SINGAPORE: Next-generation engine battle spins up

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Pratt & Whitney and CFM International are gearing up the test programmes for their new engine offerings to equip the next generation of narrowbody airliners that promise double-digit fuel consumption improvements over current-generation powerplants.

As data from the test activities begins to flow, the claims and counter-claims over the respective performance of Pratt & Whitney’s PW1000G geared fans and CFM’s Leap is turning from “words and powerpoints” to facts and figures.

“We have now tested 31 GTF engines since initiating testing in September 2010,” says David Brantner, president of P&W Commercial Engines. The engine family has accumulated over 7,600h and 17,000 cycles of full engine testing, including 850h of flight time.

Brantner says the PW1100 that will power the Airbus A320neo is meeting its targets and validating P&W's efficiency claims. “We are seeing fuel burn really hit its mark,” he says. “This is the first time in Pratt & Whitney's history we have an engine doing this well.”

CFM ran its first Leap in September last year and has achieved 274 starts, 310h and over 400 cycles on the first engine, says CFM executive vice-president Chaker Chahrour. A further four test engines join the certification programme between now and the end of March, with a total of 20 on test by year-end.

CFM describes the early results of the Leap tests as “fantastic”. According to Chahrour: “The engine went to full power just a couple of hours after we broke it in, and went to over 33,000lbs of thrust on the second day of testing.”

The positive results from testing are leading both manufacturers to be confident in their new offerings. “This engine when built to specification will deliver the performance we promised customers,” says Chahrour of the Leap.

Brantner is equally strident about the GTF: “We are going to hit our mark at entry into service…any improvements will be extra value.”

At the Singapore show P&W announced its latest GTF customer with BOC Aviation selecting the engine for 15 of its A320neo orders, plus another 17 options. According to Robert Martin, managing director of BOC Aviation, the Chinese-owned lessor “had been working on the project with P&W since 2010 when Airbus was considering whether to have one or two engine manufacturers”.

BOC Aviation was “fairly vociferous” with Airbus about the need for an engine choice on the A320neo, he says. It already offers in production A320ceos with either CFM56s or International Aero Engines V2500s on its fleet of 91 A320s.

“Now we are putting our money where our mouth is [with the GTF order],” says Martin. “We believe in this engine. It will deliver on time. Customers want it. They like the fuel efficiency and its environmental characteristics." BOC Aviation selected Leaps for a batch of 10 A320neos ordered last year, he adds.

The PW1500G, a smaller variant of the PW1100G, was certificated last February by Transport Canada. It is now powering two Bombardier CSeries flight-test aircraft.

P&W is working with Airbus for the first A320neo flight powered by the PW1100G in the third quarter, says Brantner.

The Leap-1C configuration for the Comac C919 will be the first of CFM’s new family of engines to enter flight testing on joint-venture partner General Electric’s Boeing 747 flying testbed in May. The Leap-1B for Boeing’s Max will enter flight testing in mid-June with the Leap-1A for the A320neo following in September.

As both manufacturers wind up their test engine programmes and the massive supply chains to build them, the order books are bulging. Pratt & Whitney has racked up over 5,000 commitments, including options, for its GTF from more than 50 airlines and lessors.

CFM now has 6,000 Leaps on order. “To be at that level so early in a programme is unprecedented,” says Chahrour.

Additional reporting by Stephen Trimble in Washington, DC.