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P&W plans to test geared turbofan

Manufacturer targets role in A320 and 737 successors

Pratt & Whitney has revealed plans to ground-test a geared turbofan (GTF) technology demonstrator in 2007 as part of an aggressive drive to take a lead role in powering the next-generation Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 successors. It is also considering injecting more funding into the project to stay on track for a 2008 flight test.

The work is being conducted in association with NASA, which has suffered major budget cuts in aeronautics research. “We’re waiting to see what happens with the funding that comes off the Hill in 2006,” says P&W advanced programmes office director Simeon Austin. Various initiatives “that would plus it up” are being studied in the expected event that funding falls well short of the required amount to keep research going towards a workable demonstrator, says Austin.

This unusual move is being considered because the prospect of powering the A320/737 successors is “very important” to P&W.

The demonstrator will be in the 30,000lb-thrust (134kN) class, and will be based around a PW6000 core. P&W and NASA are “in the process of trying to finalise the details” of the test programme, which comes under the Quiet Aircraft Technology/Ultra-Efficient Engine Technology work in the Vehicle Systems programme.

“We are evaluating what we might do for a flight test following a ground “test demo”, says Austin. “There are several options we are considering relative to one of the airframe makers, but we see going to flight tests after the ground demo as an important step in terms of risk reduction.”

P&W’s determination to pursue the GTF concept is well known, the company having run scaled and full-size demonstrators such as the Advanced Ducted Propulsor. But until now no realistic application has emerged for a geared fan of this size and it is only the recent emergence of the Airbus and Boeing next-generation study requirements that have given the impetus for renewed work.

GUY NORRIS/LOS ANGELES

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