GE Aviation’s Advanced Turboprop (AT) engine successfully completed its first test run on December 22, 2017. The AT is the first commercial aircraft engine with 3D-printed components.

Printed components make 35% of the Advanced Turboprop engine parts. According to the manufacturer, the 3D printing technology, together with ‘dozens’ of other new technologies, allowed the reduction of 855 conventionally manufactured parts to only 12 additive parts. These parts include sumps, bearing housings, frames, exhaust case, combustor liner, heat exchangers and stationary flow path components. Additive components reduce the AT's weight by 5% and improves specific fuel consumption (SFC) by 1%.

“Running the Advanced Turboprop engine this year was our biggest and most important goal,” Brad Mottier, vice president and general manager of GE Aviation's BGA and Integrated Systems organization is quoted saying in an official GE Aviation press release. “This milestone comes as a result of two years of tremendous effort by a worldwide team. We’re developing a real catalyst for the BGA market and we’re executing on plan. The integration of proven technologies has expedited the design, development and certification cycle of the engine.”

The 1,240 SHP-rated Advanced Turboprop engine is in the family of turboprop engines aimed at BGA aircraft in the 1,000-1,600 SHP range. The AT will begin certification testing in 2018. The engine will power Textron Aviation’s Cessna Denali, which is expected to fly in late 2018.

“The continued testing will generate valuable data from the engine and validate the aerodynamics, mechanics, and aerothermal systems,” said Paul Corkery, general manager for GE Aviation Turboprops. “With the engine run and most of the individual component testing completed, early indications show that we will meet or exceed all the performance numbers we have quoted for the engine.”

The AT features 16:1 overall pressure ratio, enabling up to 20% lower fuel burn and 10% higher cruise power “compared to competitor offerings in the same size class”, GE notes. At 4,000 hours, it should offer 33% more time between overhaul. It is also the first turboprop engine in its class to introduce cooled high-pressure turbine blades and two stages of variable stator vanes. When installed on the Denali, the engine is expected to allow for a larger cabin experience with a 6000-foot cabin altitude at a 30,000-foot cruising altitude.

Since Mottier unveiled the Advanced Turboprop engine at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) Convention in November of 2015, GE Aviation has committed more than $400 million in development costs for the engine. GE also finalized an agreement with the Czech government to build its new turboprop headquarters for development, test and engine-production in the Czech Republic. When complete and at full production rate, this new facility is expected to have 500 additional employees. GE Aviation Czech has already added around 180 jobs, with another 80 expected in 2018.