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

More A350-800 orders vanish

Twelve more Airbus A350-800 orders vanished as Aircraft Purchase Fleet canceled, according to the latest tally from Airbus. APF is the special purpose company set up for Alitalia Airlines, which is a financial basket case and probably couldn’t finance a Piper Cub, let alone an A350. In this case, the -800s were not upgraded to -900s or -1000s, according to the monthly Airbus Orders and Deliveries tally. There are now just 34 A358s in backlog.

The shrinking backlog further suggests the need for a refresh of the A330 with a re-engine, in our view. Without the A350-800, Airbus won’t have a competitor in the 250 seat sector that has any current technology. An A330neo with new engines would at least fill some of this void.

Meantime, Delta Air Lines issued a Request for Proposals for 50 wide-body aircraft to replace its aging Boeing 747-400s and some 767-300ERs. Delta’s CEO has said he could be interested in the A330neo. Delta eschews new technology, preferring “proven” technology, which could work against the Boeing 777X powered by an entirely new engine. By the time Delta would be ready to take delivery of its order, the A350XWB and its new technology will have been in service for many years. Delta has a deferred order for the Boeing 787-8 it inherited from Northwest Airlines, and this technology will be mature by the time Delta would be able to take delivery, so the 787 family could be in the mix. So could an A330neo, which would most likely be powered by one of the 787′s engine options, the GEnx or the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 TEN. Market intelligence tells us Delta is pushing the GEnx, given its strong relationship with GE.

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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Investigative focus on MAS MH370

The following will be areas of focus for the investigation of the Malaysian Airlines MH370 crash, involving a Boeing 777-200ER equipped with Rolls-Royce engines. These are standard areas of investigation and at this point, listing them here doesn’t imply or suggest any one area is more prevalent than another.

  • Catastrophic structural failure of the airframe and/or engines. We consider this highly unlikely, given the sterling history of the 777, but investigators will look at this possibility.
  • Dual engine flame out and immediate loss of control. The RR engines have had a history of icing that cut fuel flow. This was the cause of the British Airways 777-200ER crash landing at London Heathrow. A fix was undertaken, but this possibility will undoubtedly be considered. Even if this happened, unless there was an immediate loss of control,  there would have been glide time and the ability of the crew to radio an emergency. The Ram Air Turbine (RAT) would have supplied basic power and instrumentation.
  • Control upset caused by clear air turbulence. Apparently weather was good but CAT is not unusual in the Pacific. CAT would have to be awfully extreme to cause an upset of such magnitude as to permit the airplane to dive into the ocean in so short a period of time as to preclude a radio call. But remember that Air France 447 descended from cruising altitude to impact without a radio call in a very short period of time.
  • Cockpit penetration and incapacitation of the crew, followed by deliberate destruction of the airplane.
  • A bomb.
  • Any prospect of an accidental shoot-down by a military missile.
  • Pilot suicide. As inflammatory as this possibility is, this has been the cause of at least two crashes into water. The history of the pilots will be studied and any information from the black boxes will help on this point,

Odds and Ends: Repairing composites; More on Rolls-Royce; Boeing layoffs; Book Review; A380 assessment

Repairing composites: Aviation Week has a good article about repairing composites: specifically the Boeing 787 that caught fire at London Heathrow Airport a year ago.

More on Rolls-Royce: Aviation Week also has a longer article to follow up its previous one on the development of new engines by Rolls-Royce. This one details RR’s 20-year engine plan.

Boeing layoffs: It’s one of those good news-bad news things. Boeing announced layoffs for 600 workers in San Antonio (TX). That’s bad news. But it’s because there is little 787 work remaining at this center used to catch up on fixing and finishing 787s during the huge backlog of airplanes. That’s good news. The San Antonio Business Journal has this story.

Separately, the Puget Sound Business Journal reports that St. Louis apparently was the leading contender to be the home for the Boeing 777X if Seattle’s IAM 751 hadn’t approved a new contract.

