P&W hopes reconfiguration will revive engine's fortunes

Pratt & Whitney's attempts to get the troubled PW6000 engine back on track are being boosted by better-than-expected performance from the reconfigured engine during initial test runs at its Willgoos development and test site in Connecticut.

Tests of the engine, which has been reconfigured with an MTU-designed six-stage high-pressure compressor (HPC), coincide with signs of renewed interest in the 100-seat market and the Airbus A318 for which the engine was originally designed.

"We are encouraged," says P&W commercial engines president Bob Leduc. "There are 150-plus firm opportunities out there from a handful of customers," he adds.

The engine maker is anxious to revive the fortunes of the PW6000 which, as conceived in 1995, was expected to enter service in 1999.

After severely underperforming with its initial five-stage HPC, and suffering a subsequent 30-month slip when the decision was taken to replace the compressor, the engine's customer base has dwindled to just 30 firm orders, from America West and International Lease Finance, although the latter is thought to be cancelling its commitments.

Despite the problems, and the late 2005 entry-into-service target, Leduc says: "We needed a core of that size in our portfolio and that's why we are committed to it. In retrospect we should have done more technical homework, but we would still argue it is a state-of-the-art design."

P&W says the low parts count, low-cost philosophy of the PW6000 is still relevant, despite the compressor change. The six-stage unit powerplant has 32% fewer parts than CFM International's CFM56, says Leduc, versus P&W's original 40% parts reduction target with the five-stage HPC.

Flight tests on P&W's Boeing 747SP testbed are scheduled to start in the third quarter of 2003, with certification now due around October 2004. First flight of the new version on the A318 is expected around January 2005.

Source: Flight International