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: 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.



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.



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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Embraer continues and refines its strategy at the low-end of 100-149 seat sector

While Airbus and Boeing slug it out in the competition for the duopoly and Bombardier struggles to gain respect as an emerging mainline jetliner producer, Embraer continues and refines its strategy in the smaller-end of the jet market with its E-Jets, E-Jet “Plus” (our term) and the E-Jet E-2.

Source: Embraer, Reprinted with permission.

Source: Embraer, Reprinted with permission.

Embraer is broadening its offering from a maximum of 122 seats to a maximum of 132 and dropping its low-end E-170 from future variants. This brings the EMB family to 90-132 seats, following the decision to undertake an extreme makeover of the current E-175/190/195 line by adapting the Pratt & Whitney P1000 Geared Turbo Fan engine to a new wing design and upgrading a variety of systems in the E-Jet E2.

New Features

 Source: Embraer. Reprinted with permission.

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Odds and Ends: Next phase for CSeries; the C-17

Next phase for CSeries: Canada’s Financial Post has a report on how the Bombardier CSeries, powered by the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan engine, is “ushering” in a new era of quiet flight.

As we noted in a post last Monday, the engines are key to the success of the CSeries, given the promised sharply lower noise profile and fuel burn.

Speaking of noise, a noisy crowd appeared before a town hall meeting in Toronto where Porter Airlines’ proposal to fly the CSeries into the downtown Toronto City Airport was the topic. The airport, located in the lake a few hundred yards off the shoreline, is highly noise sensitive. Porter placed a conditional order for up to 30 CS100s for operation out of the airport, which is currently restricted to turbo-props for commercial service. The low noise promises for the CSeries is key to Porter’s conditional order, which will be firmed only if a tripartite governmental agreement lifts the jet ban.

Aviation Week, meanwhile, has this report about the first flight and the challenges facing the flight test program, which is currently planned for one year from last Monday’s first flight.

Keeping the C-17 alive: Boeing announced the end of production of the C-17 in 2015, but Defense News has an article suggesting how the C-17 might live on.

CSeries takes to air for the first time; PW also conducting own tests with new GTF engine

Update: First flight touchdown at 12:24 EDT, 2 1/2 hours.

Original Post:

Bombardier’s multi-billion dollar gamble to leap from regional airliner manufacturer into the mainline arena took off this morning at about 9:54 AM EDT. The CSeries CS100 Flight Test Vehicle 1 took to the air in clear skies at Montreal Mirabel Airport.

BBD’s flight tests are scheduled to last 12 months. There will be five Flight Test Vehicles based on the 110-seat CS100. Two more FTVs, based on the 135-seat (two class) CS300 will join the program later.

The CS100 is planned to enter service 12 months after the first flight; the CS300 is planned to enter service six months after the CS100.

Bombardier will be testing and monitoring all flight characteristics, performance and systems parameters.

Engine maker Pratt & Whitney will be keenly watching the test flights and evaluating its new engine, the P1000G Pure Power Geared Turbo Fan. This is PW’s multi-billion dollar bet to become a major player again in commercial transports. The GTF has been in development nearly 30 years.

PW, of course, spent the last several years testing the GTF as the company narrowed in on the design that has now been chosen for five platforms: the CSeries, the A320neo family, the Mitsubishi MRJ regional jet, Embraer’s E-Jet E2 re-engine, and a shared position on the Irkut MC-21 from Russia.

PW promises fuel savings of up to 16% over today’s engines, a point better than the competing CFM LEAP. It promises reliability as good as its V2500 on the A320 family. PW undertook years of tests on the ground and flight tests on an Airbus A340 and a PW-owned Boeing 747SP, but flight tests on the CSeries-the first mating of the new engine to the first of the five platforms-will be closely scrutinized to see if performance validates all the tests.

Robert Saia, vice president of PW’s Next Generation Product Family, tells us that ground tests and PW’s Flying Test Bed (FTB) provided the data PW needed to make its promises for the engine. Validating this data on FTV 1 is only part of the engine side of the test program. Overall power capability, specific thrust requirements (notably for go-around situations and spool-up, or re-acceleration, time) will be run during the flight testing.

PW promises an engine that will enable the CSeries to have a 70% smaller noise footprint than its in-production competitors flying today, the Boeing 737-700 and Airbus A319. But this will be the first time the GTF is flown on the plane for which it was designed, so acoustical tests will be performed.

Proving the CSeries and the GTF are as quiet as promised is especially important to Bombardier. It’s sold the airplane to airlines serving noise-sensitive airports in London and Sweden. Canada’s Porter Airlines has a conditional order for up to 30 CS100s for use at Toronto’s downtown City Airport, where noise is an especially sensitive issue.

Acoustical tests don’t have to be performed at these airports, but may be done at any airport that has a certified, noise-calibrated system.

Another key element PW will be watching is the electric communication between the engine and the cockpit and validating maintenance troubleshooting guidelines that will be given to airlines, which must be compatible with the flight manual.

CSeries first flight may be Sunday, says Reuters

The thrice-delayed first flight of the Bombardier CSeries may come Sunday, reports Reuters.

We previously posted some thoughts on the pending first flight. We expanded on these thoughts in our e-mail newsletter Aug. 26. Below is the entire newsletter.

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