The PT6 engine from Pratt & Whitney was innovative, and has been a mainstay in small aircraft production for 50 years. The engine could not have happened without the dedicated and talented team of 12 engineers, now known as the “PT6 Pioneers,” who created and developed the engine into the powerhouse that it is today. One of those pioneers, Gordon Hardy, recently spoke to PT6 Nation about the historic creation of Pratt & Whitney’s first turbine engine.
A tour of Mr. Hardy’s home reveals displayed sketches of the PT6 when it was simply an idea on paper, and the faded ink demonstrates a time when technology used to design engines did not exist. Today, engine parts are designed digitally from the casting process through to the final inspection. The sketches Mr. Hardy has on display show how far the PT6 has come over the years. Mr. Hardy credits his wife with being a huge support for him through the process as the early days required him to work long hours, keeping him away from the family for extended periods. Mr. Hardy and his wife, Margaret, came to Quebec, Canada from England in 1957 to work as a designer at United Technologies. He joined the P6 Pioneers in 1963.
Mr. Hardy says that in the early development of the PT6, the engineers discovered here was a gap in the power range between 400 and 2,000 where there were not too many turbine engines available. The engineers looked at the Beaver aircraft and determined that type aircraft that could benefit from a good turbine engine. He says that it turned out to be the perfect type of engine for that aircraft.
The center mounts on the engine enable fast removal of the power section, which enables inspections to be performed more easily. The unique design of the engine allows maintenance to be performed both on and off the aircraft, making maintenance and repairs much easier. When the PT6 was developed, there was a fixed shaft engine available, but it had features that were not as appealing, according to Mr. Hardy. Handling with fixed shaft engines was compromised as was the speed range, and the PT6 Pioneers realized that with a free shaft turbine, sections of the engine could be separated to provide better handling and speed. This provided excellent flexibility over other engines. The reverse-flow of the engine also allowed for a much quieter engine and was less susceptible to damage from birds or other debris.
Gordon Hardy, one of the PT6 Pioneers, made history when he assisted in the development of the historic Pratt & Whitney PT6 engine. In the final part of this four part series, Covington Aircraft talks about the innovation in an engine that was ahead of its time. For more information about the PT6 or about aircraft maintenance services, visit Covington Aircraft online or contact us by telephone today.