Inflight shutdown of one engine for twin-engine helicopters have proven beneficial for fuel consumption. A new flight mode is then considered, in which one engine is put into sleep mode (the gas generator is kept at a stabilized, sub-idle speed by means of an electric motor, with no combustion), while the second engine runs almost at nominal load. The ability to restart the engine in sleep mode is then critical for safety reasons. Indeed, the certification of this flight mode involves ensuring a close-to-zero failure rate for in-flight restarts as well as a fast restart capability of the shutdown engine. In this paper, the focus is made on improving the restart time of the shutdown turboshaft engine. Fast restart capability is necessary for flight management reasons. Indeed, in case of a failure of the engine operating close to nominal load while the other one is in sleep mode, there is no more power available and the helicopter can lose up to 15–20 meters per second during autorotation. The restart time becomes a critical parameter to limit the loss of altitude. In the configuration studied, the fast restart is achieved thanks to the electric motor designed to deliver a high torque to the gas generator shaft. This electric motor is powered by an additional battery, more powerful than the conventional one dedicated for standard restarts.
The aim of the paper is to assess the potential restart time saving using an approach combining test rig data analysis and numerical results generated by a thermodynamic model able to simulate at very low rotational speed.
A gas turbine engine starting process is composed of two main phases: the light-up phase and the acceleration phase. It is important to understand the detailed phenomenology of these two phases as well as the various sub-systems involved, first to highlight the influencing parameters of both phases and then to establish an exhaustive listing of the possible time optimizations.
From the test rig campaign, conducted at Safran Helicopter Engines on a high power free turbine turboshaft engine, we are able to accurately break down the phases of the start-up sequence, which helps us to identify what steps of the sequence worth shortening. With the engine performance thermodynamic model, we can then use the information gathered from the test rig analysis to further predict how to save time and to give guidelines for developing new control strategies.
The results of this study show that a fast restart going from sleep mode to max power speed can be up to 60% faster than a conventional restart going from sleep mode to idle speed. This is significantly faster, especially if one takes into account the higher final speed targeted by the fast restart.