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IN FOCUS: Engine makers prepare to do battle on 777X

Pratt & Whitney is aware that the decades-long duopoly in the narrowbody engine market may not last forever. China has been content to rely on Western engines to power home-built projects, such as the ARJ21 and the C919, but those days could be numbered. The existence of a Chinese-built alternative engine for the Comac C919 became known about a year ago.

AVIC Commercial Aircraft Engine (ACAE) displayed a scaled-down mock-up of the CJ-1000A turbofan during an aviation industry exhibition last year in Shanghai. At roughly the same time, Germany's MTU announced an agreement with ACAE to pursue possible co-operation on the project.
 

 

Comac C919

 Comac

Comac originally selected a Pratt & Whitney competitor - the General Electric-Snecma joint-venture CFM International Leap-1C - to power the C919 upon its debut in 2016.

But Chinese industry also intends to develop an indigenous engine that could power the C919 and also provide the first competition to CFM and P&W in the narrowbody sector for decades. Before the Leap engine and P&W's geared turbofan, CFM and a former P&W/Rolls-Royce joint venture -- the International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500, now controlled by P&W - competed for orders on the Airbus A320 family.
 

WESTERN RIVALS

As AVIC looks to compete with CFM and P&W, the Western engine makers have made it a point to stay in contact with their erstwhile rivals.

"I would say we're not directly in the loop, but we're on the sideline," says Bob Saia, P&W vice-president of next-generation products.

More directly involved with ACAE is MTU, which is also one of P&W's risk-sharing partners on the PW1100G. MTU owns an 18% share of the engine, and supplies brush seals, nickel blisks, the low-pressure turbine and the forward four stages of the high-pressure turbine.

"We know MTU is working with the AVIC engine company," Saia says.

In the past few months, MTU officials have suggested the pace and scale of the project is still being debated among partners of the Chinese engine project.

"We need to define together what is feasible if we take available technologies in China as well as technologies which have yet to be developed," Egon Behle, MTU chief executive, told Flightglobal in July.

Despite the debate within Chinese industry, the CJ-1000A still appears to have public support. A full-scale mock-up is expected to be revealed at the Zhuhai air show in November, an event that showcases the latest in Chinese aerospace technology.