Why Engine Condition Trend Monitoring is a Must for PT6As

This article originally appeared on the P&WC Airtime Blog.

Whether it involves recording and inputting data manually or using the latest automated Digital Engine Services, Engine Condition Trend Monitoring delivers net gains for all PT6A customers.

A WORTHWHILE PAYOFF

Rob Winchcomb, PT6A Customer Manager, is the first to admit that doing Engine Condition Trend Monitoring (ECTM) by hand is a hassle.

It requires writing down key engine and aircraft data at a set time during each flight once the plane is at a stable cruising speed, inputting the recorded figures into a computer after landing and sending them to the analysis company for comparison with the results of previous flights.

For busy operators who already have plenty on their plate during a flight, the extra work might seem like an unnecessary nuisance. That’s why Rob’s customers always ask him the same question: “What’s in it for me?”

He’s been telling them the same thing for 25 years: “ECTM reduces the cost of ownership, increases the engine’s availability and gives you more peace of mind.”

The Royal Flying Doctor Service’s PT6A Powered Beechcraft Kingair 350.

Rob walks the talk. Thirty years ago, before joining P&WC, he was on the other side of the fence as a customer, began his aviation career with the Royal Flying Doctor Service and working for other regional airlines in Australia. Back then, he was already a strong proponent for recording and using engine condition data, despite having to do it all the hard way—computing the trend values by hand on a Texas Instruments calculator and plotting his own handmade ECTM graphs.

A LITTLE EFFORT, A LOT GAINED

“PT6A engines are very reliable from one inspection to the next, but in my mind the question is, why not take the next step? With ECTM, you can optimize performance and maintenance planning,” says Rob. “It doesn’t cost you much considering the gains it will bring.”

By analyzing parameters such as power, speed and fuel flow on a flight-to-flight basis, ECTM can identify subtle changes in an engine’s performance. Based on the analysis results, P&WC’s engine health monitoring partner CAMP Systems will let the operator and maintenance team know if any actions are required.

Is a sudden 10-degree increase in temperature simply the result of replacing a fuel nozzle set? Is an increased power load due to excess air leaking from the cabin rather than an issue with the engine itself? Do you need to take a look at the compressor? ECTM will tell you.

This kind of detailed insight into engine performance means that issues can be detected and resolved before they turn into costly repairs and affect operation. It also makes it easier for PT6A customers to move to on-condition hot section inspections.

It all adds up to better maintenance planning, lower expenses and increased engine availability.

There’s also a financial benefit when selling a used aircraft. If you’ve been consistently performing ECTM, you’ll have a record to show potential buyers that the engine is well maintained. That will give them more confidence, which in turn enhances your aircraft’s resale value.

AUTOMATED ECTM AND MORE WITH THE FAST™ SOLUTION

Today, many operators can enjoy all the advantages of ECTM with none of the downsides, thanks to P&WC’s FAST™ Solution for proactive engine health management system.

Now available on a growing number of PT6A platforms, the FAST solution captures, analyzes and wirelessly transmits a wide range of engine and aircraft data after each flight, providing detailed, customized alerts and trend monitoring information directly to the operator within minutes of engine shutdown.

“I wish I’d had this technology 30 years ago,” remarks Rob. “It’s light years ahead of what we were doing back then—and it keeps evolving.”

Besides making operators’ lives simpler through automation, the FAST solution also has the capacity for enhanced functionality going forward. For instance, the company is looking at introducing FAST’s propeller vibration trend monitoring technology – available for regional turboprop aircraft – as a solution for PT6A-powered aircraft in the future. That’s another reason why Rob believes it is now the most attractive solution for customers.

Ultimately, though, what’s most important is to be doing ECTM, no matter whether it’s with pen and paper or state-of-the-art digital solutions. “When I talk to customers about FAST,” Rob concludes, “what I’m selling them is not the hardware itself, but the full value of automated ECTM to their operations and asset value.”

Rob has also helped PT6A customers master the art of engine rigging by appearing in a detailed instructional video. Read all about it here.

Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PT6A-67F Engines to Power the G-111T Amphibious Aircraft as Part of Aircraft Modernization Program

LONGUEUIL, Quebec, December 7, 2021 – Pratt & Whitney Canada, a business unit of Pratt & Whitney, today announced that Amphibian Aerospace Industries Pty Ltd. has selected the PT6A-67F turboprop engine to power its iconic twin-engine G-111T amphibious aircraft as part of a supplemental type certificate (STC) upgrade.

