CFM downplays P&W’s early lead on A321neo engines orders

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CFM International remains highly confident in the competitiveness of the Leap-1A engine for the Airbus A321neo despite initial sales that have heavily favoured the competitor.

Pratt & Whitney's PurePower PW1100G engine has staked a three-to-one lead among the first eight customers that have selected an engine to power the A321neo. Another eight airlines have not yet made an engine decision.

But CFM says these initial deals do not reflect the competitiveness of the Leap-1A engine on the A321neo, the largest of the three variants in the A320neo family, says Bill Brown, CFM marketing manager.

Unlike the Leap-1A's head-to-head battle with the PW1100G, CFM concedes that its CFM56 engine powering current A320s suffers a competitive disadvantage to the rival International Aero Engines V2500 engine.

The CFM56 is designed with a single-stage high-pressure turbine, which is less efficient at higher power settings compared to the two stages in the same section of the V2500.

CFM instead designed the Leap-1A that replaces the CFM56 with a two-stage high-pressure turbine, matching its competitor's design. That alone means the V2500's traditional advantage over the CFM56 does not carry over into the competition with the Leap-1A, Brown says.

"The [A321neo] is where we're most competitive. It's opposite of the V2500 situation," says Brown.

The initial deals that favour of the PW1100G reflect the mix of customers rather than the true competitive state of the market, says Jean-Paul Ebanga, CFM chief executive.

"I think there is nothing to worry about," Ebanga says. "The A321 portion of the business so far is pretty low, so it has been more dependent on the campaigns."

CFM's statements during a media day event on 18 April clash with P&W's statements last week after Hawaiian Airlines became the sixth customer to order the PW1100G.

David Hess, P&W president, said that the geared architecture of the PW1100G also helps the engine burn fuel at lower temperatures at higher thrust levels, compared to the CFM Leap-1A engine. That means that the engine will require less maintenance over time and provides better overall performance.

In response, CFM says that third-party data collected by Airbus shows that the Leap-1A has a competitive advantage at higher power settings at longer range.