For the past 40 summers, pilots have gathered in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, to attend the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, arguably the world’s greatest flying festival. In late July, 10,000 planes — ranging from huge civilian and military jets to experimental “home builds” pilots assembled in their garages — again descended upon the prairie, where more than 500,000 flying enthusiasts could attend workshops and performances and watch flyovers. “This is essentially the Burning Man for private pilots,” Gordie Follin, executive manager of ATP engineering for GE Aviation, told “In the Wild” host Alie Ward during the event. (You can see the Oshkosh episode below.)
This year, attendees were in for a special treat: a model of GE’s Advanced Turboprop (ATP) engine. The ATP includes design features and the latest technologies from GE’s larger jet engines. As a result, turboprop planes using the engine, like Textron Aviation’s new Cessna Denali, will give pilots a “jet-like” experience during flight. “We are the first in this class of engine,” says GE Aviation’s Paul Corkery, one of the leaders of the project. “No other engine can do this.”
Through 3D printing, for example, the ATP condenses 855 parts into just 12 — making the engine half the weight of a typical turboprop engine. And the digital engine control, which reduces the number of levers from three to one, allows the pilot to spend more time enjoying the flight and less time monitoring gauges. The simpler design reduced weight, improved fuel burn by as much as 20 percent and gave the engine 10 percent more power. “It’s a combination of technologies we’ve never used on small engines before,” Follin says.
The company will start testing the ATP this fall to prepare it for its maiden flight in 2018.