Andrew Doyle/MUNICH

BMW Rolls-Royce (BMW R-R) is gearing up to double the production rate of its BR700-series engines over the next two years as prospects for the Boeing 717 programme finally begin to improve.

The 717 - the only airframe application to date for BMW R-R's BR715 turbofan - attracted letters of intent from two new customers in December, potentially taking the firm orderbook to 115 aircraft, plus 100 options.

"We need two to three more, substantial [717] orders to have the full break-through," BMW R-R chairman Dr Klaus Nittinger told Flight International. "Once you are above the 250-300 aircraft threshold, I think you can say you have achieved successful market penetration. When you have the evidence that the market is accepting the product, then the growth comes automatically."

Most of the production rate increase will be accounted for by the BR715 programme, with BR710 build rates - for the Gulfstream V and Bombardier Global Express business jets - due to stabilise next year. The joint venture predicts that of the more than 240 engines it plans to manufacture in 2000, about half will be BR715s.

Revenues are forecast to rise from around DM825 million ($500 million) this year to DM1.5 billion in 2000, says Nittinger, who maintains that the company will reach break-even "during the first half of the next decade".

With full production of the BR715 getting under way, the Dahlewitz, Germany-based company has launched a cost-cutting programme with its partners to help speed its progress towards profitability, says Nittinger.

He concedes it is "highly unlikely" that the BR715 will ever be offered as a powerplant for the 717's chief rival, the Airbus A318. Airbus announced in September that it had reached a deal with Pratt & Whitney to offer the new PW6000 engine for its A319 "shrink".

"We always expected to have competition," says Nittinger. "It is questionable in small aircraft to what extent you can afford to have double-sourcing."

Additional airframe applications could eventually come higher up the thrust range, however, with industry speculation increasing that BMW R-R could have a role to play in a restructured International Aero Engines (IAE) consortium. That venture's principal partners are R-R and P&W, but the latter has signalled its intention to launch a rival product to IAE's V2500 in the form of the PW8000.

"We are discussing future strategies with R-R," says Nittinger. "No decisions have been made."

Source: Flight International