Turbomeca powers Eurocopter’s X4
Eurocopter will be introducing the X4, a new 4- to 6-ton class helicopter, in 2017. The X4 will replace the Dauphin, one of best-selling helicopters rolling off this European manufacturer's production lines today. The X4 is also expected to bring several technological quantum leaps, and come with a choice of two engines. One of them, the TM800, is a next-generation engine that Turbomeca is developing today. "As Eurocopter is our main customer, it was essential for us to provide an engine that delivers the outstanding performance as well as the fuel savings that this new model is aiming for. Fuel accounts for 30% to 50% of a helicopter's operating costs every hour it's in the air (depending on the model)," explains Patrick Moncoutié, the TM800 Program Manager at Turbomeca. The TM800 will fill the gap in Turbomeca's engine range between Arriel 2 (which was not powerful enough for the X4), and the Ardiden (which is designed for large helicopters). "The X4 will be the first helicopter to use the TM800, but we are also aiming to move into the 4- to 6-ton twin-engine and 2.5- to 3-ton single-turbine helicopter market," adds the Program Manager.
The TM800 is packed with feedback from the Tech 800 technology demonstrator. "This demonstrator is enabling us to eliminate the performance risks vis-à-vis Eurocopter's requirements – even though we haven't started the final engine yet," Patrick Moncoutié continues. This substantial upstream research will also build new technology and new materials into the TM800. Every component in the TM800 air stream, including the static parts, will have 3D profiles that will make it possible to optimize their performance and thereby curb consumption. The fact that it will include a variable-pitch system is another of its groundbreaking features: "The TM800 will have pre-rotation blades to prime air rotation (before the air reaches the compressor), and the electronic regulation system will adjust pitch."
Turbomeca's Research Department has also optimized maintenance operations (fewer operations, less often), stretching time between overhauls to 5,000 hours – which is substantial considering that helicopters fly a few hundred hours a year on average.
This series of breakthroughs, combined with feedback from the full range of Turbomeca engines currently in operation, should enable the TM800 to meet X4 operator requirements, and fuel its future commercial success.