SINGAPORE 2010: IAE studies new engine as pressure builds for strategy on re-engining offering

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With pressure growing on International Aero Engines to nail down its strategy to provide a powerplant for re-engined single-aisles from Airbus and Boeing, the company's chief executive has confirmed that it is evaluating a new powerplant as one option.

Airbus upped the re-engining tempo during the Singapore air show, saying that it hoped to make a go/no-go decision on an upgrade for its A320 family by the Farnborough air show in July, and that it wanted to have an advanced engine offering from IAE as an alternative to the Leap-X being developed by rival CFM International.

With that in view, IAE chief executive Ian Aitken says "our intention is to be on the aircraft. We are the preferred route to the market [for the IAE partners]."

This strategy to work through IAE for both A320 and potential Boeing 737 re-engine applications is confirmed by consortium partner and geared turbofan proponent Pratt & Whitney. This will see IAE examine improvements to its V2500 as well as "a new technology package for a centreline engine", Aitken says. "When Airbus has defined its performance criteria, our intention is to have an engine that meets that."

Airbus's chief salesman John Leahy says that IAE "appears" to be planning to offer a "new generation" of P&W's GTF. Aitken confirms that IAE can adopt technology developed by P&W and the three other IAE partners, which include Rolls-Royce, "to put together an optimum engine. We can pick the right configuration for the right application once Airbus solidifies its performance indication."

Some observers believe the successful resolution of the engine consortium's current internal tussle is vital to its long-term future. Aitken points out that with more than 4,000 engines in service and 2,000 on backlog, IAE "intends to be around for the long term".

P&W's commercial engines senior vice-president sales Bob Keady declines to comment on any GTF development that IAE could undertake. However, he says from P&W's perspective an advanced version of the engine could feature improvements to the core - eg newer-generation materials, and increased bypass and pressure ratios.

Meanwhile, CFM's executive vice-president Chaker Chahrour confirms that the company is working with Airbus and Boeing about potential re-engining. "The Leap-X technology is adaptable to either application and we hope that we'll be one or two of the airplanes," he says.

CFM International and China's Comac have begun the joint definition phase for the Leap-X engine and the C919 twinjet. The first full engine, provisionally called the Leap-X1C, will begin testing in early 2013, says CFM. Meanwhile the engine maker is looking to establish a final assembly line for engines in China.