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P&W hits 'growing pains' on GTF reliability

Pratt & Whitney will deliver two upgraded parts for geared turbofan engine operators later this year that should meet durability standards, United Technologies Corp chief executive Greg Hayes told market analysts on 25 January.

Speaking on a fourth quarter earnings, Hayes acknowledged that some GTF operators, especially in India, have reported reliability concerns about a fuel seal and a combustor liner. In response, P&W will deliver upgraded parts to retrofit later this year. Meanwhile, P&W has dipped into a pool of spare engines to help meet aircraft dispatch targets, he says.

“These are just normal growing pains on any new engine,” Hayes adds. “Nothing that’s causing us to lose a lot of sleep.”

The P&W geared turbofan powers one version of the Airbus A320neo family and the Bombardier CSeries family. P&W also is working on new versions of the engine for the Irkut MC-21, Embraer 190-E2 family and the Mitsubishi Regional Jet.

Neither issue with the combustor liner or the oil seal is related to the reduction gearbox at the heart of the geared turbofan engine’s architecture, Hayes says. Indeed, the reduction gearbox, which de-couples the rotation speeds of the low-pressure turbine and the inlet fan to optimise fuel efficiency, seems to be working, with the PW1100G for the A320neo and PW1500G for the CSeries meeting fuel burn targets.

“The good news is that this time at least those key performance characteristics have been met right out of the box and that’s unusual. So the geared turbofan architecture is holding up very well,” says chief financial officer Akhil Johri.

P&W also expects to resolve a parts shortage problem that crimped geared turbofan engine deliveries to Airbus and Bombardier last year. Of about 1,200 parts inside the engine, P&W is still concerned about the availability of six as the production ramp-up continues, Hayes says. In September, Hayes said one of the most critical parts shortages involves the engine’s unique, hybrid-metallic fan blades. But P&W remains on track to deliver between 350-400 engines this year, Hayes adds.

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