Pratt & Whitney Canada’s evergreen PT6 turbine turns 50 this year. To mark the event Aviation Week & Space Technology focuses on the little engine that spawned entire generations of general aviation, business, military, transport and utility aircraft as well as helicopters.
In the special we examine where the PT6 is now and take a look at where it might be going as P&WC looks to a new generation. We also look at the original ‘Dirty Dozen’ project engineering team which developed the simple concept, and whose innovative design ideas allowed the PT6 to become an engine for all seasons.
Recognizing the engine's historical significance, P&WC bought back production engine No.1 in 1985. The engine was delivered to Beech in December 1963 to power the prototype King Air 90. (Guy Norris/AW&ST)
The special includes AW&ST's coverage of the test results of initial PT6A test flights on a Beech 18 in 1961. (P&WC)
Members of the original 'Dirty Dozen' design team in the early 1960s. (P&WC)
Some later, more powerful, PT6A models were flight tested on one of P&WC's now-retired Boeing 720 flying testbeds. (P&WC)
Production of PT6A, PT6T, PT6B and PT6Cs is running at around 1,000 engines per year. (P&WC)
To celebrate the milestone year, P&WC is using its dedicated website called PT6 Nation. Part of the effort includes the production of several interesting videos which include interviews with some of the surviving design team (see the videos below).
AW&ST’s web special coverage includes slideshows of some fixed and rotary wing applications, a PT6 flying testbed and several unusual alternate applications of the ST6, the ground-based industrial version of the gas turbine. We also include a glance back in time through the AW&ST archives to see how we reported on the progress of flight tests of the engine in 1961. The engine was certificated in 1963 and initial production deliveries started in December that year. Since then an astonishing tally of almost 51,000 engines have been delivered and PT6 versions continue to be produced at around 1,000 per year.