The Arrano: Safran Turbomeca TM800 Turboshaft Engine

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Turbomeca’s newest engine offering, the TM800 or “Arrano”, is the newest attempt by the French conglomerate to offer a competitive, cost-effective alternative to its aging supply of older models. The Arrano is reported to be more fuel-efficient, less expensive, and capable of providing more power to the aircraft than any other of Turbomeca’s medium engine offerings. Far from being a repackaged unit that suffers from the flaws of its predecessors, the Arrano is the culmination of new technological architecture and represents the effective aggregation of many different improvement projects on behalf of Turbomeca.

History of Safran Turbomeca

Safran Turbomeca is a French designer and producer of engines for helicopters. The company caters to both personal and recreational use, though the core of its business comes from providing standardized models of its low and medium-power engines for use in commercial helicopter designs. Formed on August 29th, 1938, by Joseph Szydlowski and Andre Planiol, Turbomeca initially began as a local company that provided goods to only a small local circle of consumers.

In the prelude to World War II, Szydlowski and Planiol rapidly changed their business model from one of individually produced models to an industrial operation in short order. In the changing industrial landscape, the massive rearmament of the French military in the years and month preceding the outbreak of war in 1939 meant that business for engine producers was at an all-time high, and Szydlowski knew that Turbomeca could capitalize heavily on the growth of the arms industry. However, the outbreak of war against Germany and the rapid defeat of the French military against German military might meant that the company would be heavily restricted in the period involving occupation of French lands.

In 1939, Turbomeca established its first production site in Mezieres, France. It was at this time that the first steps were taken to jumpstart the production of engine compressors for the Hispano-Suiza group, a business conglomerate that focused on producing automobile and aircraft engine parts. It was not until the early 1950s that Szydlowski would be able to begin producing the new Turbomeca Palas, a small engine designed for use in light aircraft. This new engine design enabled the company to begin working on turboprops for the Aerospatiale N 262, which gained prominence in the 1950s. In 1948, Turbomeca began testing its new flagship product, the TT782. The TT782 would be nicknamed “Oredon” and thus set the standard for nearly all Turbomeca engines—virtually all of the company’s engines would be named after locations in the Pyrenees.

In 2005, Turbomeca became part of the SAFRAN Group, a French aerospace and engineering conglomerate that has operations in aircraft, rocket technology, and military contracts. Formed through the merger of SNECMA and SAGEM in 2005, SAFRAN would become the dominant force in the French industry and would become the parent company of Turbomeca (SAFRAN).

The company experienced continued success and growth, and by 2012 Turbomeca is reported to design, manufacture, and otherwise produce the engines for nearly all civil, military, and paramilitary helicopters in Europe (Rolls-Royce Turbomeca). Major helicopter producers such as Eurocopter, Sikorsky, and Kamov all rely on Turbomeca for the engines to power their helicopter fleets. In addition, Turbomeca sells to “Agusta, Boeing, Denel, Eurocopter, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd, [and] Sikorsky”.

Previously Developed and Manufactured Turboshaft Engines

Turbomeca has a long history of efficient, reliable engine designs that have garnered the company much fame over the past decades of its operation. Starting as a small, localized operation, Turbomeca found its niche in providing standardized engines to power light aircraft starting in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Though the company survived the devastation of World War II with some semblance of order, Turbomeca did not achieve strong business success again until the 1950s.

The Turbomeca Palas, first constructed in 1950, set the industry standard for what would soon define the company. The Palas was a small, centrifugal flow turbojet that quickly became known for its rapid fuel consumption and relatively low power output on the ground. The Palas, then, became representative of the technological limitations of low to medium-power turbojets in the 1950s. These engines most notably lacked a strong performance and power output with regards to take off, but the planes themselves could maintain sufficient speed once airborne to outpace the propellor-driven planes of the previous decade.

The Palas would be featured in a number of European military aircraft. Some of the models include the SIPA 200, FOUGA 300, Caproni F.5, Payen PA 49, the Miles M-77 Sparrowjet, the IKARUS series, and the SK-1 from Somers Kendall. These aircraft all flew utilizing the Turbomeca Palas and featured some of the first use of a centrifugal miniaturized turbojet sufficient for use in light aircraft.

Currently, Turbomeca offers a wide range of engines suitable for use in helicopters and light aircraft. A world leader in engine design, manufacture, and production, “Turbomeca designs, develops and produces the Arrius, Arriel, TM 333, Ardiden, Makila engine families, plus the MTR390 and RTM 322 engines in cooperation with partner manufacturers” (Makila). The Arriel series offers nearly thirty different engines designed for light and medium helicopters and has some 6,000 units in use worldwide. In terms of technical specifications, Arriel-class engines range from “478 kW (640 shaft horsepower) to 704 kW” (New Turbomeca Eagle will make the X4 Soar). These engines are most notably used in the Eurocopter Ecureuil, EC130, EC145, and EC155, as well as the Sikorsky S-76 and the Agusta A109 K. Arriel engines, then, are the basis for much of the European military and paramilitary helicopter fleets, and Turbomeca maintains a high reputation in among its clients with this line of offerings. A major testament to the reliability and efficacy of these engines is that Arriel engines are used for helicopters that focus on search and rescue, offshore rescue, and emergency medical services.

Turbomeca’s second flagship line, the Arrius, is aimed at providing power to single and twin-engine helicopters through the use of turboshaft engines. Arrius engines operate in some 60 countries, with over 2,000 units in use. Arrius units are used prominently by the South African Air Force for their helicopter fleet and many South Asian countries contract with Turbomeca to provider their defense forces with engines and replacement parts. These countries include Malaysia and Indonesia; furthermore, nations such as Sweden, Russia, and the United States all use Arrius units, primarily for use in medical evacuation helicopters.

