Engine manufacturer reluctant to confirm formal involvement in airliner project

Bombardier says CFM International is now being considered alongside International Aero Engines as a potential engine supplier for its proposed CSeries 110- to 135-seat airliner family.

The revelation, from Bombardier's new commercial aircraft programme president Gary Scott, appears to have emerged prematurely for CFMI, which at the moment is downplaying any formal ties to the project.

CFMI confirms "there have been negotiations and conversations", but adds: "There has not been a competition or any sort of technical evaluation."

Stressing the common view of the CFMI joint venture partners, it says: "Neither General Electric nor Snecma has been engaged in any technical discussions."

Informally, CFMI is thought to have discussed possible baseline CFM56 configurations with specific elements incorporated from the group's Tech56 technology development effort.

Meanwhile, CFMI has made no secret of its main longer-term priority - its plan to develop a new centreline engine family in the 23,000-35,000lb thrust (102-156kN) range for the next generation of Airbus and Boeing narrowbodies, with a possible launch in 2008.

However, Bombardier's planned CSeries timescale calls for a launch in 2005 and is narrowing on a lower-thrust range between 22,000lb and 25,000lb.

In addition, the project is aimed at ambitious performance-improvement targets of operating costs up to 15% lower than for current 100-seat aircraft and Scott reiterates that the company is "looking at a new engine, an engine that they don't make currently - that's where we're starting".

Meanwhile, IAE is believed to be progressing in its talks with Bombardier, particularly since July, when principal partners Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney jointly announced plans to focus competitive efforts for the CSeries through IAE rather than pursue separate courses.

This move is believed to have caught Bombardier off guard when it was first announced because it had anticipated a strong competition between R-R and P&W rather than a joint effort through the IAE consortium.

IAE appears keen to use the CSeries as a chance to launch a new-generation engine, although it is still believed to be deciding internally on the exact configuration of its proposed engine.

The choice is thought to be between an advanced two-shaft P&W design with some PW6000 features, and a new Rolls-Royce-based two-shaft design, which is dubbed the RB255.

IAE says it is currently "working with Bombardier and discussing the technical requirements as well as the business case".

A formal request for proposals is widely expected to be issued around the end of October or early November.



Source: Flight International