By By Katie Kriz, Assistant Managing Editor | July 7, 2014
Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PW210S engine.
Photos courtesy Pratt & Whitney Canada
During a media briefing at Pratt & Whitney’s headquarters where President Paul Adams and other executives reflected on the state of the aviation industry, Rotor & Wing had a chance to interview Richard Dussault, vice president of marketing for Pratt & Whitney Canada (the unit that produces helicopter, business jet and turboprop engines). During his briefing, Adams pointed to two defining P&WC powerplants – the PT6 and the PW200.
Through mid-May, Pratt & Whitney Canada has produced 80,000 engines, recently crossing two significant milestones. 2013 marked the 50th anniversary of the PT6. The engine was first used in a twin pack configuration on the Bell 412 and is now also on the AgustaWestland AW119 Koala, Airbus Helicopters EC175 and the AgustaWestland AW609 tiltrotor. Dussault pointed to the PT6’s reliability and versatile design as reasons for the success of the series.
“We’ve grown, and if you think about technology insertion into new compressors, new turbine and new combustors – throughout that technology infusion, we were able to take a product of 500 shp and grow it four-fold to 2,000 shp,” said Dussault.
P&WC is modifying the PT6 engine for the AW609 tiltrotor, with the first full engine run expected to take place later this year. Another version of the PT6, the PT6C-67C, is currently on the AW139, which is used for missions in the emergency medical services (EMS) and offshore oil and gas industries.
Built for the light twin market, the PW200 engine series powers the Airbus Helicopters EC135, AgustaWestland AW109, Bell 427, Kazan (Russian Helicopters) Ansat and MD900.
More recently, Dussault explained, “we’ve launched the PW210 which powers the Sikorsky S-76D that just entered service last December. We’re also going to power the AW169 that’s going into service later this year or early next year.”
The PW210, as the newest addition to the PW200 family, can be customized to the specs of a specific operator, including modifications for single-engine applications if needed. The engine will also be seen on Airbus Helicopters’ X4 – the replacement for the AS355/EC155 Dauphin – within the next few years. P&WC completed the first engine run in March 2014, and is now preparing to deliver the first prototype to Airbus Helicopters.
“We will design unique features for the X4 helicopter based on the specs that Airbus Helicopters gives us, but the heart of the engine – the turbine, the turbo machine and the compressor – is existing hardware that we certified on the PW210S for Sikorsky and, soon, on the 210A for AgustaWestland,” explained Dussault. “For us, this is the third derivative of the engine.”
In terms of the helicopter industry as a whole, Dussault observed that support for the oil and gas industry – both offshore and on land – is showing signs of continued strength.
“A lot of onshore oil has been found and exploited,” he said. “Today the new frontier is offshore, and helicopters are a primary tool to get people on and off platforms safely. It is an integral part of being able to drill for oil, and as that continues, there’s a lot of growth” in that sector of the industry.
The helicopter industry is also experiencing an increase in activity among developing countries. According to Dussault, there is rising interest in segments such as EMS and law enforcement, which – although well established in countries such as Europe and the U.S. – are still undeveloped in other parts of the world.
“In emerging countries there’s a lot of interest in air medical services because it’s nonexistent,” said Dussault. Relatively speaking, he added, “it’s still small, but it does have huge potential. So the EMS sector and local police forces have a lot of potential in developing economies like China, India, Russia, and Brazil.”
On the other side of the coin, Dussault noted that the VIP/corporate sector of the industry continues to show signs of weakness. Due to budget cuts and the economic slowdown of 2008/09, corporations have been “using their capital differently,” he pointed out.
“It’s a sector that’s very sensitive to economic woes,” he observed, adding that it depends on an individual company’s decision making. It comes down to “where they’re going to invest their money based on corporate profits at the end of the day.”
Dussault also confirmed that P&WC, as a small engine business, will continue to steer clear of the military sector for now. Though some of the helicopters the company powers have military variants, such as the Bell 412 and the AW139, Dussault defined Pratt & Whitney Canada’s work strictly as a “civil engine company.”
The company is currently focusing on reducing the number of helicopter engines in its backlog. With three of seven engine projects entering into service within the next year, the company is concentrating on completing its remaining projects in this helicopter segment. Pratt & Whitney Canada also designs and manufactures engines in the regional, general and business aviation segments.