FARNBOROUGH: Engine Alliance doubts wisdom of major upgrade for GP7000

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Engine Alliance has answered a call by Emirates chief executive Tim Clark for more performance with a suite of upgrades that could slash specific fuel consumption up to 5%.

At the same time, the joint venture of GE Aviation and Pratt & Whitney offering the GP7000 – one of two engine options for the Airbus A380 – questions if the 5% improvement is worth the time and cost of improving the current engine, compared to cutting over to a new engine architecture.

“What happens as you go from 2% to 5% is you start getting into cost and timing ranges where you start to question is it worthwhile to improve this engine or do we move to a new architecture,” says Dean Athans, president of the Engine Alliance.

To reduce fuel consumption by 5%, the Engine Alliance would have to increase the overall pressure ratio. That requires increasing the fan diameter, which leads to adding a stage to the low pressure turbine, among a host of other changes.

“I’ll be honest with you. When you start moving from 2 to 5% cost and time becomes prohibitive, and then you start to question are we doing the right thing by investing in this architecture,” Athans says.

The Engine Alliance has not ruled out launching a new clean-sheet design, but it is also clear that at least one of the joint venture’s partners – GE Aviation – has little appetite to take on the development programme.

“What the Engine Alliance is going to do is take direction from Airbus,” Athans says. “When Airbus is ready we’ll consider the scope that Airbus asks us to and then we’ve got to do our due diligence.”

Meanwhile, the Engine Alliance is rolling out component improvements that will improve time on wing for the GP7000 by 50%, Athans says.