A400M gets closer to takeoff

  • 04-Feb-2009 07:11 EST
A400m Engine first test flight IMG_5115 sm-1.jpg

The new TP400 engine, the most powerful turboprop in production, made its first flight in December 2008 at Cambridge Airfield, U.K., fitted to a C-130 Hercules operated by Marshall Aerospace.

EuroProp International, the European engine consortium comprising Rolls-Royce, Snecma, MTU, and ITP, has flown the new TP400 powerplant, the most powerful turboprop in the Western world, for the first time aboard a special test aircraft.

The TP400 was installed on the inner left engine mount of a C-130K, which was otherwise powered by three ­Alliso­n T56 turboprops. The aircraft took off from Cambridge Airfield in the U.K. where Marshall Aerospace, which is conducting the flight testbed trials, is based.

Various flight characteristics, such as basic aircraft handling and TP400 response at a thrust equivalent to the maximum power generated by each of the other T56 engines, were tested up to a speed of 165 knot and an altitude of 8000 ft. The flight lasted 75 minutes and will allow progress toward the completion of the approximately 50 flight-test hours planned to reach sufficient maturity for the engine itself.

Once this is achieved, and sufficient maturity and satisfactory integration are also reached for the global propulsion system, it will be able to subsequently fly on the all-new Airbus A400M military transport.

More than 2100 h of ground testing have been performed with three engines on the ground test bench. To complete the trials, Marshall Aerospace was contracted by Airbus to perform the flying testbed trials on a Lockheed C-130K that had been specifically modified to accept the new engine, which develops about twice the power of the C-130K’s standard T56 engine.

The TP400 is a three-shaft free turbine turboprop that drives an eight-bladed, 5-m-diameter propeller. Developing 11,000 shp at takeoff, it allows for a wide range of speeds and flight levels, while reducing fuel burn and weight.

Powered by four TP400s, the A400M can cruise at altitudes as high as 37,000 ft at speeds between Mach 0.68 and 0.72 while retaining the capability of flying at speeds as low as 110 knot at 5000 ft. The arrangement of the propellers, which turn in opposite directions inboard and outboard on each wing, allows for a structural weight reduction and improves, among other things, the lift at low speed.

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