Every experienced pilot will agree that flying a small turboprop plane can be a handful, literally. “There’s a bit more stress involved in operating a turboprop, which can make it tough to calmly enjoy the views on takeoff,” says pilot Brad Mottier. “If I were to fly a turboprop today, like the ubiquitous King Airs, I’d have to worry about a whole bunch of factors, like temperature, speed and torque, that I’d be managing with multiple operational levers. It’s a lot of work compared to jet-powered private jets, which use single throttle.”
But Mottier has a solution. A team of engineers working at GE Aviation’s Business and General Aviation and Integrated Systems, the unit Mottier runs, developed and recently tested in flight for the first time a control system that allows pilots to fly everything from crop dusters to turboprop-powered private planes with the ease of a private jet.
Mottier says the system, which GE calls electronic engine propeller control (EEPC), is the first in the world to combine engine and propeller operations into a single system. It stops pilots from worrying about multiple levers and gives them more time to sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. “From a pure cockpit operability standpoint, pilots will now be able to push for takeoff and not worry about temperatures, speeds or torque,” he says. “They just fly the plane, knowing they are getting maximum performance from the engine.”
The new EEPC system will enter commercial service this year on the Nextant G90XT, an updated and remanufactured version of the Beechcraft King Air 90 with GE’s H75 engines replacing the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A.
Apart from business travel, agriculture operators will be the second industry to transition to the new tech. GE’s second EEPC application will be Thrush Aircraft’s 510G cropduster, which will enter service in 2017 with GE’s H80 engine.
Go get your pilot license now. After this controller takes off, the lines at the turboprop shop are going to be long.