While no regional aircraft manufacturer has committed to a 90-seat turboprop, Pratt & Whitney Canada thinks several operators would launch service with one tomorrow if it existed. So, the engine manufacturer is going to develop a new powerplant for that market.

Speaking at a press briefing during the Regional Airline Association’s (RAA) Annual Convention in Nashville early on May 17, Richard Dussault, P&W VP of marketing, said that because it is becoming increasingly difficult for regionals to make money in short-haul markets as fuel costs increase, the company has embarked on defining characteristics for a new 5,000-7,000 shp engine. “We believe that’s the power for the next generation of aircraft,” says Dussault. The engine design has advanced cooling and a compact compressor, and a fully integrated propeller system, which it is developing with sister company Hamilton Sundstrand.

The time line for this next generation of turboprop engine, he says, is three to four years. “If we launched next year for a customer, these are three- to four-year programs, so around 2016 to 2017 [it would] enter into service because it will be a brand new core, so a brand new development.” Dussault says regional jets have gone from 50 to 70 to 90 seats, bringing greater value. “It is a natural evolution of the 70-seat [turboprop aircraft] into a 90-seat aircraft so I think if it were available tomorrow, the airlines would go for it.”