P&W works with Comac on C919 variant studies

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Pratt & Whitney says that it is working with Comac on preliminary studies of new variants for the C919, a narrowbody currently powered exclusively by the CFM International Leap-1C engines.

Comac selected the CFM engine, which is in development by the General Electric-Snecma joint venture, to power a baseline and an extended range version of the C919.

But the Chinese airframer continues to seek powerplant options beyond the Leap series with multiple variants of the C919 still on the drawing boards.

Bob Saia, P&W vice president of next generation products, says that Comac plans to start with the baseline C919 in 2016, then produce other variants to serve different niches in the market.

"We're doing some regional airplane studies [with Comac]," Saia says. "I'll call them mainline jets - smaller and larger around the C919. They are very preliminary studies, from the sense that you've got multiple aircraft with multiple engine architectures."

Comac acknowledged two years ago that up to six variants of the C919 were being considered, including military and freighter models.

Meanwhile, P&W has long been working to gain a position as a second engine option on the C919, as it already competes with CFM for orders on the Airbus A320neo.

The PW1100G is being developed for the A320neo, and the same core is shared with the PW1400G that will power the Irkut MS-21. Both incorporate a reduction gear that should allow the engine to consume less fuel by optimising the rotation speeds of the low pressure turbine and inlet fan.

"We'll just have to see when Comac decides to launch their next aircraft," Saia says.

In response, CFM says that the Leap-1C is the only engine that is currently available for the already disclosed baseline and extended range variants of the C919.

"We are not aware of any variants being contemplated that would require an engine that falls outside of our agreement with Comac," CFM says. "Obviously, if that changes, we will certainly compete."

Rolls-Royce has been developing the core for another narrowbody engine called the Advance 2, but the company declines to discuss any specific talks with Comac about C919 variants.

"We are in continual contact with all airframers about their plans," R-R says.