New Production K-MAX gets Conversion T53 Engine

October 20, 2015

The Kaman K-1200 K-MAX® heavy-lift utility helicopter and the Honeywell T53 turboshaft engine that powers it have tackled a lot of tough missions together over the last two decades. The K-MAX is known as the pickup truck of helicopters, capable of lifting its own weight without use of a hydraulic system. The T53 engine is a reliable workhorse with more than 50 million operating hours under its belt.

Now Kaman and Honeywell are taking an important step forward in their partnership. Kaman resumed K-MAX production in June, with the first new helicopter set to come off the production line in early 2017.

The new K-MAX helicopters will be powered by Honeywell T5317A-1 commercially certified engines that have been converted from former United States military engine cores and overhauled using new Honeywell components. The engine conversion is being handled by Mint Turbines using kits provided by Honeywell Aerospace. Kaman already has secured buyers for six of the 10 helicopters in its initial production lot.

“The conversion process from military to commercial engine has been approved by the FAA,” said Terry Fogarty, Director, Business Development for K-MAX Helicopter Programs at Kaman. “These conversion engines will provide K-MAX operators with the capabilities and reliability they need to achieve their heavy-lift missions. And, the use of these converted engine had a significant, positive impact on the price of the helicopter versus using a new engine.”

Development of the K-MAX was led by Kaman founder and former CEO, aviation pioneer Charles H. Kaman. The helicopter received Federal Aviation Administration certification in 1994. The single-engine, single-seat K-MAX is a rugged, low-maintenance aircraft that features a counter-rotating rotor system and is optimized for external load operations and designed specifically for vertical reference flight.

In addition to the manned version of the K-MAX, an unmanned version of the K-MAX was developed. In partnership with Lockheed Martin, these aircraft successfully supported the U.S. Marine Corps in Afghanistan for 33 months from 2011-2014, carrying more than 4.5 million pounds of cargo. Additional unmanned firefighting and humanitarian missions for K-MAX are also being developed and tested.

The K-MAX is an ideal choice for helicopter operators whose missions require repetitive heavy lifting. Examples include firefighting, logging and other missions requiring exceptional high-and-hot performance. 

 “More than 20 years ago Kaman chose the T53 because its ruggedness and reliability were perfectly suited to our customers’ missions,” Fogarty said. “The engine has performed very well and has logged more than 320,000 hours on the K-MAX fleet.”