Cliff Garrett started manufacturing heat exchangers for the aftercoolers of turbosupercharged World War 2 aircraft such as the B-17. This technology led to air-cycle refrigeration units for aircraft, and auxiliary power units for ground and airborne use. Initially installed on the C-130, the AiResearch APU became a standard for the Boeing 727, 737 and Douglas DC-9.
Initial development of a small turbine engine did not find a market, but adding a reduction gearbox and propeller shaft created a rugged, lightweight turboprop engine designated the TPE331. The design incorporated a single-shaft, a two-stage centrifugal compressor, a reverse annular combustion chamber and a three-stage axial turbine.
The first model of this engine ran at a power of 575 hp in August 1963. It was installed on the Turbo Commander in 1964, the Mitsubishi MU-2 in 1965 and the first military application, the North American OV-10 in 1967. The engine output ranges from 575 to 1650 hp.
Still in production after 45 years, the 12,700 TPE331 engines produced have accumulated more than 70 million hours.
It is used on the Turbo Commander, Antonov An-38, Casa C212, Cessna Conquest, Dornier 228, Swearingen Metroliner, Handley Page Jetstream, Mitsubishi MU-2, Shorts Skyvan and the OV-10 Bronco. It is also used on agricultural aircraft and on the General Atomics Reaper UAV.
The engine on display was built in 1967 and fitted to the pressurized Aero Commander 680T Turbo Commander.