We recently sat down with Jason Propes, SVP Helicopters & Light Turboprop Engines at Rolls-Royce to get an update on the status of their C47E engine program - the latest iteration of the venerable M250 - which was announced at Heli-Expo in 2013, and for which they received certification just last month.
R&W: Can you give us a brief update on the status of the C47E program?
Propes: Sure - One of the most exciting things we see coming for us and for the Rolls-Royce Helicopter business is the C47E engine, which just received FAA certification in September. Within the C47E model designation, the E stands for evolution of the engine, and it really captures the innovative technical upgrades that we’ve made. Currently, the engine is flying as a part of the MQ-8C development program, that’s the Northrop Grumman program for the upgraded MQ-8B Fire Scout. We were pleased to recently receive a contract award from Boeing on the AH-6I program, and C47E will be the power plant for that program. We’ll continue to look for future applications and customers for the CH47E moving forward, but we think there’s a lot of opportunity for this engine in the marketplace.
In terms of the upgrades and improvements to the engine, the C47E is really an upgrade to the C47B engine that has been successful in the marketplace. The upgrades to the B which makes the B an E include the value improvement package, or the VIP kit, and the benefits that the operator will receive with that hardware is additional power and improved engine performance in high and hot applications. It includes some redesigns to several components in the engine core, and it will also include our new dual channel FADEC control system that is focused on and targeted to improve the reliability of the control system for the engine, as well as expand the time between overhaul requirements on the engine (aimed at reducing operating cost for all our operators). We’re very excited about these upgrades coming online and we believe there is going to be a significant capability and reduction in direct maintenance cost for the engine as a result.
R&W: What is the potential value in retrofitting old aircraft versus values of new programs such as Fire Scout?
Propes: The upgrades come as a package, and the real benefit for us that we see is in new installations of this upgraded engine. So we see our strength in partnerships with some of our long-term partners really driving growth through the introduction of this new program. So we have a lot of interest in the engine from existing OEMs and new OEMs and that’s where we see the value and the growth for Rolls-Royce as part of this engine. There is a piece of the C47E which we released to the aftermarket two years ago, and that’s the VIP kit. We authorized the upgrade of existing engines through our M250 first network which are all fully qualified to install the kit, and customers have been extremely pleased with the upgrade of the kit in their applications and we’ve already received feedback and they couldn’t be any happier with the performance of this VIP kit.
R&W: Why is this engine so popular for the UAV market?
Propes: The M250 engine platform has been around for decades, but that doesn’t mean the engine that you buy today is the same engine you would have bought years ago. Over the production life and the life cycle of this engine, we’ve continued to make investments and technical upgrades to the engine. So I think what you’re finding in the marketplace and why the M250 has been so wildly successful is that we have an existing engine platform, a low-risk, time-tested engine platform that we continue to make technical advances on. We believe that brings a good balance of a low-risk propulsion system solution along with the latest technology to provide all of our customers with the capability they need.
R&W: Do you have a power-by-the-hour program for this engine?
Propes: We offer a variety of support options for all of our operators. We do have some operators on total care support agreements through our industry-leading first network of AMCs.
R&W: What will you be doing at Helitech International?
Propes: We’re excited to be attending Helitech next week, it’s going to be a great show and we’ll see a lot of our customers and AMC partners there. We will have a booth and the main reason for our presence there is to meet with our customers and make sure we understand their needs and how we can make sure we’re in a position to better support them. We won’t have an engine display or mock-up at the stand, but we will have our Rolls-Royce business experts there to meet with and talk with all of our customers andAttendees..
R&W: Would this engine have been a good fit for the Bell Jet Ranger 505, or would that have been the RR300 engine?
Propes: The engine that we’ve been talking about, the M250, has been a series 4 engine and that’s close to the 700 shp range, and the engines in the Jet Ranger are a lower shaft horsepower requirement and a smaller engine. So the CH47E wouldn’t be the right fit, for that application, that’s closer to an R300 range of engine.
The RR300 is a smaller engine that’s been designed as a low-cost power plant, mainly to replace piston engines in light helicopters and it’s in the 240-300 shp range. It is designed based upon our M250 family, which that experience is 250 million flight hours so again, low-risk from a design perspective, but designed for that smaller light helicopter application. We’re really excited about the partnership that we have with Robinson. Robinson has delivered around 500 aircraft with the RR300 engine. That program has been successful, and recently received EASA certification earlier this year. We believe that will add significantly to the demand for the RR300 engine in the Robinson R66.