Guy Norris/LOS ANGELES Gilbert Sedbon/PARIS

SNECMA HAS REPAIRED its ailing relationship with GE Aircraft Engines on the GE90 by agreeing to maintain a 25% stake in the development of a 445kN (100,000lb)-thrust variant of the engine. At the same time, the French engine builder has moved into direct conflict with its GE90 and CFM International partner, linking with Pratt & Whitney Canada to study an all-new regional-jet engine.

The French company's memorandum of understanding with P&WC, to develop a turbofan in the 53-71kN class, introduces another player at the crowded lower end of the market.

The latest teaming brings to seven the number of Western engine groups and companies either manufacturing, developing or studying engines for the regional-jet market.

Snecma and P&WC have chosen the restricted thrust category of their proposed engine in an attempt to avoid conflict with some of the other projects in which they, or a sister company, play a part.

Snecma's links with GE may become strained by the new plan, despite the clear avoidance of the proposed CFM56-9 thrust bracket. The new Franco-Canadian engine would be a direct rival to GE's CF34-8C variant now in development for the Bombardier CRJ-X stretched Regional Jet. Another significant overlap is between P&WC and Pratt & Whitney, which is developing the 67kN-plus PW6000 for regional aircraft.

The size of the Snecma/P&WC study is also a further indication of the emerging division in power requirements for regional-jet efforts. Snecma and P&WC say that the study is geared to providing "the most competitive, cost effective, engine for 70- to 90-passenger turbofan-powered regional aircraft."

The agreement will give Snecma the all-important "hot section" of the new engine, and comes after Snecma and GE were unable to agree on Snecma having design responsibility for the hot section of the CFMXX engines under discussion by CFM International.

Snecma chairman Bernard Dufour says that he considers that taking responsibility for hot-section development on a civil engine is "vital", enabling it to take advantage of the technology developed for the M88 military engine.

GE will be relieved to have patched up a relationship, which has been increasingly fraught since Dufour became the boss of the cash-strapped French company.

Snecma has agreed to remain a 25.2% risk-sharing partner in the development of growth versions of the GE90, despite Dufour's assertion earlier this year that the company could not afford to take part.

Engine-company insiders say that the French concern had more to do with Snecma's disagreement over the price of the GE90 than with any shortages of cash.

Nevertheless, the decision by GE to move straight to the 445kN GE90-100B version of the engine, rather than stick with the original plan for intermediate increases on the current power plant, has resulted in development costs of the new derivative being slashed to less than $500 million.

Source: Flight International