GE engines faces challenge from PW, RR GTF technology

The recent announcement by Rolls-Royce that their future engines will contain gearboxes has put GE and its CFM partner SAFRAN under considerable pressure.

GE/SAFRAN were together with Rolls-Royce proponents to go directly from Direct-Drive turbofans to Open Rotor designs for the next generation aircrafts. This left Pratt & Whitney as the only major engine manufacturer promoting high by-pass ratio geared turbofans as a better alternative for these aircrafts. With the Rolls-Royce announcement of Advance for 2020 (Carbon fanned tri-shaft) and Ultrafan (Geared big fan) for 2025, this has all changed. Suddenly Pratt & Whitney has strong support in their strategy and GE/SAFRAN stand out as loners.
By honing key technologies in their traditional two shaft turbofans GE, and GE/SAFRAN in CFM, have built a market leading position in all thrust classes, Regional (CF34), Single Aisle (CFM56) and Dual Aisle (CF6, GEnx, GE90). Their declared next step was Open Rotor for future Single Aisle while keeping Direct-Drive for larger engines.

Airbus and Snecma continue to research open rotor technology. Aviation Week has this story.
Now this solid position is threatened. The geared architecture has won the future regional market (CSeries, MRJ, E-Jet E2 goes PW GTF), market parity on the A320neo family and the 757 replacement studies by Boeing (dubbed NAS, New Airplane Study) will not go Open Rotor as Open Rotor only works up to M 0.75 and the 757 replacement will likely fly over 4,000nm, necessitating higher cruise speed. The NAS will thereby favor a geared turbofan instead of Open Rotor. Why not Direct-Drive? There are two major reasons:

  •  A geared design allows higher by-pass ratios and thereby higher propulsive efficiency without the engine being too heavy from its large low pressure turbine needed to drive a high BPR fan.
  • A geared design can allow the big fan to rotate slowly and with a low pressure ratio. This creates a low noise engine, a very important feature for aircrafts operating out of noise troubled airports.

GE/SAFRAN has shown with their CFM LEAP project that they can match the efficiency levels of a geared engine like Pratt & Whitney’s GTF, using its superior hot section technology to achieve the high efficiency. It cannot achieve the low noise levels of a geared fan however; engine noise stands in direct relation to fan rotational speed and pressure ratio.
It will thereby be the environmental factors that will put the most stress on GE/SAFRAN’s present strategy. Having lost the regionals to the geared camp, will it also lose the next generation short/medium haul? It will be interesting to watch the GE/SAFRAN over the next 18 months: does it change strategy or not? If one goes by the recent words of GE Aviation President David Joyce (who spoke at last week’s opening of their Indiana LEAP factory), he thinks his present line-up is fine for a 757 replacement, and he sees no urgent need for new developments.

By Leeham Co EU

Rolls-Royce plans for new single-aisle, twin-aisle airplane engines

Rolls-Royce may not be at a cross road but it’s certainly at a fork in the road.

RR sought to be a dual-source supplier for the Boeing 777X, competing with GE Aviation for the privilege; it was generally a given that GE would be a provider. The question was whether it would be the sole supplier or share the platform with another. Pratt & Whitney withdrew, concluding the business case wasn’t there for its proposed big Geared Turbo Fan. RR stayed in the competition, assured by Boeing that it wasn’t a stalking horse to GE.

But GE won the position as exclusive supplier, much to RR’s consternation.

Next, the future of the Airbus A350-800, powered exclusively by RR, is in serious doubt. The backlog is now down to a mere 46 as customer after customer, encouraged by Airbus, up-gauged to the A350-900 and -1000 sub-types. While RR is also the exclusive supplier on each of these models, and the engines are largely common, there has been substantial investment by Rolls on the -800’s application. If the -800 is canceled (as many industry observers believe it will be), RR’s investment is largely down the drain. How does Airbus “make good” to RR for this?

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Odds and Ends: Rolls follows Pratt with GTF technology; Airbus’ challenge;

Rolls-Royce and GTF: Rolls-Royce today said it will pursue technology for its next big engine that follows the Geared Turbo Fan technology of Pratt & Whitney’s smaller design.

Aviation Week has this story and Bloomberg has this one.

RR says the engine will be ready around 2020, which is just about the time Emirates Airlines would like to see an engine that is 10% more efficient than today’s technologies, for the Airbus A380.

Airbus’ challenge: Reuters has a think-piece about the challenge Airbus faces in the heart-of-the-market twin-aisle sector occupied by the A330 and A350. Bloomberg discusses the A350 challenge in its report of Airbus Group earnings.

Odds and Ends: Airbus neos; 757RS/A320RS; charity efforts

Airbus neos: The conversation continues, with Tom Williams, EVP of programmes, giving an interview to Flight Global about the A330neo and the A380neo. Plane Talking has another version of the Williams interview. Notable in Plane Talking’s report is the indication Williams said it will be a year before a decision is made on the A330neo. Our information is that a decision, whether yes or no, is due this year. PT also reports Williams indicated an A380neo would be a 2020s product. This suggests the prospect of a new engine from Rolls-Royce, which is under development, or conceivably a Big Engine Pratt & Whitney GTF could be considered.

