Pratt & Whitney turboprop  aircraft engine

Canada to back turboprop hybrid engine technology

Image credit: Sergey Kohl/Dreamstime

Canada is expected to announce government support for aerospace company Pratt & Whitney to bring a hybrid engine to first flight, as the country eyes a broader role in developing new technologies to lower emissions.

The unspecified “co-investment” toward a demonstration flight of the hybrid engine for regional turboprops is part of a wider announcement for aerospace expected today (15 July), sources told Reuters. It would also be Canada’s latest support for the local branch of the US engine maker, a division of Raytheon Technologies Corp.

Canada is part of a select group of aircraft-producing nations, but its most well-known planemaker, Bombardier, exited commercial aviation in 2020.

Pratt & Whitney, which dominates the turboprop market, has been working towards a flight demonstration of an integrated hybrid engine under an effort called Project 804. Testing is to be performed on a De Havilland Canada Dash-8 100 turboprop.

Previously, Pratt said the hybrid-electric propulsion system could yield average fuel savings of 30 per cent for regional prop planes.

Separately, Pratt’s senior fellow for advanced technology, Michael Winter said in an interview with Reuters in June, that the pandemic led the company to review its plans for a demonstration of the hybrid prop engine. It was supposed to make its initial flight by 2022, according to news reports.

Pratt expects a demonstration flight to occur “between now and the middle of the decade,” Winter said. “We used the opportunity – again the tactical pause, if you will – to think very hard and carefully about what the right partnership should look like in order for us to go do ultimately a flight demonstrator of a regional turboprop.”

According to Winter, Pratt is also working with space agency Nasa to help fund a flight demonstrator of a hybrid engine for narrow-body jets by around 2025.

Some technology developed from Pratt’s hybrid prop engine in Canada could also transfer to other products, such as engines for air taxis and lucrative single-aisle jets.

In April, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government outlined C$1.75bn (£1bn) for aerospace, while boosting its Net Zero Accelerator initiative, which helps large emitters reduce their carbon footprint, to C$8bn (£4.6bn).

The net-zero programme offers companies loans, but some portion of the loan may not have to be repaid if certain targets are met, a government spokesperson said.

Previous Canadian government loans for Pratt & Whitney Canada and other Canadian aerospace firms have drawn criticism from the World Trade Organization in a series of trade cases, though Ottawa says it has complied with all WTO rulings.

“Our government takes international obligations seriously and our innovation support measures comply with international trade rules,” said John Power, a spokesperson for Canadian Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne. Regarding previous loans, Power said, “Pratt & Whitney is fulfilling its contractual obligations to the government of Canada.”

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