Joint ventures, says Jon Beatty, president and chief executive at engine maker International Aero Engines, “don’t normally have a very long shelf-life, particularly those in aerospace”.
IAE, however, celebrated its 30th birthday on 11 March. Initially conceived as a five-way partnership consisting of Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney, MTU Aero Engines, Japanese Aero Engine Company and what was then Fiat Avio, its V2500 engine was named to reflect both the thrust class of the powerplant and the number of companies behind it.Although the partnership has now dwindled to three following the exit of R-R in 2012, Beatty is confident it will continue to endure until the scheduled end of the collaboration in 2045.
However, whatever the strengths of IAE, perhaps the biggest limiting factor to its future is the fact that its sole product – the V2500 – has a distinctly finite lifespan. Although the engine powers those Boeing MD-90s still in service and from 2016 it will find a place on Embraer’s KC-390 military tanker/transport, its biggest programme has always been the Airbus A320 family.
And with the re-engined A320neo waiting in the wings, production of the V2500-A5 for the baseline A320 could end in 2018. As that cut-off date approaches, Airbus will determine how quickly the programme ramps down, says Beatty and it is working with the airframer to come up with an “integrated plan” for the switch over.
Nonetheless, IAE plans to deliver around 500 V2500s this year, with a similar build rate proposed for the two subsequent years as it works through its backlog of a little over 1,500 engines.