757RS/A320RS: Aerotubropower, whose expertise is engines, discusses the implications of the planned improvements in fuel burn on the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan and what this means for the replacement of the Boeing 757, 737 and Airbus A320 families.

Charity efforts: IAM 751, the touch-labor union for Boeing, is often portrayed as a bunch greedy members who feel a sense of entitlement. One can certainly debate this point, but what isn’t debatable is 751′s efforts at charity throughout the year. Every once in a while, we pop over to 751′s blog. Today (Feb. 19) the first four items are about philanthropic efforts in Pierce and King counties.

Just as 751 members are often cast as greedy, so is Boeing, so it is only proper in this context to point out that Boeing also engages in philanthropic endeavors throughout the US (we don’t know about abroad). Here’s a link to some of Boeing’s efforts.

Odds and Ends: LEAP vs GTF; CSeries flight testing; MRJ FAL

LEAP vs GTF: Reuters has a story looking at the intense competition between CFM and Pratt & Whitney for the market dominance of the LEAP vs Geared Turbo Fan engines.

The only airplane where there is competition is on the Airbus A320neo family; CFM is exclusive on the Boeing 737 MAX and COMAC C919 and PW is exclusive on the Bombardier CSeries, Embraer E-Jet E2 and Mitsubishi MRJ. PW shares the platform of the Irkut MC-21 with a Russian engine. PW says it has sold more than 5,000 GTFs across the platforms. CFM has sold more than 6,000 across the three models it powers.

On the A320neo family, the competition is 50-50 at this point, with a large number of customers yet to decide on an engine choice. However, 60 A320neos (120 engines) ordered by lessor GECAS never were in contested (GECAS buys exclusively from CFM) and 80 A319/320neos from Republic Airways Holdings (160 engines) were part of a financial rescue package for then-ailing Frontier Airlines.

PW’s joint venture partner, International Aero Engines, shares the A320ceo family platform with CFM. Late to the market, IAE caught up to CFM in recent years.

On platforms where they compete, the sales figures so far show a neck-and-neck competition between CFM and PW.

Update, 12:30: The link has been fixed. Update, 9:30 am PST: Flight Global has this story reporting that PW plans a Performance Improvement Package on the GTF that will further cut fuel consumption by 3%.

CSeries flight testing: Bombardier’s CSeries flight testing has been slow to this point, but it’s beginning to ramp up. Aviation Week reports that FTV 3 should be in the air by the end of this month and FTV 4 should follow in April. FTV 3 is the avionics airplane and FTV 4 focuses on GTF engine testing.

Mitsubishi MRJ: Aviation Week also reports that the Mitsubishi MRJ airplane #1 is nearing final assembly.

Odds and Ends: 777X wing to Everett; Boeing discounts; A330, A380neos; A350 debugging; 787 bonuses; CSeries costs up $1bn

777X wing to Everett: Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times reports that Everett (WA) at Paine Field has been selected for the production site of the 777X wing. The plant will be adjacent the huge  Boeing factory at Paine Field.

Boeing’s facility in Pierce County 65 miles away was another possibility, as was a site on the west side of Paine Field.

Boeing discounts: The Blog by Javier figures the average Boeing pricing discount for its 7-Series airplanes last year was 45%. Note that this is “average.” We’re aware of some campaigns that comfortably exceeded 50%. The same can be said for Airbus.

A330, A380neos: Aviation Week has a good interview with Tom Williams, EVP of programmes for Airbus, over the prospect of A330 and A380 neos. Although the AvWeek article includes the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan as a possibility for the A330neo, we’ve previously reported that the timeline being discussed–a 2018 EIS–precludes the possibility because PW can’t develop a Big Engine GTF before 2020.

A350 debugging: Bloomberg has a long article about the “debugging” process for the A350.

787 bonuses: Boeing has offered its Charleston employees bonuses if they meet production targets for the 787: three 787s a month by this summer, a good six months later than had been targeted (year-end 2013). The report comes from the Charleston Post and Courier via The Everett Herald.

CSeries costs up $1bn: Bombardier announced its year-end earnings Thursday and bumped the program cost of the CSeries by $1bn. Reaction among analysts was not kind. See stories here, here and here.

Repost: Pratt & Whitney GTF program update at PNAA conference, plus Q&A PW, RR and GE

Due to technical issues we don’t begin to understand, the PW GTF engine program update didn’t display the videos, only the links. We are re-posting to correct the situation because we couldn’t fix it within the original post.

Bob Saia, VP of Next Generation Engine development at Pratt & Whitney, provides a program update of the Geared Turbo Fan engine and its prospect of growing into a “Big Engine” serving the twin-aisle market. He appeared at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance 2014 conference in the Seattle area last week.

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Questions and Answers

The following videos are questions and answers of the representatives of the Big Three engine manufacturers. Sound is soft on these two videos; best to use headphones.

