By Alwyn Scott
LAS VEGAS (REUTERS) - - GE Aviation (GE.N) said on Monday it had teamed up with Textron (TXT.N) to produce an all-new turboprop aircraft and engine for the general aviation market, part of an effort GE expects will generate more than $1 billion in annual sales of engines by 2020.
GE Aviation said its so-called advanced turboprop engine takes aim at a widely used engine by United Technologies (UTX.N) unit Pratt & Whitney known as the PT6, which has dominated the market for 50 years, producing 51,000 units. GE said it plans to invest up to $1 billion in the project, including $400 million for a new factory in Europe.
The venture aims to produce an all-new single-engine aircraft seating up to 12 passengers, the companies said. The target range and speed are in excess of 1,500 nautical miles and 280 knots, according to Textron.
GE said it will choose an engine plant location in 2016 and the first plane would be built in 2017 or 2018.
GE said Textron's decision to develop an all-new aircraft using the engine allowed GE to justify the engine investment. Textron, maker of Cessna, Beechcraft and Hawker airplanes and Bell helicopters, is the largest user of small turboprop engines.
The new engine will use technology proven on GE’s larger jetliner and military engines and adapt it to an engine suitable for single and twin-engine general aviation aircraft and helicopters, said Brad Mottier, head of GE business and general aviation.
“Our plan is to create a family of engines like Pratt successfully did, and we’re talking to other airframers now,” aiming to create a new class of aircraft, he said. "This is a big move for GE Aviation. We want to be a major player in this market."
Mottier said the engine would have up to 1,650 horsepower, burn 20 percent less fuel than the competing PT6, and generate 10 percent more thrust at cruising altitude, in part because of integrated computer control of both the propeller and engine.
GE began talking with airframe makers about four years ago. GE already is producing a smaller PT6 competitor known as the H80, with up to 850 horsepower.
The propeller maker has not been chosen yet, Textron said, but GE's Dowty Propellers unit is a strong contender, Mottier said.
(Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Andrew Hay)