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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Heli-Expo Show Day: Rolls Readies Big News On RR300, Model 250

R&W Staff

LOOK FOR MAJOR NEWS FROM Rolls-Royce today on the RR300 as well as its stalwart Model 250 engine.

The engine maker (Booth 1917) has a press conference scheduled for 1 p.m. today, at which it also will release its annual helicopter engine market forecast and update attendees on improvements to the Model 250 and its production and test facilities in Indianapolis.

Launched as a development program in January 2006, the RR300 was thrust into the spotlight at last year’s Heli-Expo when Frank Robinson said it would power his first turbine helicopter, the five-seat R66.

Work on the RR300 has progressed well, the acting president of Rolls’ helicopter business, Ken Roberts, said.

"We’ve met or exceeded all of the key technical attributes of the product," Roberts told Rotor & Wing. "We’re very, very satisfied with the product itself."

The RR300 has been designed and optimized around the 300-shp power point suited for the R66 and similar helicopters. (The smallest version of the Model 250 produces 420 shp.)

The RR300 uses "an all-new, very modern compression system." While the Model 250 uses an axial-centrifugal compressor configuration, the RR300 has a single-stage centrifugal impeller. "So it’s a simpler, more robust design," Roberts said.

The newer engine also has a shorter profile compared to the 250.

The new compressor supports Rolls’ efforts to offer operators significant improvements in power-to-weight ratio and specific fuel consumption compared to the 250.

Those improvements stem largely from better component efficiencies achieved through the combination of "a very efficient, brand-new compression system coupled with a matched turbine," Roberts said. "We’ve optimized the cycle throughout."

The RR300 incorporates an engine monitoring system, which gives operators and Rolls the ability to capture engine operating data.

"That is just very valuable in maturing the product in the fleet," Roberts said of a key benefit for Rolls.

"The biggest benefit to the operator is that it provides basically a record of the engine operation. That is important in allowing an optimized maintenance and support plan for the engine."

Rolls at press time had delivered a couple of pre-production engines to Robinson. In addition to the R66, Schweizer Aircraft has selected the RR300 to power its new 434 turbine helicopter, launched late last year with an order from the government of Saudi Arabia.

Rolls is just spooling up a re-engineered production facility in Indianapolis. "It is a state-of-the-art approach using the best lean manufacturing techniques" capable of producing hundreds of RR300s and 250s, Roberts said.

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