The WP-3D "Hurricane Hunter" aircraft of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have completed flight tests to qualify the fuel-saving T56 Series 3.5 engine enhancement package developed by Rolls-Royce.
The Series 3.5 engine enhancement specifications provide for 7.9 percent reduction in fuel use, and ground tests have demonstrated up to 13 percent improvement. The enhancement package also allows T56 engines to operate at significantly lower turbine temperatures, extending parts life and improving reliability by 22 percent.
NOAA contracted with Rolls-Royce for the flight test qualification; following successful qualification, the contract will include standard overhauls plus technology insertion in ten engines for its two WP-3D aircraft and spares. Lockheed Martin, manufacturer of the aircraft, conducted flight testing of the new enhancement packages for NOAA to complete engine qualification.
The first NOAA WP-3D aircraft fully equipped with the Series 3.5 enhancements is expected to re-enter service beginning in early 2015.
Tom Bell, Rolls-Royce, President Defense, said, "We are thrilled to see flight tests complete for our launch customer of the T56 Series 3.5 engine enhancement. NOAA is dedicated to its crucial mission of keeping the public safe and enriching lives through science, and we are proud to have developed innovative technology that will enhance their operations and lower maintenance costs."
NOAA Corps Cmdr. Devin Brakob, veteran NOAA Hurricane Hunter and aircraft specialist with the NOAA Office of Marine and Aviation Operation's Platform Acquisition Division, said, "The NOAA team is excited about the possibilities the Series 3.5 engine enhancement package can bring to our WP-3D fleet and so far the project has been a true team effort between NOAA, Rolls-Royce, and Lockheed Martin."
The highly trained men and women from NOAA fly directly into storms in sensor-packed planes to gather data forecasters need to monitor hurricanes and predict their path. NOAA uses two types of aircraft to gather data on hurricanes—the four-engine Lockheed Martin WP-3D Orion turboprop, and a Gulfstream IV-SP jet, powered by two Rolls-Royce Tay engines.
The T56 Series 3.5 engine enhancement package has also completed all requirements for US Air Force qualification on the C-130 and recently received FAA certification for the commercial version of the T56 engine. The US Air Force has estimated that incorporating the engine enhancement into its C-130 fleet would save $2 Billion, while extending the life of the fleet for decades.
The T56 Series 3.5 engine enhancement can be installed as part of a conventional engine overhaul, and does not require any aircraft or engine control system modifications. In addition to the US Air Force and NOAA, international operators of C-130 and P-3 aircraft are also considering incorporating the T56 engine enhancement into their fleets.
*Based on an exchange rate of $1.60
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