The Catalyst ™ engine, the first turboprop engine to be fully developed and manufactured in Europe in the last 50 years, completed its first flight on an experimental Beechcraft King Air aircraft yesterday, Thursday 30 September, at Berlin Airport, for a total duration. 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 today, the 16 engines built have accumulated more than 2.600 hours of operation, completing 4 certification tests.
"We are very satisfied with the achievement today and proud of our team 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 paves the way for new opportunities for hybrid powertrains".
"The fact that it was completely designed, developed and manufactured in Europe - said 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 its technological maturity and excellent performance which are confirmed by the ongoing validation and certification process ".
More power, lower consumption and digital controls
The Catalyst ™ is a turboprop engine that will carry 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 industry, and that allows you to get a reduction of consumption up to 20% it's a 10% more cruising power than the competition in the same category. This makes the Catalyst ™ a particularly suitable engine for remotely piloted aircraft: thanks to its performance, it insures up to 10% more payload o three more hours of autonomy on a typical mission. The engine can also count another record: it is the first turboprop to be equipped with the FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control), i.e. the integrated propeller and engine control system that ensures the pilot better control and greater reactivity, also simplifying the integration between the engine and the avionics in case of remote piloting.
A 100% "Made in Europe" engine
The powertrain was developed with European technologies, also thanks to EU and national funding. This makes the Catalyst™ an NLR (No-License Required) engine and, in particular, ITAR-free, therefore exempt from US government control over exports
The supply chain and the entire production chain will remain in the European 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). Particularly, Avio Aero played a leading role in the development phase and led the program by realizing a Torino the design of the engine architecture and system integration, a Bari (in collaboration with the Polytechnic of Bari) the FADEC system, a Pomigliano d'Arco e Torino the various subsystems, including the combustor and transmissions and finally, a Toast the components in Additive Manufacturing.
The characteristics of the Catalyst ™ have led the engine to have a leading role in Clean Sky2, the largest European public-private research and development partnership between the European Commission and the European aviation industry, born with the aim of developing technologies innovative projects dedicated to the decarbonisation of air transport.