Which turbine engine might be the most impressive? There are many that could be in the running. Our thought is that the PW Canada (PWC) PT-6 gets the nod. Here’s why. First designed and built in the 1950’s, it is still being made! That’s some production run.
The engine has an amazing history. Over 100 applications to date – it’s hard not to find this engine used in virtually any turboprop in some way or another. PWC started on the project because they wanted to create a replacement for the PW Wasp radial, that in its day, was the benchmark.
In typical PW fashion, engineers tinkered with the engine incessantly. You can get the engine in power ratings from 500 HP to nearly 2,000HP. It has a modular design that allows for sections to be swapped out and upgrade the power. This engine demonstrates Canada can produce aero-engines with the best in the business.
There are 65 versions of the PT-6. To give you an idea how long this engine has been around – its peer group includes Allison T56 (C-130); Bristol Orion (Bristol Britannia); Ivchenko AI-20 (An-12); Kuznetsov NK-12 (Tupolev Bear); Lycoming T53 (AH1 Cobra); Pratt & Whitney T34 (C-133); Rolls-Royce Tyne (C-160); Turbomeca Astazou (Aérospatiale Gazelle); and Turbomeca Bastan (Aérospatiale N 262). Names (and some engines) that have gone into the history books. Yet you can still buy a spanking new PT-6 on a host of airplanes.
More than 36,000 PT-6 engines have been produced since it entered service in the 1960s, accumulating 300 million flying hours. The novel PT-6 configuration has proven the key attribute to its success: its rearward, reverse flow inlet and forward facing turbine section provides quick maintenance turn-around through on-wing hot section refurbishment in most aircraft installations.
What could be the most interesting application of the engine? Perhaps a 1930’s era DC-3 with PT-6 power. That is a testament to this legendary engine that it is able to keep the oldest of birds capable and useful. Here’s a Basler BT-67 conversion still working, over 50 years since it was first built as a DC-3.
We interviewed Basler (basler_15_Jan_2009) in 2009 about their DC-3 conversions and they believe their BT-67 platform is an excellent airplane, far more capable than the original DC-3. Powered by the venerable PT-6 of course.