Continue reading Pratt & Whitney Canada’s PT6A-67F Engines to Power the G-111T Amphibious Aircraft as Part of Aircraft Modernization Program

We Fly: PT6A Powered Beechcraft King Air 250

Settled into the left seat at our final cruise altitude of 26,000 feet, we were showing a true airspeed of 304 knots and burning about 700 pounds of jet-A per hour. As the lush rolling landscape of central Pennsylvania slid by far below, a nagging question had entered my mind. What is it about the Beechcraft King Air family of twin turboprops, I asked myself, that keeps these airplanes rolling out of the factory in Wichita, Kansas, more than 53 years after the first one emerged? I always thought I knew the answer to that question, but there in the confines of the King Air 250’s cockpit a quiet crisis of confidence was beginning to bubble up in my mind. Who, precisely, should be buying this airplane anyway? I wondered.

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A Quick Look at the Twin PT6A Powered Cheyenne II & IIXL

In the mid-1960s, Piper, noting the success of Beech’s King Air, decided to explore the possibility of producing its own twin turboprop. The manufacturer hired legendary aircraft designer Ed Swearingen to retrofit a Piper PA–31P pressurized Navajo with 550-shaft-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-20 turboprops. After a successful first flight in April 1967 and further tests indicated that the Pratt powerplant and Piper airframe were a good match, the PA–31T Cheyenne was launched.

The Cheyenne was a simple and reliable entry-level turboprop that was more affordable and faster than the King Air 90. However, the Cheyenne’s smaller cabin could only accommodate two pilots and four passengers—plus a fifth passenger if the belted potty seat were used. Baggage space was limited, but the airplane could operate from relatively short runways and be flown by a single pilot.

Piper Cheyenne II from BJTOnline.com

The initial production model of the Cheyenne was powered by two 620-shaft-horsepower Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-28 turboprops and included 30-gallon wingtip fuel tanks. Dual King Gold Crown avionics were standard. The Cheyenne first flew in October 1969 and was certificated in May 1972. Cheyenne deliveries began in 1974.

When Piper introduced the lower-powered and less expensive Cheyenne I in 1978, the manufacturer renamed its original twin turboprop the Cheyenne II. Essentially the only difference between the original Cheyenne and the Cheyenne II were some cabin configuration changes. The stretched PA–31T2 Cheyenne IIXL, which had a two-foot-longer fuselage than the original Cheyenne, entered production in 1981. The IIXL has an extra cabin window on the left side, a nearly 500-pound higher max takeoff weight, and is powered by more powerful 750-shaft-horsepower PT6A-135s. Besides offering more interior room, the IIXL’s longer fuselage eliminated the need for the stability augmentation system.

A Piper Cheyenne XLII from Jetphotos.com

Over the years, many enhancements for the Cheyenne II have been developed, with the most notable being Blackhawk Modifications, Inc.’s XP engine upgrade, which involves replacing the Cheyenne’s original engines with new 750-shaft-horsepower PT6A-135A turboprop engines. The simple bolt-on upgrade enables operators to cruise approximately 20 knots faster.

The PT6A-135A engine was also the cornerstone of the Super Cheyenne conversion, which was offered by T-G Aviation of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Some Cheyenne operators have also boosted the speed of their airplanes by fitting them with cowl/ram air and exhaust stack aftermarket kits.

In addition, numerous panel upgrades have been developed for the Cheyenne II, including installation of lighter, more capable new-generation avionics from Aspen, Cobham (Chelton and S-TEC), and Garmin.

Piper built a total of 526 original Cheyennes and Cheyenne IIs, and 228 remain on the FAA registry, according to Vref. Prices range from $310,000 for a 1974 model to $520,000 for a 1983 model. Of the 81 Cheyenne IIXLs produced, 46 remain on the FAA registry. Prices range from $620,000 for a 1981 model to $680,000 for a 1984 model.

