P&W approached over possible widebody geared fan application

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Pratt & Whitney has revealed that is has been approached by an airframer to examine a widebody application for its PW1000G geared turbofan.

Bob Saia, vice-president for P&W's next-generation product family, says the engine maker has been approached by an unspecified manufacturer to conduct an initial study for a GTF engine for a widebody application.

Saia says that the engine would be a PW4000 replacement in the 60,000-100,000lb thrust (265-445kN) range for a 250-seat-plus sized airliner.

Although he declines to specify whether it is Airbus or Boeing that had commissioned the study, Saia says that the application was not for a second engine option on the Airbus A350 XWB.

According to Saia, the request was for the 2020 or 2025 time frame, but P&W president Steve Finger says that a PW4000 replacement could be ready as early as 2017 or 2018 if required.

"We think it will be about the end of the next decade - 2017 or 2018 - before we are ready to offer a geared turbofan in that thrust size," says Finger.

Saia emphasises the growth potential for the newly launched PW1000G family of engines. The gearbox allows for the optimisation of the large diameter fan and engine core to maximise fuel burn and reduce noise.

Potential applications include a refresh or full replacement for Boeing's 777 family or the Airbus A330. The PW4000 engine is offered currently on both 777 and A330 aircraft.

Placing a geared turbofan engine on an A330 replacement or refresh would fill a gap in Airbus's product line between the A321 and A350-800, 185 to 270 seats, for the next decade.

Industry sources suggest Airbus is the airframer that has approached P&W about the engine. Airbus executive vice-president programmes Tom Williams says he is not aware of any formal study, but "our engineering guys are always collecting data" on potential future projects. The airframer will flight test the GTF demonstrator on its A340-600 test bed later this year.

Observers see a re-engining of the CFM International CFM56-5-powered A340-300 as another potential widebody application. This could use a 30,000lb-thrust class GTF - a similar power level to the variant that would power the next generation narrowbodies.

P&W says that while its focus is developing the initial PW1000G for service entry on the Mitsubishi MRJ and CSeries in 2013, it is "always talking to our customers and suppliers about potential applications".