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.

The Wall Street Journal noted:

A Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC engine for a Boeing 787 Dreamliner suffered an uncontained failure in August 2010, traced to excessive engine oil during a ground test at the company’s Derby, U.K. facility. The failure on the engine due for one of Boeing’s test aircraft slowed its planned deliveries by several weeks and was one of several delays that slowed Boeing Dreamliner development.

Canada’s Financial Post wrote:

In 2012, a Dreamliner doing high-speed taxi tests spewed debris from its General Electric Co. engine, igniting a grass fire along a runway at the Charleston, South Carolina, airport near Boeing’s new factory.

The incidents caused delays to the troubled 787 testing program, but causes were determined relatively quickly.

Variants of the GTF have been selected for the CSeries, the Airbus A320neo family, the Embraer E-Jet E2, the Irkut MC-21 and the Mitsubishi MRJ. The projected entry-into-service dates are shown below.

GTF EIS

Robert Saia, vice president of the Next Generation Product Family at PW, told Leeham News in an exclusive interview Saturday that progress has already been achieved on the investigation.

“We believe we have a good understanding of what happened and understanding the root cause,” he said. “If we are correct, it will be a quick resolution.”

Bombardier is taking the event “very seriously,” an official told us. We understand that FTV 1, while damaged, will be shown to customers who were previously scheduled for a meeting this week.

Saia told Leeham News that it appears from the initial review that this event could be an anomaly and not a design issue, but cautioned it’s too soon to draw any conclusions.”The likelihood of this being a design issue is pretty low,” Saia said. The Wall Street Journal, citing an unidentified source, gave a somewhat contradictory indication.

The investigation is proceeding rapidly and an understanding could come within days.

The Bombardier official noted that the engines on FTV 1 are prototype engines, not production engines, which are fitted on FTV 4.

The event raised immediate concern whether this could delay the entry-into-service of the CSeries CS100, scheduled for the second half of 2015. CS300 EIS follows by six months. According to information, these are July and December.

“We’re working very hard not to let [a delay] happen,” Saia said. The event won’t affect the GTF for the Airbus A320neo, he said, which is now in testing.

When Bombardier rescheduled EIS from the third or fourth quarter this year to the second half of next year, some additional margin was built into the delay, we are told.

2 Comments on “CSeries setback as PW GTF has reported uncontained failure

  1. This is just a hiccup along the way for testing of the P&W GTF. As Leeham noted, these type of events do happen from time to time with new technology engines. Since 2010 each major engine OEM has suffered a major failure on at least one new engine type. RR even suffered an in-service uncontained engine failure on a then new engine type just a few years after EIS. That was the RR Trent-900 failure on a QF-32 A-380 revenue flight, also in 2010.

  2. The good news is that there was no damage to the composite wing. There was damage to the fuselage though, but it is made of more conventional aluminium-lithium and should be relatively easy to repair. It might actually be an opportunity to validate, and possibly update, the Standard Repair Manual (SRM).

    And it is also a good thing that this latest incident is unrelated to the one reported earlier on an A320neo engine.

    Initially I thought this CSeries incident might have something to do with the LP Turbine, which turns 2 1/2 times faster on this engine than on a more conventional one. But if indeed the incident does not require a redesign it would mean that my initial concern was probably unwarranted.

    If the downtime is limited to a week or two it should not have a big impact on the flight testing programme. It might actually be an opportunity to do more extensive work on the grounded aircraft and carry out modifications and updates on the four flight test vehicles.

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