Catalyst is GE’s first modern Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) controlled turboprop, aimed to service the 850- to 1600-SHP range. (Photo: GE Aviation)

GE Aviation at the end of September completed the first flight with its Catalyst engine, which the company describes as the first new, clean-sheet turboprop engine to enter the business and general aviation market in more than 50 years. The engine, entirely designed and manufactured in Europe, completed its first flight on Thursday, September 30, on a Beechcraft King Air test bed.

The one hour, 40-minute flight took off from and landed at the Berlin Airport in Germany. The Catalyst engine’s program was officially launched in 2015. The first run of the Catalyst engine on the Flying Test Bed began in December 2020. In parallel, GE Aviation Turboprop also delivered its first flightworthy engine to its launch customer, Textron Aviation, for the single-engine turboprop Beechcraft Denali. To date, 16 test engines have accumulated more than 2,600 hours of operation in ground tests and completed four certification tests.

“We are very pleased by this successful first flight and proud of our team of outstanding professionals and specialists from all over Europe,” said Riccardo Procacci, CEO and general manager of Avio Aero and GE Aviation Turboprop Engines. “The Catalyst first flight opens a world of opportunities in the business and general aviation market with our launch customer at Textron Aviation, but also in the defense space for applications like drones and trainers. It can be, in addition, a super-efficient core that can pave our way towards hybridization of flight.”

Catalyst is GE’s first modern Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) controlled turboprop, aimed to service the 850- to 1600-SHP range. The FADEC is able to deliver a jet-like, single-lever power and propeller control and reduces pilot workload, explains the company, while providing a greater level of control and responsiveness.

“The first flight was very successful. I must say, everything went flawlessly,” said Sigismond Monnet, Chief Test Pilot. “We actually flew longer than planned, and the engine performed as we expected. I look forward to proceeding with the flight test campaign and expanding the Catalyst’s flight envelope.”

The Catalyst engine is an original turboprop design to deliver a step change in performance and, according to GE Aviation, is the first turboprop in the aviation history made with 3D printed components. The engine features an industry-best 16:1 overall pressure ratio, explains GE Aviation, enabling the engine to achieve as much as 20 per cent lower fuel burn and 10 per cent higher cruise power compared to competitors in the same size class.

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