our team made up of excellent professionals and specialists from all over Europe” – said Riccardo Procacci, CEO and General Manager of Avio Aero and GE Aviation Turboprop. “The first flight of the Catalyst ™ paves the way for numerous opportunities in general aviation, primarily with our launch customer Textron Aviation, as well as in the Defense sector for future applications on drones and trainers. This program opens the way to new opportunities for hybrid propulsion systems ”.
“The fact that it has been completely designed, developed and manufactured in Europe – stated Pierfederico Scarpa, VP Marketing & Sales of Avio Aero – makes the Catalyst ™ an ITAR-free product also available for military applications and, in this context, its distinctive features are the technological maturity and the excellent performances which are confirmed by the ongoing validation and certification process “.
The Catalyst ™ is an engine that was born as a turboprop and that will bring a radical change in this segment in terms of performance, as well as being the first to have components made with advanced additive manufacturing technology. An engine that boasts a compression ratio of 16: 1, the best in the sector, and which allows to obtain a decrease in consumption up to 20% and a cruising power greater than 10% compared to the competition in the same category.
This makes the Catalyst ™ a particularly suitable engine also for remotely piloted aircraft: thanks to its performance, it ensures up to 10% more payload or three more hours of autonomy in a typical mission. The engine can also count another record: it is the first turboprop to be equipped with FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control), that is the integrated control system of the propeller and engine that ensures the driver better control and greater reactivity, also simplifying the integration between the engine and the avionics in case of remote piloting.
The engine was developed with European technologies, also thanks to Community and national funding. This makes the Catalyst ™ a No-License Required (NLR) engine and, in particular, ITAR-free, thus exempt from US government export control.
The supply chain and the entire production chain will remain in the European production eco-system. The GE sites involved in the program are: GE Aviation Czech, Avio Aero in Italy and Poland, GE Aviation Advanced Technology in Munich (Germany) and GE Engineering Design Center in Warsaw (Poland). In particular, Avio Aero was the protagonist in the development phase and led the program by carrying out the engine architecture project and system integration in Turin, the FADEC system in Pomigliano (in collaboration with the Polytechnic of Bari). d’Arco and Turin the various subsystems, including the combustor and transmissions and finally, in Brindisi, the components in additive manufacturing.