Farnborough Air Show, July 13: CSeries program analysis

The unexpected pre-Farnborough Air Show announcement by Bombardier for letters of intent for up to 24 CS100s is welcome news for the company and the program.

Although an announcement by Falko Regional Aircraft Leasing of a firm order would have been more welcome, history shows that LOIs tend to be converted into firm orders eventually, whether these are from Airbus, Boeing, Embraer–or Bombardier. With the Falko LOI, BBD now has 471 firm orders and commitments for the CSeries.

Hand-wringing headlines and stories over May’s engine incident in which a Pratt & Whitney P1000G Geared Turbo Fan during a CSeries ground test and the assumed hugely negative impact on the program these stories and headlines suggest are way overblown.

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PW Media Day: Real-time monitoring, combining IAE/PW service

This is the next in our series of reports from the Pratt & Whitney Media Days, May 19-20. This interview with Robert Saia, VP Next Generation Product Family, occurred before the Bombardier CSeries-PW GTF engine issue occurred.

Real time tracking information tracking came to the forefront because of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370. Much was written about ACARS, which apparently was turned off shortly after 370’s last radio transmission. ACARS provides hourly updates to the airline, or to the engine/airframe makers, about the aircraft’s health monitoring system. ACARS was also important in the Air France 447 investigation in which the Airbus A330 disappeared over the South Atlantic.

We sat down with Saia to discuss, among other things, real-time engine tracking transmissions.

“We have developed in the past, the ability to monitor the engine in service, taking snapshots or continuous monitoring why the airplane was flying and downloading that when the aircraft landed. Either the airline or PW could analyze that data to look at what we call health monitoring to manage the serviceability of that engine.

“In addition to looking to solve problems, PW can also simulate characteristics to predict whether problems might arise based on prior flights,” Saia says. “The intent was to help the airline or PW, if it was providing the maintenance service, to troubleshoot, especially for an AOG (aircraft on ground) situations.

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CSeries setback as PW GTF has reported uncontained failure

  • Exclusive interview with Robert Saia, vice president of the Next Generation Product Family at Pratt & Whitney.
  • PW believes it has a “good understanding” of what happened.
  • Flight testing might resume quickly, reducing risk of program delay.
  • Customers coming to previously scheduled Bombardier meeting, will be permitted to see the airplane.
  • CSeries EIS delay not expected.

Bombardier, already facing an 18-24 month delay for its CSeries, may face another delay, some fear, following Friday’s reported uncontained engine failure of the Pratt & Whitney P1500G Geared Turbo Fan engine.

BBD grounded its four test airplanes while an investigation gets underway. The engine failure also damaged the fuselage of FTV 1. FTV 4, the airplane in airline configuration that is to validate economic promises of the GTF, had only been on three or four test flights in the slow-moving testing program. FTVs 2 and 3 have been flying for some time. FTV 5, 6 and 7 had not yet taken to the air.

There was a reported fire associated with the failure, but this is unconfirmed. Smoke was filmed during the event, but based on information Saturday, it’s unclear if a fire actually occurred, according to a person close to the investigation. The airplane was on the ground in Montreal at the time, and the four crew members were uninjured.

BBD, PW and Transport Canada are all investigating.

Engine failures during testing are rare but not unknown.

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Pratt & Whitney’s lean, additive manufacturing

Airframe manufacturers have long been transitioning to Lean Manufacturing, improving efficiency, increasing production rates, going to robotics and just-in-time supply chains. Engine manufacturers haven’t received the same headlines but this doesn’t mean they’ve been standing still.

We talked with Alan Epstein, vice president of technology and environment at Pratt & Whitney during the firm’s Media Day last week, about PW’s efforts to streamline manufacturing and undertake advanced techniques.

Additive or 3D manufacturing is gaining popularity in industry, and in training for new-hires to go into industry.

The additive manufacturing is used to test concepts, highly complex shapes and create molds, but Epstein said it isn’t new.

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PW Media Day 2: GTF gets 35,000 lb thrust rating

Pratt & Whitney today confirmed that it will offer a Pure Power Geared Turbo Fan engine with 35,000 lbs of thrust, an increase of two thousand pounds from the previously announced model that powers the Airbus A321neo.

Officials declined to confirm our previously reported thrust bump for the Bombardier CSeries GTF, continuing to stick with its prepared statement.

Thrust bumps are largely considered for hot-and-high operations, where the extra boost is needed to get off the runway with maximum payload. In most operations, the extra thrust isn’t needed. The trade for the extra thrust is higher maintenance costs.

Airlines, according to one engineer, tell engine OEMs that they don’t want the extra thrust as the engine is being designed because of the associated extra costs, but then invariably later say they do.

Market Intelligence tells us CFM is going to provide a 35,000 lb model of the LEAP that powers the A321neo and the Boeing 737-9 MAX.

