The future of International Aero Engines (IAE) appears to be assured after Pratt & Whitney's move to shift the main focus of its PW8000 study engine from the A320 to the longer-range A340-500/600 family.

The move, prompted largely by Airbus, coincides with IAE's announcement to look into a higher-thrust version of the V2500, dubbed the A7. The new version, if sanctioned, would be aimed at the A321, but would also form the basis for a potential fleet-wide engine upgrade in a similar vein to the recent A1/A5 retrofit programme.

P&W president Louis Chênevert says "we will scale both the core technology of the PW6000 and 8000 to open our options". The resulting engine is expected to be aimed at the 50,000-70,000lb thrust (220-310kN) range, providing P&W with a competing engine to the Rolls-Royce Trent 500 on the A340-500/600, as well as "opening up a window of opportunity on the 767", he adds. The engine will still be based on the geared fan concept and would "still be a game changer" says Chênevert.

The surprise move also reflects the recent rise in confidence in the market strength of the V2500 turbofan and P&W's renewed support of the mid-thrust engine venture. Chênevert confirms P&W's positive stance on the V2500 saying the company is "fully committed to IAE, and will support the V2500 programme". P&W is expected, however, to develop a PW8000-based narrowbody engine.

IAE president Mike Terrett says the A7 study is "essentially a new engine variant" aimed at higher thrust and improved hot and high performance for the A320 family, particularly the higher gross weight A321 versions. Thrust would be increased by 6-7% over the 33,000-35,000lb V2500-A4 versions. It is also expected to produce lower emissions and "an overall improvement in cost of ownership", says Terrett.

The main improvement will be provided by using the advanced, wide chord swept fan design recently perfected by IAE partner Rolls-Royce for the Trent 800 family, as well as three-dimensional aerodynamic design in the high-pressure compressor. P&W will provide its low-emissions TALON combustor as well as upgrades to the turbine section. Japanese Aero Engines is to redesign the fan to accommodate the swept blades, as well as the aerodynamics of the low-pressure compressor. MTU will "ensure the compatibility of the low-pressure turbine with the rest of the engine," says IAE.

The A7 will be given the go-ahead later this year pending the successful outcome of "an exhaustive market appraisal to determine if sufficient market demand exists," says Terrett. The A7 study is believed to be aimed at meeting market demand in the North American market for improved hot and high performance. Such a move would probably increase the attractiveness of the A321 to A320 operators in the region such as America West, Northwest Airlines, USAir and United Airlines. Engine certification could be in 2002, with airframe certification and entry into service in 2003.

Source: Flight International