Book review-The Aviators: We’ve just finished a book focusing on Charles Lindbergh, Eddie Rickenbacker and Jimmy Doolittle and recommend it. The Aviators provides a single location for coverage of these three remarkable pioneers. If you’ve read dedicated biographies of these three, you probably won’t learn much that’s new but if not, this is a great one-stop shop.

Lindbergh was much more than “just” an aviator. He was an environmentalist and a scientist. Aviators also covers the kidnapping of his namesake son. Doolittle’s career as a salesman of airplanes and his hand in urging his employer, Shell Oil, to create 100 octane aviation gas, is chronicled. Rickenbacker’s entry into England is highlighted when British authorities thought him a German spy because of his name.

Aviators follows their stories through to death.

A380 assessment: No, it’s not by Richard Aboulafia, who views the Airbus A380 as his favorite whipping boy. It’s an opinion written by an Aviation Week reporter. It’s not a rousing endorsement of the A380′s future.

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.

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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Looking ahead to 2014

Here’s what to look for in 2014 in commercial aviation.

Airbus

A350 XWB: The high-profile A350 XWB program continues flight testing this year. Entry-into-service has been a sliding target. The program is running about 18 months behind original plan and EIS was intended for mid-year following initial delays. Even this has slipped, first to September and then to “the fourth quarter.” Currently first delivery is scheduled in October to launch customer Qatar Airways, which is slated to get four A350-900s this year. Emirates Airlines is listed as getting two of the total of six scheduled for delivery.

A320neo: Lost in the shadow of the A350 program is the A320neo. Final assembly of the first aircraft is to begin in the spring and first flight, followed by testing, is scheduled for this fall. The Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan is the initial variant. First delivery is scheduled in the fall of 2015.

Others: Airbus continues to evaluate whether to proceed with developing an A330neo. Based on our Market Intelligence, we expect a decision to proceed will come this year. Concurrently with this, we expect most if not all of the remaining 61 orders for the A350-800 to be upgraded to the A350-900 and the -800 program to be officially rescheduled if not dropped. The -800 is currently supposed to enter service in 2016, followed by the A350-1000 in 2017. But recall that as delays mounted on the A350-900, Airbus shifted engineers to the -900 and the -1000 at the expense of the -800. Salesmen have consistently shifted orders from the -800 to the larger models. We long ago anticipated the -800’s EIS would be rescheduled to 2018, following the -1000. The -800’s economics aren’t compelling enough just justify the expensive list price. So we expect Airbus to upgrade the A330 to a new engine option, using either or both of the Trent 1000 TEN and GEnx with PIPs (Performance Improvement Packages) or with some modifications. EIS would be about 2018. This precludes Pratt & Whitney from offering a large version of the Geared Turbo Fan, which wouldn’t be ready by then.

We also expect Airbus and the engine makers to look at re-engining the A380, driven by desires of Emirates Airlines to see a 10% economic improvement. Emirates announced an order for 50 A380s at the Dubai Air Show but instead of ordering the incumbent engine from Engine Alliance for these, Emirates left the engine choice open. This leaves open the possibility the A330neo and the “A380RE” could share an engine choice.

Boeing

After many years of turmoil, 2014 should be quiet for Boeing (now that the IAM issues have been resolved—see below).

787: Barring any untoward and unexpected issues, Boeing seems at long last to be on an upward trajectory with this program—but we’ve said this before. There are still nagging dispatch and fleet reliability issues on the 787-8 fleet to resolve, but flight testing of the 787-9 appears to be going well. Certification and first delivery should come without trouble this year, to launch customer Air New Zealand.

737: Nothing to report on the Next Generation program except ramp-up to a production rate of 42/mo is to take effect this year. Development continues on the 737 MAX.

Others: The 777 Classic is humming along. Now that the 777X is launched, we’ll be closely watching sales for the Classic; Boeing has a three year backlog but six years to 777X’s EIS. How is Boeing going to fill this gap, and what kind of price cuts will be offered to do so?

The 747-8 continues to struggle, barely holding on. Boeing says it thinks the cargo market will recover this year, boosting sales of the 747-8F. We’re dubious.

The 767 commercial program continues to wind down. The 767-based KC-46A program ramps up.

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