Separately, PW announced:

  • Six prototype V2500 engines built by affiliate International Aero Engines were shipped to Embraer for its KC-390 MRTT tanker. Flight testing will begin this year and certification is expected in the third quarter.
  • PW is “significantly” increasing capacity in advance of increased engine production demands for the civil and military markets.
  • PW signed $10bn in long-term supplier agreements with 90 companies globally for civil and military engines.

Airbus, Boeing face pricing pressure

Airbus and Boeing face pricing squeezes that are the result of their continuing price wars and two products that need price cuts to maintain sales.

The fierce single-aisle battle between Airbus and Boeing, and to a much lesser extent, between Airbus and Bombardier, puts pricing pressure on the A320ceo and to some degree the A320neo.

Airbus and Boeing each blame the other for a price war that has put pressure on margins for the in-production airplanes, but market share battles are only part of the issue. There is the need to keep the production lines humming for these airplanes in advance of the transition to the re-engined A320neo and 737 MAX, particularly as the Big Two up production rates over the next few years.

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PW mum about reported thrust bump on GTF

Sylvain Faust, who follows the Bombardier CSeries more closely than anyone else we know except the program participants, last night posted a piece that says the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan engine now in testing with the CSeries is up to 25,000 lbs of thrust–a 9.3% increase. The thrust bump is more geared toward take-off performance than economy, Faust reports. The CS100 is a short-field, hot-and-high airplane, among its other attributes.

Pratt & Whitney declined to comment directly on Faust’s report.

“Pratt & Whitney is on track to meet the PW1500G engine commitments made to customers on entry into service. Our focus remains on successfully supporting Bombardier in the completion of aircraft certification testing and meeting all of our performance commitments on schedule,” a spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, Bombardier posted a short video update on the program.

CSeries FTV 4 to launch this month with PW GTF testing focus

Bombardier’s CSeries flight testing has now passed the 250 hour flight mark, with three Fight Test Vehicles (FTVs) in the program. FTV 4 is due to become airborne in May. This will be a milestone for the program because this is the airplane that will focus on the performance of the Pratt & Whitney P1000G Pure Power engine that is so integral to the development of Bombardier’s leap into the mainline jet business.

When BBD first proposed aircraft in the 110-130 seat sector, the C110 and C130, in 2004, this was “just another airplane:” little new in the way of airframe technology and using engines then in production. Withdrawn from the market after little interest, BBD revised the airplane into the CS100 and CS300, using an aluminum lithium fuselage and PW’s new Geared Turbo Fan engine.

The GTF promises around 15%-16% fuel consumption reduction and a dramatic decrease in noise footprints. While BBD has gained knowledge of how the GTF is performing from the first three FTVs, No. 4 will be the one that will prove whether all the engineering projections for the engines are correct and whether the engine/airframe combination will meet BBD’s promises of fuel efficiency.

Bombardier also hopes that meeting these representations will get a few customers that have been in the “show me” column to become believers. Disappointed with three program delays that have moved entry-into-service back to the second half of next year, potential customers need some solid results.

The stakes couldn’t be higher for BBD. The CSeries promises quieter operations at especially noise-sensitive airports, including Billy Bishop Airport in BBD’s own backyard in Toronto. Porter Airlines has a conditional order for up to 30 CS100s for use at this downtown airport, and the promised quiet operation is key to government approval to allow commercial jet operations there. This isn’t the only noise-sensitive airport.

Bombardier promotes its CSeries as being more economical than the competing Airbus A319neo and Boeing 737-7 MAX, and our analysis concurs. Sales figures also support BBD: the CS300 has far outsold the A319neo and 737-7.

For Pratt & Whitney, this is the beginning of the end of more than 25 years of research and development of the Geared Turbo Fan, a multi-billion dollar bet to return to the commercial airline engine market it once dominated but lost to rival CFM International when the latter won exclusive rights to power what is now referred to as the Boeing 737 Classic, rights that continue through the 737 MAX.

PW’s bet to return paid off. More than 5,000 GTFs have been sold on the CSeries, the Mitsubishi MRJ and Embraer E-Jet E2, on all of which it is the exclusive power plant; and it has evenly split the market on the A320neo family, on which it competes with CFM and its LEAP engine.

The industry keenly awaits flight test results from BBD’s FTV 4.

OEMs are ramping up services as profit centers

Original Equipment Manufacturers are ramping up their focus on services to increase these as profit centers for company financial performance.

The news April 10 that Boeing will relocate its Commercial Aviation Services unit from Seattle to its fading facility in Long Beach (CA) is another example. After-market support services for all DC- and MD- models and the out-of-production 7 Series airplanes previously were relocated to Southern California. Now, support for the in-production 7 Series (except the 787), the 737-based P-8A Poseidon and the forthcoming KC-46A will shift to SoCal. The 787, 737 MAX and forthcoming 777X support will be in Seattle.

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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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