A US Air Force Reserve C-130 Hercules takes off in August. Rolls-Royce has announced an upgrade to the plane's engine, making it more reliable and fuel-efficient. (US Air Force)
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — A major upgrade to the Rolls-Royce T56 engine has been certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the company announced Tuesday.
The certification of the T56/501D engine is another step forward for Rolls Series 3.5 engine upgrade, which the company says has shown a 10 percent increase in fuel efficiency and a 22 percent increase in reliability.
“The C-130 engine enhancement program continues to demonstrate success, staying on track to save the US Air Force billions of dollars and extend the life of this key transport fleet,” said Tom Hartmann, Rolls-Royce senior vice president. “The new FAA type certificate confirms the engine enhancement program is ready to enter service, and we look forward to receiving US Air Force qualification soon.”
The T56 is the standard engine for the C-130 military transport, a backbone of the US Air Force.
Instead of developing a new engine, the Series 3.5 upgrade retrofits parts from newer engines into the Series 3 engine casing, replacing aging and inefficient components. These include compressor seals from Rolls’ Series 4 engine and uncooled turbine blades from the Rolls AE-1107C design.
Once engineers have installed the new parts, preflight tests are run as normal and the engine is reinstalled. Because the upgrade occurs within the engine, there are no costly changes required to the C-130’s cockpit or airframe, providing a cheaper alternative to a full engine replacement. The upgrade also wipes out the labor cost of maintenance, such as cleaning and repairs, on the old Series 3 parts.
The company estimates that the engine upgrades will extend the life of the C-130 fleet to 2040, and an Air Force study has found it could save the service as much as $2 billion. The company has expressed interest in expanding the Series 3.5 upgrade to other planes, including the Navy P-3 Orion maritime surveillance aircraft. ■