Australian aerospace engine maintenance repair and overhaul (MRO) provider, TAE Aerospace, announced at February’s Avalon Airshow that it is further expanding its military and commercial engine portfolio and maintenance facility footprint.
The company says it has acquired two US-based companies – Phoenix Arizona-based Copper State Turbine Engine Company (CTEC), and Kansas City Missouri-based Propulsion Controls Company (PCC) – acquisitions which have now made it the world’s largest authorised provider of Honeywell TPE331 turbine engine support.
The TPE331 is most commonly used on the General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper series of remote piloted air systems (RPAS), of which more than 200 are in service in the US and allied nations. TAE is a member of the General Atomics Team Reaper which has been selected to provide about 16 Reapers or Certified Predator B/Sky Guardian derivate to the RAAF under Project AIR 7003.
In Australia, the engine is also most commonly used on the commercial Fairchild/Swearingen Metro 23 airliner, BAE Jetstream 31/32/41, CASA C-212, Cessna 441 Conquest, and the Mitsubishi MU-2.
“The market-leading engine and component MRO services delivered by our Adelaide operation have earned us a great reputation in our region, and we now look to take on the global market for this well-established engine across both Commercial and Defence operators,” TAE CEO Andrew Sanderson said in a statement.
“The synergies between PCC, CTEC and our Australian activities make these acquisitions a clear strategic fit that will generate immediate improvements for our operations and our customers around the world.
“The team in Kansas City has more than 20 years’ experience with the Woodward fuel control fitted to the TPE331 engine. As a trusted Woodward partner, we look forward to working with the OEM to continue servicing this complex fuel control system to keep customers flying for many years to come.
“Similarly, CTEC has an excellent reputation in the US as a quality engine maintainer. The 55-strong CTEC team has a real focus on the TPE331 engine, with a repair and reclamation capability that is the best in the world. By combining all these capabilities under one company, TAE Aerospace is now strongly positioned in the global market as the world’s largest Honeywell-authorised provider of TPE331 engine support,” Sanderson said.
“As a member of Team Reaper Australia, we look forward to assisting General Atomics, Honeywell and the RAAF to support the MQ-9 RPAS that will be acquired under Project AIR 7003 in the next decade. CTEC already provides line maintenance training on the TPE331 to the USAF, RAF and GA, so when our US acquisitions are combined with our Australian capability we will be well positioned to support the platform in the future,” Sanderson said.
The acquisitions come just six months after TAE took over the operations of Victoria-based Kidde Aerospace and Defence Australia Pty Ltd (KADA), which made TAE Aerospace the only licenced overhaul facility in Australia, New Zealand and much of the region for certain United Technologies (UTAS) businesses.
These included some of the Army’s fleet of land vehicles including the M1A1 Abrams, ASLAV, Bushmaster and Hawkei. KADA also serviced a number of aircraft customers including Qantas, for which TAE Aerospace also supplies wheel and brake MRO services, as well as Virgin Australia aircraft, military transport helicopters and others.
The latest acquisitions mean TAE’s workforce now numbers about 320 people, making it Australia’s largest 100 per cent Australian-owned aerospace company.
Also announced at Avalon was the commencement of work on TAE’s upgraded engine test cell located at RAAF Amberley so it can accommodate the F-35 Lightning II’s P&W F135 engine.
Originally designed and built in the 1960s for the F-111C/G’s TF30 turbofan, the test cell was re-configured in 2010 for the F/A-18A/B classic Hornet’s GE F404, and the F/A-18F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler’s GE F414 engines. But with the F135’s greater weight, width, length and power, the cell will require a $24 million upgrade to accommodate the new engine.
The upgrade will include a new engine mounting and thrust measurement system, as well as a reinforced structure of the existing building. Major work is expected to be completed by the end of 2019, after which speciality equipment, electronics and engine control systems will be installed in time for the first scheduled F135 engine test run in April 2020.
“While the F404 and F414 engines are of similar weight and length and generate almost equivalent thrust, the F135 engine is a completely different beast. It is almost three times the weight, one and half times the length and generates more than twice the thrust of the F414,” Sanderson said.
“Upgrading our test facility to cope with the new F135 engine is one of several major activities underway on the engine side of our participation in the global F-35 program,” he added. “We are also building a $50 million state-of-the-art Turbine Engine Maintenance Facility in Bundamba.
“When complete, these state-of-the-art facilities will enable us to carry out engine maintenance, repair, overhaul, upgrade and test for all F-35 aircraft operating in the Asia Pacific region.”
“This is a terrific example of the strength of Australia’s defence industry, which has already won over $1.3 billion in production contracts as part of the global F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program,” former Defence Industry Minister Stephen Ciobo said in a separate statement.
“The new Engine Test Cell work will also benefit the local Queensland economy, with TAE Aerospace entering into a contract with Paynter Dixon Queensland for the construction phase of the project.”
This feature article appeared in the March-April 2019 issue of ADBR.