Q&A with Turbomeca CEO – Hybrid engines for helicopters

Q&A with Turbomeca CEO – Hybrid engines for helicopters 13 Jan, 12, Source: Safran Group

With the advent of hybrid solutions, propelling helicopter is on the threshold of a new technological breakthrough. What are the challenges for Turbomeca? Elements of response with Olivier Andries, President and CEO of Turbomeca (Safran).

Context in which Turbomeca is conducting studies on the concepts of hybrid?

Turbomeca a major player in the engine helicopters, very long time. To maintain our lead, we must prepare for the future. This means that we must propose solutions ever more efficient and innovative as the hybrid.

Why hybrid technology does come now to the front of the stage?

The power-to-weight turbine “conventional” was doubled in fifty years, while reducing by 40% in fuel consumption. But it is estimated that improvements to a conventional engine architecture that would be in the order of 15% reduction in consumption by 2020. Hybridization may allow us to go beyond, with a gain of 25% in specific fuel consumption. This hybrid should also have a positive impact on the environment and the safety of the device.

What is the hybridization of a turbine?

This is to combine several sources of energy, adapted to the different phases of flight of the helicopter. The idea is to optimize the turbine “conventional” for a given power system, in this case the cruise. For critical phases such as takeoff, hover, or emergency situations, the extra energy needed to operate the device is then provided by other sources, such as the APU (auxiliary power unit) or electric generators. It would therefore need to scale the turbines to the specific engine speeds, thereby improving fuel consumption. Hybridization also invites us to consider the propulsion system of the helicopter as a whole: it is a new challenge as we prepare to meet.

What are the business prospects of these turbines hybrid?

We think provide the first demonstration of hybridization for the power range 2000 / HP 3000 to 2014-2015. And we anticipate the entry into service of a new class of helicopter 10 to 12 tons, requiring high-performance propulsion systems in this power range. Thus, we are now working on the technological building blocks that will help meet this demand. But it is clear that advances in hybrid will also be clocked by the gradual improvement in power density electric storage systems.

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