41,000 feet above the sky

It is full thrusters for the tests on the new GE Catalyst engine, which has reached an altitude of 41,000 feet, in preparation for its official maiden flight.

august 2019

Another important step for GE Catalyst, GE Aviation’s state-of-the-art turboprop engine with brand-new design, developed in Europe with all-European technology: altitude testing was successfully completed at the Altitude Test Facility of the National Research Council in Canada, where the engine was tested up to 41,000 feet (12,496 meters).

To date, the Catalyst has passed 1,100 hours of testing, with over 850 starts. The engine is arousing great interest for civil applications and, given its technological specifications and brilliant performance, it is vying seriously for the military market ( UAV, Trainers and Light Transport), too.

After more than 50 years, the Catalyst is the first turboprop engine to enter the business and general aviation market segment, providing improved performance thanks to GE's proven technologies. It currently boasts 98 patented technologies and it is the first engine in its class to introduce two variable turbine stators with cooled high-pressure blades and parts developed and produced with additive manufacturing (better known as 3D printing) by Avio Aero.  Additive production recently started up at the Brindisi plant in Puglia. Over the course of the next few months, all the parts designed in additive will be produced here. The engine boasts a high compression ratio (16:1, the highest in its category).

The engine installed inside the brand-new CVUT test cell in Prague

To date, the Catalyst has passed 1,100 hours of testing, with over 850 starts: it boasts the highest compression ratio its category.

All these advanced technologies allow the Catalyst to provide more power and optimized performance at altitude thanks to a reduced front-section architecture, which significantly reduces the "drag.” Performance is also an important topic: the new cutting-edge technological structure may guarantee a fuel economy with about 15% savings compared to its competitors' average turboprops. This allows for a 10% increase in capacity and more than 2 hours increased flight time compared to a ‘typical’ UAV mission. 

"The Catalyst engine stands out from other turboprops on the market due to the different and important characteristics that make it unique: the FADEC system (Full Authority Digital Engine and Propeller Control) makes it easier to integrate the engine with the aircraft and allows Real Time Health Monitoring together with the optimization of maintenance intervals" declared Paolo Salvetti, Military Sales Director & Product Growth Leader of Avio Aero. "It has a high compression ratio. The compressor has a variable geometry; furthermore, it is possible to increase the power of the engine by around 200 HP without hardware modifications.”

The other distinctive aspect of GE Aviation's new military turboprop is its “European credentials”. In fact, not only was the engine designed entirely in Europe, but it will also be produced there; eight countries will be involved in its production, including Italy, all of which will benefit from its industrial return.

An amazing shot of the Catalyst engine inside GEAC CVUT test room

The 12 gold star flag, livery of the Catalyst engine, in addition to enabling the benefits of European independence and technological growth, and therefore of volumes within continental industries, offers another very important competitive advantage: export is not subject to the ITAR (International Traffic in Arms Regulations). The military version of the Catalyst will only be subject to the Italian or Czech export regime.

Its debut, the first official flight, is expected by the end of this year and, of course, will take off from a runway located on the same continent where it was envisioned.

Cover image is courtesy of Textron Aviation.