Founded in 2005 to serve the armed forces of Turkey, Turkish Aerospace Industries (TAI) has sought to expand its range of operations beyond the defense market and the supply of components to other manufacturers. As explained by Temel Kotil, the company’s CEO, one of the projects studied is a passenger turboprop.
In an interview with Air Transporte News, Kotil revealed his interest in developing his own aircraft in this segment. “We are studying 70-90 seats turboprops and flight control intelligence will play a huge role. It is not solid yet we are talking with the potential partner but our emphasis is on new aircraft,” he said.
The size of the aircraft coincides with the Embraer project, which intends to launch a new passenger turboprop with similar capacity, between 70 and 100 seats. The Brazilian planemaker is talking to potential risk partners for the program, but has not revealed who they are.
Hybrid or conventional propulsion?
Although still quite small compared to jets, the passenger turboprop market has shown signs of growth after a period of low sales. There is a certain optimism with new technologies that can make these aircraft quieter and more comfortable, in addition to being more efficient and less polluting, making it a more attractive alternative for short-range routes.
The big dilemma for the aerospace industry is to decide between a conventional propulsion or bet on a hybrid system. Some studies, such as Airbus, propose to use hydrogen as a fuel, despite the difficulty in handling it.
Embraer, for example, says that the passenger turboprop will use conventional turboprop engines, but at the same time it develops a hybrid aircraft program with the Brazilian Air Force that can serve as a testing ground for future adaptations.
The new manufacturer Deutsche Aircraft, in turn, launched the turboprop D328eco, a reinterpretation of the old Dornier 328. The aircraft will be larger, with capacity for 43 passengers, will use Pratt & Whitney PW127S engines with seven-bladed propellers, but will be prepared for fly with sustainable fuel, the company said.
TAI has very little experience with commercial aviation, manufacturing fuselage sections and wing panels for Airbus and Boeing. Launching your own aircraft requires not only resources (the company is owned by the Turkish government) or knowledge, but also an efficient support network for this product, as well as relationships with hundreds of potential customers.
Due to several other projects that did not work, the TAI initiative must still be seen as something very premature.