Watch Out P&WC; GE Takes Wraps Off Its H80 Turboprop

Evolved from the Czech-designed Walter turboprop engine, GE's new H80 has improvements in some key areas. But the biggest plus for the Western market has to be the GE pedigree — not only in technical matters, but also marketing and product support. GE acquired the Walter company a few years ago and immediately set to improving the M601 series turboprop engines. Walter had already made inroads into the U.S. business aircraft market with several STCs to replace Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6As on Beech King Airs and other existing airframes. But now, with the newly named H80 engine nearing certification, the GE version will give P&WC even more to worry about in retaining its perch at the top of the light turboprop market. Through some improvements in materials and configuration, the newest GE engine will have improved airflow compared with its Walter forebears, and is expected to generate up to 800 shaft horsepower (shp). Improved fan blades are also part of the upgrade package for the GE version of the engine. It should also be able to maintain that output even under challenging conditions, such as higher altitudes and hotter ambient temperatures. Unlike most turboprop engines, the H80 will not require a mid-life hot-section inspection halfway to its 3,600-hour TBO (time between overhauls). And since the flow configuration of the H80 is similar to that of the PT6A, with inlet air flowing from the rear, forward flow to the trio of axial compressors, it would appear likely that the ubiquitous Pratt engine is in for some serious competition. Alan Klapmeier, new CEO of Kestrel Aircraft, hinted that the GE engine is on his radar for the redesigned version of the single-engine turboprop the company plans to refine, certify and build in Maine.