Down but not out: commercial engines package introduction

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Despite a near-term outlook for commercial aeroengine sales that can at best be called bleak, the fundamentals of the sector remain strong.

New airliner orders have unsurprisingly nose-dived as the global recession deepens, but engine manufacturers are re-emphasising the stability that their multi-billion dollar backlogs - representing several years of production - bring to their businesses. A question mark undeniably hangs over the solidity of these backlogs, with industry figures such as International Air Transport Association director general Giovanni Bisignani publicly questioning whether Airbus and Boeing will manage to make more than half their scheduled deliveries this year because of a lack of customer financing.

gtf nacelle 
 © Pratt & Whitney

However, even the most pessimistic observers accept that vigorous growth will eventually return and the consensus remains that the airline industry will double in size over the next couple of decades, driven by powerhouse economies such as China and India.

The engine makers have a critical role to play in enabling the airline industry to achieve this growth in a profitable and environmentally sustainable way, and to do that they must continue to make progress in their relentless pursuit of new technologies that will cut fuel burn and emissions.

Oil prices have fallen substantially since green concepts such as open rotor technology grabbed the headlines at last year's Farnborough air show, but the industry knows that the long-term fuel cost trend is heading in one direction: upwards.

In this commercial engines package we provide detailed updates on three programmes that will help shape the industry for decades to come. General Electric's GEnx is destined to power Boeing's mid-market game-changer, the 787, as well as its revamped 747, while Pratt & Whitney's innovative GTF geared turbofan series has been selected for Bombardier's CSeries small airliner and the Mitsubishi MRJ regional jet.

Rolls-Royce, meanwhile, is preparing to start building the Trent XWB for the Airbus A350 widebody twinjet family, which is critical to the future success of the European airframer. Last but not least, we take a look at developments in the parts manufacturer-approved spares business.