The third major line of aircraft engines designed by Turbomeca is the Makila line, which focuses on providing engines for military units and rescue teams that operate in extreme conditions. A newer class of engine, the Makila is the largest and most powerful of all engines by Turbomeca and are used in the Eurocopter Super Puma, EC 725-225, the Rooivalk military attack helicopter, and several other models of aircraft that require powerful engines that can operate in the most difficult of environments.SAFRAN Turbomeca operates other major product offerings, including the TM333 series, the Ardiden, the MTR390, and the RTM 322.

The Turbomeca TM800: The Arrano

Turbomeca’s newest flagship engine carries the item designation TM800, and received the name “Arrano”. The Arrano is built to “power four-to-six ton helicopters” and “fits between the Ariel and Ardiden performance ranges” (Arriel). Named after the Basque term for “eagle”, the Arrano is representative of the quality of Turbomeca’s product offerings—the Arrano is reported to focus on lower fuel consumption and higher reliability, while at the same time remaining a powerful cost-effective tool for operators. The Arrano is not a rehashed model of an Ariel or Ardiden, but is rather a unique synthesis of previous design ideas and operational feedback that has resulted in a new, more effective engine for light aircraft. Indeed, Turbomeca argues that the new Arrano “incorporates the results of several upstream research projects” in order to present a product that is “unmatched in its category”. All in all, the Arrano appears to be a major step forward in the continued innovation of Turbomeca products.

Technical Specifications

The TM800, or “Arrano”, offers consumers a 1,100 shp range engine. The engine itself has the stated purpose of providing power for aircraft between 4 and 6 thousand kilograms. Once the Arrano is in production and has replaced the aging Arrius line, a smaller TM600 version will be released that caters to aircraft at a smaller weight (Trimble). The Arrano itself was “selected to power the Eurocopter X4”, a new helicopter design that will weight some 5 to 6 tonnes (Arius). The Arrano’s compressor is a “twin-centrifugal [module] with variable-pitch blades and high compression ratio”, and its “compressor turbine is two-stage axial with integrated rotor blades” (Arius). Unique to the Arrano is the way in which the engine acts in order to reduce fuel consumption. According to Turbomeca, the Arrano will “offer a 10 to 15% lower fuel consumption, contributing to improved performance range and reduced environmental footprint”. In addition to lower fuel consumption, the Arrano will have reduced aircraft maintenance costs. These reduced maintenance costs are a result of “Turbomeca’s optimized maintenance concept designed to significantly decrease the need for on-site servicing”. Thus, the Arrano is clearly poised to take a dominant role in the niche role that it fulfills—by providing customers with a strong, reliable, and fuel-efficient engine, all future providers of engines for 4 to 6-ton helicopters will have available to them a cost-effective engine by a world-renown provider. In terms of developing, manufacturing, and marketing, the Arrano was revealed at the HelioExpo in Las Vegas in 2011.

Future Aircraft Implementation

The brand-new engine will be first used by Eurocopter’s newest production model called the X4 in 2016. In addition to the X4, the Arrano will be used in other Eurocopter models as a replacement for older Arrius units. The new engine offers the benefit of lower servicing costs and lower fuel consumption, making it a lucrative target for companies interested in reducing their maintenance costs overall.

The X4 is purported to be a replacement for the existing Eurocopter 155 series, which is an older model based on less advanced designs. The X4 features a uniquely styled exterior and is, when viewed against the backdrop of other helicopters, quite futuristic in its appearance (Turbomeca unveils Arrano Engine). The X4 has not, as of yet, been flown in a test capacity, as the first flights are tentatively aimed at occurring in 2015. This would coincide with the release date of the Arrano, which aims to be in production by 2016 (X4: Remarkably Different).

Unique to the X4 is the emphasis the designers have placed on noise reduction and an overall improvement in aesthetic and functional design. According to executives at Eurocopter, the X4 will reduce “its noise footprint” to “as much as 70 percent lower and fuel consumption will be improved by 30 percent”. While these figures are bold, to say the least, it is clear that the X4 is a drastic attempt by Eurocopter to introduce a truly quiet, fuel-efficient helicopter. These stated traits, working in tandem with the new Arrano engine, seem to indicate that the partnership between Eurocopter and SAFRAN Turbomech is something that will prove profitable to both companies.

Discussion and Conclusion

SAFRAN Turbomeca is a corporation that has a long history of reliable, effective, engines for light aircraft. The growing demands of the modern world, however, have necessitated a shift in direction from simple reliability to an emphasis on lowering fuel consumption and reducing the noise footprint of aircraft engines. Turbomeca’s current product lines, though present in many countries around the world and even form the basis of most modern helicopter fleets, do not offer the versatility and unique design philosophy that the TM800, or Arrano, offer.

The Arrano is an attempt by Turbomeca to offer a mid-range light aircraft engine that is capable of providing power to helicopters that weigh between 4 and 6-kilogram tons. While this excludes some of the heavier elements present in many helicopter fleets, the size is applicable to commercial use and use for the most common types of helicopters. As a result of the emphasis on fuel consumption reduction and improved noise footprint reduction, the Arrano is likely to go hand in hand with Eurocopter’s theoretical X4, a new helicopter class that also aims to reduce fuel consumption and lower noise pollution in urban areas. Thus, the Arrano engine class and the X4 herald the beginning of what seems to be a very profitable venture between the integration of new engines and new helicopters.


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