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Rolls-Royce Trent engines program update at PNAA conference

Bill Boyd, senior vice president of Rolls-Royce, provided a program update of its Trent engines that are being developed for the Airbus A350 XWB. He appeared on a panel with GE Aviation and Pratt & Whitney. He appeared at the 2014 Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference last week in the Seattle area.

Sound is soft; use of headphones is recommended.

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Updating the A380: the prospect of a neo version and what’s involved

Recent headlines and this column report that Airbus is considering re-engining the popular A330 with GE Aviation GEnx or Rolls-Royce Trent 1000-TEN power plants. A New Engine Option and other changes would improve the A330’s economy by an estimated 10% percent after offsets for increased drag and weight.

But the A330 isn’t the only Airbus airplane being considered for new engines made popular by the A320neo family. Tim Clark, president and chief operating officer of Emirates Airlines, urged Airbus to improve efficiency of the giant A380 with engine technology found in newer generation aircraft.

How feasible is an A380neo? What are the technological issues? Would there be enough of an economic gain? And is there a market for an A380neo?

The A380 of today

The A380 has been hailed as a highly efficient airliner since it went into service 2008, assuming the giant plane can be filled. But only six years later, the first voices have been raised that this will not continue to be the case should the continuous improvements that have been flowing into the airframe not pick up speed.

The launch of the Boeing 777X also brought focus on the state of the A380 come the latter part of this decade when the 777-9X enters flight testing in advance of its planned 2020 entry-into-service. Tim Clark expressed  that “it is time that the A380 gets an injection of the new technology which is now becoming available for the A320/737 in the form of GTF/LEAP and GE9X for the 777X. “

Before we look into what can be done short-to–mid-term to inject improved efficiency, let’s establish the baseline as it exists today. The A380 is considered by some the most efficient way of flying passengers between two long haul points if there is enough of demand. The competition today is the Boeing 777-300ER and 747-8i.  (Qantas Airways is dropping some A380 flights that have 50% load factors, demonstrating the aircraft is inefficient if the demand is insufficient.)

Let’s assume we want to transport passengers between San Francisco and Hong Kong, one of the longer flights which are made non-stop in both directions. Going West, it takes a Cathay 777-300ER 15 hours and going East, 12 hours, the difference being due to prevailing headwinds going West. For our check, we will use the more demanding of these legs, which then works out as the equivalent of flying 7,200nm. To compare the three different aircraft in a fair way, we need to load them to the same payload, in our case passengers with luggage. We will not consider cargo in this initial analysis. The leg chosen is not one which allows much weight for cargo, but cargo certainly belongs to a complete analysis of an airplane and we will point out where it will affect any conclusions.  

When comparing the standard three-class seating numbers between the OEMs, it is clear these are not made to the same standards of comfort. Airbus has admitted that the A380 is too lightly loaded at 525 passengers. The 777-300ER at nine abreast and 365 seats is equipped with a comfortable 18’’ economy class at 32’’ pitch but the business class is modeled with a non-standard 48’’ pitch. The 747-8i at 467 seats is not laid out to any comfort standards comparable to the other two. To ensure an apples-to-apples comparison we have equipped all aircraft with the same three-class cabin with a standard seating consisting of first class at 81’’ pitch, business class at 60’’ pitch and economy class with 32’’ pitch. Seat widths are 37’’, 22’’ and 18’ respectively and the ratios of the different premium seatings vs. economy are kept the same. Here the aircraft are listed with the in-service year and with their respective payload capabilities:

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Odds and Ends: A330neo decision could be near; KC-46A; Countdown to Superbowl; A400M

A330neo decision: Aviation Week reports that a decision to proceed with the Airbus A330neo could be “imminent.” The report also discusses the advocacy by Tim Clark, COO of Emirates Airlines, to re-engine the Airbus A380. As with the Reuters and Bloomberg articles we previously linked, the Aviation Week piece also confirms much of what we were the first news outlet to report in December. We have a launch in 2014 rather than 2015 reported in Aviation Week, although we both have a decision to proceed for this year. Aviation Week and Bloomberg report that the decision could come as early as March.

Aviation Week confirms our report that Pratt & Whitney would be unlikely to bid on the project because the short time lime precludes development of the big engine version of the Geared Turbo Fan.

KC-46A at ‘high risk’ for delay: A US government report suggests the Boeing KC-46A tanker is at ‘high risk’ of a six month delay.

These are not unusual for military programs, nor, it seems, is it any longer unusual for new or derivative aircraft programs. Boeing believes the program is on time, but even if a six or 12 month delay does emerge, by today’s standards, this indeed is “on time.”

Countdown to Super Bowl: Boeing painted a Boeing 747-8F test plane in the Seattle Seahawks livery and this week “skywrote” the number 12 on a flight. The Seahawks play the Denver Broncos Sunday in New Jersey for the Super Bowl. The number “12″ represents “the 12th man,” of the collective Seahawks fan base.

We think it would be super for the 747 to overfly the game Sunday, the ultimate 12th man appearance. Alas, Boeing says there are no plans to do so.

A400M: Cool picture. No other words needed.