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Die Europäische Sicherheit & Technik sprach über das neue Aerotriebwerk GE Catalyst mit Günter Wilfert, Senior Engineering Section Manager bei GE Aviation Deutschland, und mit Paolo Salvetti, Military Sales Director und Leiter für Product Growth bei Avio Aero.

ES & T:What has been the contribution of GE Deutschland to the GE Catalyst engine?

Günter Wilfert ist Senior Engineering Section Manager bei GE Aviation Deutschland (Foto: GE Aviation Deutschland)

Wilfert:The GE Aviation Team in Munich (Advanced Aviation Technology Center of Excellence) is responsible for the aero design of the GE Catalyst high pressure axial radial compressor, for all inclement weather certification including icing, rain and hail, and contributed to the combustor design. The GE Catalyst engine is the first engine in its class which is designed for an overall pressure ratio (OPR) of 16. The key element to achieve OPR 16 is its compact and highly efficient axial radial compressor. GE is known for building the best compressors in the world and the Center of Excellence in Munich for Compressor Aero has proven that this high-pressure compressor is delivering as expected. In addition, it is important to stress that all these technologies developed in Munich are European and made by GE Aviation Deutschland.

The high-pressure compressor is the most complex part of the engine and defines its quality and efficiency, so it is a key part. (Photo: Avio Aero)

Furthermore, GE Aviation Munich was not only responsible for the aero design, but also tested this complex high-pressure compressor in a 3MW test rig in Munich very successfully prior to the first engine on test. As we are also responsible for the inclement weather certification, we have prepared engine tests that will be conducted during the coming winter to validate the robustness of the GE Catalyst against icing and cold temperatures. GE Aviation Munich has so far invested more than US$10 million in support of the GE Catalyst engine.

ACCV test of GE Catalyst (Video: GE Aviation)

ES & T:To what extent do technologies developed by GE Deutschland contribute to the GE Catalyst engine’s position in the market?

Wilfert:The high-pressure compressor is the most complex part of the engine and defines its quality and efficiency, so it is a key part: efficient aero design and detailed validation contribute strongly to the ongoing engine certification. The extensive knowledge of severe engine conditions that is available in Munich will help us pass the icing tests for certification in the upcoming year. German expertise in combustion aero design supported the low emissions of the brand-new combustor.

UAVs können in größerer Höhe eingesetzt werden als Turboprops, und der Hochdruckkompressor ist das Kernstück, das auch in dieser Umgebung einen reibungslosen Betrieb gewährleisten muss. (Foto: Avio Aero)

ES & T:Of these technologies, which are relevant for the military?

Wilfert: UAVs can be operated at higher altitude than turboprops, and the high-pressure compressor is the key part that has to be able to guarantee smooth operation also in this environment. With our design concept, which is based on 4 axial stages and 1 radial stage, we are able to support high altitude flight. For Trainers and Light Transport reliability is key, and with our expertise and contribution to certification we can deliver a perfect solution for these applications.

ES & T:Why is it important that the GE Catalyst engine is entirely developed in Europe?

Wilfert:GE Aviation has created the Federated Europe Team in Germany, Italy, the Czech Republic and Poland. GE Catalyst development has linked these teams closer together and we are able to deliver technology and design and manufacturing expertise as well as services and support. Another advantage of GE Catalyst is that using all-EU technology is key to developing and delivering an engine that is not subject to US export controls (ITAR / EAR). Additionally, GE Catalyst has reduced 755 parts into 12 additive parts. These additive parts are a game-changer because not only is the number of parts important (lower manufacturing and maintenance costs) but also new design solutions could be introduced, reducing the weight and length of the engine. GE Additive, together with ConceptLaser in Lichtenfels, north Bavaria, are producing the machines to develop these additive parts.

ES & T:How long does it take, and how many people are involved, in the design and development of a major new engine like this? And are there specific areas where Avio Aero demonstrates its leadership?

Paolo Salvetti's Military is Sales Director and Head of Product Growth of Avio Aero (Photo: Avio Aero)

Salvetti:The development of a new engine like GE Catalyst took 5 years and involved around 300 experts. Avio Aero demonstrates its leadership in several areas of GE Catalyst engine. First, Additive Manufacturing, a pioneering manufacturing process that made it possible to create new, lighter, better-performing metal alloys. But also, looking at the components that make GE Catalyst unique in the market, it’s important to mention the highest OPR in this market segment, the compressor with 2 variable stator vanes, cooled GGT blades, and the dual-redundant FADEC (full authority integrated engine and propeller control system) that makes it easier to integrate the engine with the aircraft and allows Real-Time Health Monitoring, together with optimisation and personalisation of maintenance activities.

Interview by Stephen Barnard.