SPEC SHEET

Cheyenne II

Engines | Two Pratt & Whitney PT6A-28s, rated at 620 shp 
Seats | Seats: Up to 8 (including two pilots)
Max takeoff weight | 9,000 lb
Max cruise speed | 277 kt
Takeoff distance (over 50 ft obstacle) | 1,980 ft
Range | 1,195 nm
Wingspan | 42 ft, 8 in
Length | 34 ft, 8 in
Height | 12 ft, 9 in

Cheyenne IIXL

Engines | Two Pratt & Whitney PT6A-135s, rated at 750 shp
Seats | Seats: Up to 8 (including two pilots)
Max takeoff weight | 9,474 lb
Max cruise speed | 273 kt
Takeoff distance | 2,042 ft
Range | 1,060 nm
Wingspan | 42 ft, 8 in
Length | 36 ft, 8 in
Height | 12 ft, 9 in

Information via AOPA

A Look at Pilatus Aircraft & A List of Aircraft the Company has Produced

The Company was established in the early 1940s, the first design project was a single-seat trainer, designated P-1 but it was abandoned before being built. The next project was the SB-2 Pelican which was designed by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology but it never was built in series. 
With production of the P-3 for the Swiss Air Force in progress, the company achieved its first export order for six P-3s for the Brazilian Navy.

The SB-2 Pelican
Pilatus P-3 used by the Swiss Force as a trainer for their pilots

In 1958 design work started on a STOL light civil transport aircraft, this emerged as the PC-6 Porter which first flew on 4 May 1959. In 1965 a twin-engined variant of the PC-6 was built as the PC-8 Twin Porter, although it first flew on 15 November 1967 it remained an experimental and one-off type and development was stopped in 1972. 

Another project for the PC-10 16-passenger twin-engined transport was started but was not built.

Pilatus PC-6

The Pilatus PC-6 Porter is a single-engined STOL utility aircraft designed by Pilatus Aircraft of Switzerland. First flown in 1959, the PC-6 continues in production at Pilatus Flugzeugwerke in Stans, Switzerland. It has been built in both piston engine- and turboprop-powered versions and was produced under licence for a time by Fairchild Hiller in the United States. After around 600 deliveries in six decades, Pilatus will produce the last one in early 2019.

In 1966 a turboprop-powered variant of the P-3 was flown, designated the PC-7. 

The aircraft crashed and development was put on hold until the 1970s. In 1975 a further prototype was flown and after further development ,it was marketed as the PC-7 Turbo Trainer.

In 1982 development of an improved variant of the PC-7 was started, it emerged as the Pilatus PC-9 in 1984. Development of what was to become the companies best selling type the Pilatus PC-12 was started in 1987, a single-engined turboprop transport that could carry up to twelve passengers or freight. The prototype PC-12 was flown on 31 May 1991.

To further the family of military training aircraft the turboprop PC-21 was developed and first flown in 2002.

In December 2000, the owners Unaxis (previously called Oerlikon-Bührle) sold Pilatus to a consortium of Swiss investors. In July 2010 the company delivered its 1000 PC-12.

Even in the last years of crisis, Pilatus still confirmed the leadership on this nice market with the help of loyalty versus this Swiss company that delivered excellent products all over the world with many orders of their products like PC-7 MkII, PC-12 NG and PC-21. 

Pilatus announced last years the development of their first Jet-engine aircraft that should be fly for the first time in 2013 or beginning of 2013, at the moment the official name should be PC-24.

First PC-21 prototype

here below a list of all the aircraft produced by Pilatus Aircraft:

  • Pilatus SB-2 Pelican
  • Pilatus P-1 – 1941 project for a single-seat trainer, not built.
  • Pilatus P-2 – 1942
  • Pilatus P-3 – 1953
  • Pilatus P-4 – 1948
  • Pilatus P-5 – proposed artillery observation aircraft, not built.
  • Pilatus PC-6 Porter – 1959
  • Pilatus PC-7 – 1966
  • Pilatus PC-8D Twin Porter – 1967 twin-engined variant of the PC-6, prototype only
  • Pilatus PC-9 – 1984
  • Pilatus PC-10 – 1970 twin-engined transport project, not built.
  • Pilatus PC-11/Pilatus B-4 – 1972
  • Pilatus PC-12 – 1991
  • Pilatus PC-21 – 2001
  • Pilatus PC-24 – Proposed twin-engined jet

For those interested here below a review of a PC-12 NG.

Thrush Aircraft Debuts the All-New 510p2 And 510p2+

Henry Ford once said, “In hard times, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” This fitting aviation quote could not be more applicable to the newly relaunched Thrush Aircraft – and taking off against the wind is exactly what the company has done with the launch of two new aircraft in their 500-gallon product line, the 510P2 and the 510P2+.

Continue reading Thrush Aircraft Debuts the All-New 510p2 And 510p2+