Catalyst Engine Reaches Big Step

The clean-sheet turboprop design from GE Aviation takes its first flight in Germany.

An important achievement has been completed in the Catalyst turboprop program: GE Aviation announced Thursday the first flight of its clean-sheet design on a Beechcraft King Air test bed in Berlin, Germany.

The one-hour, 40-minute flight departed Berlin’s Schönefeld Airport yesterday morning after completing ground run tests on September 27.

“The first flight was very successful. I must say, everything went flawlessly,” said Sigismond Monnet, chief test pilot for the program. “We actually flew longer than planned, and the engine performed as we expected. I look forward to proceeding with the flight test campaign and expanding the Catalyst’s flight envelope.”

The FADEC engine is targeted to operate in the 850 to 1,600 shp range, depending on the platform. Its first mount will be the Beechcraft Denali, from Textron Aviation, for which it’s projected to produce 1,300 shp and run on sustainable aviation fuel.

With FADEC, a single-lever power and prop control will allow pilots to operate the turboprop much like a turbofan powerplant.

The development program also illuminates the state of collaboration between FAA and EASA regulatory agencies, with concurrent testing taking place in the E.U. and U.S.

new Catalyst design
The new Catalyst design has already completed ground runs on the Beechcraft Denali prototype in Kansas. GE Aviation

“As the first turboprop ever fully designed, developed and built in Europe in the last half-century, the Catalyst engine is an ITAR-free product also available for military applications,” said Pierfederico Scarpa, vice president of marketing and sales for Avio Aero, GE Aviation’s partner in the project. “In this scope, Catalyst has not only technological maturity, but also outstanding performances being confirmed by an ongoing validation and certification process.”

The news advances the Denali program significantly: “This is a tremendous moment for the Catalyst engine,” said Paul Corkery, general manager of GE Aviation Turboprops. “It is the result of huge efforts by our brilliant team to bring this engine out of the test cell and onto the King Air Flying Test Bed.

“We’re very encouraged by preliminary data from the first flight,” Corkery continued, “and we’re looking forward to continued flight testing on this revolutionary turboprop engine, alongside our launch customer, Textron, that is heading the same way with their Beechcraft Denali prototype.”

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