Ian Aitken is chief executive of International Aero Engines, a joint venture between Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, MTU Aero Engines and Japanese Aero Engines. The future of the organisation has come under scrutiny after Pratt & Whitney decided to fly solo in offering its geared turbofan engine for the A320neo, but the partners have recently agreed to extend their collaboration to at least 2045.

IAE's executive board of directors recently announced the extension of its collaboration agreement to 2045. Why is this development significant?

The agreement is another endorsement of the collaboration between Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce, Japanese Aero Engines and MTU Aero Engines. Because we've been so successful in the marketplace we extended that agreement. IAE has been around upwards of 27 years and we're going to be around for another 30-plus years. We are the third largest engine programme in production today.

Ian Aitken IAE
 © IAE

We already have 4,500 engines in service and another 2,000 in the backlog so we're going to be out there at over 6,500 engines in terms of our current business. And we are not even halfway through what I see as the lifecycle of the engine. We want to make sure our customers know we're going to support them and we're continuously improving the engines as we go.

What is the driving force behind IAE's decision to offer its SelectOne and now SelectTwo programmes for the V2500, which powers the Airbus A320 family of aircraft?

It's IAE's mantra that we will always improve our engines as we go. That's key for our customers and aviation in general. We've improved the V2500 a number of times. The last was SelectOne, which is the baseline engine on offer today. It's been in operation for more than two years now and is proving to be very successful. We saw an opportunity when developing SelectOne to further improve the fuel burn of the engine and have recently announced a plan to launch a new standard engine (SelectTwo), which will be available in early 2013. This engine improves the fuel burn performance by more than half a percent, which when added to the Sharklets of the Airbus A320 family makes a very good value proposition for new customers.

Do you continue to register new orders for SelectOne?

China Southern is one of our largest customers. The deal announced at Paris for 65 SelectOne engines is a huge endorsement from a large Chinese operator for the V2500, and will make China Southern the biggest customer we have. China Southern is one of the premier airlines in China. And it's fantastic that they've made the V2500 the engine of choice for the A320. It's quite a vote of confidence that they continue to purchase large quantities of engines from IAE.

Which operator will launch the SelectTwo engine and what is the upgrade process from SelectOne?

Our launch customer of SelectTwo is Gulf Air, which has selected six A321s - all powered with the V2500 SelectTwo engine. The good thing about SelectTwo is that you can modify the SelectOne engine up to SelectTwo for aircraft already in service - which has drawn huge interest from our customers. The fuel burn improvement can either be standard in new engines from 2013 or can be retrofitted as a package to SelectOne engines in the field. And the retrofit, which simply requires a change in the harness and a software drop, is easy to do. You can modify it in the hangar overnight.

When will a SelectThree engine be made available?

We're continually looking at how we can improve our engine, and having now locked down SelectTwo, the engineers have been given the task to go and look at further improvements to the V2500 - such things as performance, the operation of the engine, fuel burn, reliability and maintenance costs.

That task is ongoing, and I have given our engineers free reign to look at many different areas. When they're ready to discuss their findings in the not-too-distant future we'll sit down and see what is feasible.

Why is IAE not participating in the popular A320neo programme?

As a consortium of four leading aviation companies, it is not unusual that there could be a position where all four didn't agree on the way to proceed, and the Neo aircraft was one of those cases. We were disappointed that we are not the route to market for a new centreline engine for Neo. However, we remain the leading engine on the A320. We have a low-risk engine that is selling very well, and we see a large market for the V2500 going forward.

Are you studying other applications for the V2500 outside of Airbus narrowbodies?

The V2500 has got other potential applications that we're looking at. We're working hard with other airframe suppliers and are looking at both military and civil applications as we go forward. We're obviously interested in the military side as it is a part of the business we'd like to get into.

If the consortium continues to exist for another 30 years, as envisaged in the collaboration agreement, would the shareholders consider putting a new engine through IAE?

The shareholders will always consider IAE a valid option going forward, as it has been very successful and therefore - if the timing is right and the business case is right - there is every reason why IAE would be considered a viable option for placing a new centreline engine into this consortium.

What is one of the big benefits to customers of your being a consortium of four?

It gives us a huge network because we are able to pull upon the four shareholders across the globe in terms of all the support services. So we are able to offer something that no one engine company can do alone - we call upon those services as we see fit. We can pick technologies and research and development that are the best of the best. What we end up with is an excellent programme, which in a recent independent survey placed IAE as the number one engine supplier to do business with. That's just one survey - but it is an independent survey - which makes us very proud."

Source: Flight Daily News