Pratt & Whitney, rest of industry, await Boeing decision on NMA

June 1, 2017, © Leeham Co.: Pratt & Whitney, like the airlines, lessors, suppliers and competitors, awaits a decision by Boeing whether it will launch the New Midrange Aircraft for the Middle of the Market sector.

PW’s president, Bob Leduc, said the company is going through its business case studies

Bob Leduc, president of Pratt & Whitney. UTC photo.

even as it provides information to Boeing.

In an interview yesterday with Leduc and PW Commercial Engines president Chris Calio at PW’s pre-Paris Air Show media days near its West Palm Beach (FL) engine production facility, Leduc says the market size and the assumption Boeing will choose two engine makers to power the NMA are among factors that will drive the business case.

Here is a transcript of the interview on the NMA and other topics. The lead into the NMA evolved from a question about the aftermarket services PW—and Boeing—have as strategic profit-center goals.

Aftermarket services

LNC: Last year, PW said that about 80% of the GTF contracts are on Power by the Hour (PBH) maintenance contracts. The aftermarket is a real objective for P&W to increase the revenue here. How’s the aftermarket program going for the mature engines at PW?

Chris Calio: As I was alluding to in the presentation today, those are critical for us. Those

Chris Calio, president, Pratt & Whitney Commercial Engines.

aftermarket programs on the V2500 and PW2000/4000 are what is helping drive our profitability as we are delivering GTF engines.

We lose money on each GTF engine we deliver and we won’t see any aftermarket sales in EBIT (Earnings Before Interest and Taxes) before 5-6 years, when heavy shop visits come in.

Bob mentioned earlier on the V2500 that’s probably the driver on the mature engine aftermarket. We’ll see this year about 1,000 shop visits. On the V2500. That’s the biggest driver of our commercial aftermarket.

Bob Leduc: Chris said in his presentation the average age of the V2500 is about eight years. History would tell us between eight years and roughly 13 years is the sweet spot for aftermarket of any engine that we’ve ever done. The “V” will continue to be very strong for the next four to five years, which will bridge us to when the GTF starts to generate serious aftermarket revenue.

Boeing’s move

LNC: Boeing has made it a corporate, strategic goal to dramatically increase its aftermarket services. Are they going to be a competitor to Pratt & Whitney?

CC: Thus far, our understanding is that they are more on the systems side. It’s more of an issue for our brethren at UTC Aerospace Systems and how they are going to work on that. The engines thus far I don’t think has been a huge push for them.

But, look, at the end of the day our aftermarket is critical to us, so we remain vigilant about making sure we have as much aftermarket capture as we can.

BL: You’re going to have to ask Stan Deal that question. [Deal is the president of Boeing Global Services.] But Boeing is FAR 25 and we’re FAR 33. They know nothing about FAR 33.

[“FAR” is Federal Air Regulations. FAR 25 is for air transports. FAR 33 is for engines.]

Nor do they have the facilities to basically overhaul, they don’t have the infrastructure, they don’t have any of that. I think it’s harder. I won’t say it’s impossible, but I think Chris’ point is that the way our business model works, it’s like razor blades. They get engines at a very good price in exchange for us being able to get the aftermarket stream.

If they take our aftermarket stream, and start to compete for it, they’re probably not going to like the engine price, because it’s going to go up. We have shareholders we have to satisfy.

LNC: The only engine you have on a Boeing aircraft right now is the [KC-46A] tanker.

BL: I don’t think they’ll come after the tanker.

PW’s opportunity on the NMA

LNC: The only near-term opportunity that Pratt has to put an engine on Boeing is the Middle of the Market airplane. Every market intelligence that I get is that they’re going to launch that program next year. I understand that all the engine manufacturers have receive RFIs (Request for Information). Would Boeing select engines next year as well, or would that come later? And what do you rate your chances?

CC: We would be very excited about engaging on a new Boeing platform on the commercial side. To get back into the Boeing game would be a huge opportunity for us. We have been engaging with them very closely, doing trade studies and technical studies about what we can do on the geared turbofan and what benefits we think that can bring the airplane that they are now sketching out.

We think the GTF provides significant technological benefits and, candidly, advantages. The discussions have been very good so far. We want to continue that dialog.

BL: Until we get an RFP (Request for Proposal), which we have not got yet, we’ve only gotten RFIs, nobody really knows what the timing is. They haven’t been very specific about the timing for the engine down-select programs.

They notionally say mid-2020s (for entry-into-service) I think until we get that RFP, we’re really not going to know the schedule for the engine down-select. No matter what that schedule is, we’re pretty sure we can meet it. I think the debate for us is going to be, do we have a business case that satisfies our shareholders? If it does, we’ll be there.

Dual engine choice

LNC: Do you think the business case can support two manufacturers on the airplane? What is your forecast for that market?

BL: their forecast is 4,000 airplanes. Ours is not quite that large. Not far away, but not quite that large.

There’s a big debate. [Airbus] A321 single aisle or A322, whatever Airbus is going to do. And then you’ve got 787-9. You kind of get this hole, if you will. Boeing is trying to figure out, how do you fill that hole? Is it a single aisle, is it a twin-aisle? What is it? Give me a range of thrust.

Airbus, on the other hand, hey have the luxury of sitting back and reacting to whatever Boeing does. They have time. We like being on the 321. The 321 wins 80-90% of that market against the 737. We get about 50-60% share of the 321. We like that market a lot.

It’s going to be a debate. We’ve had some airlines, who will remain unnamed, approach us and said they really want the airplane and they would love to see a GTF on it. We’ve been approached with several airlines with that.

At the end of the day, we need get our heads around it. It probably will be two engines [choices]. That’s our working assumption. We’ll look at the market and what we think the market will bear in terms of price, and decide, do I have a business case that works?

PW vs CFM and Rolls-Royce

LNC: You said that the GTF is the future technology. We all know from public information that CFM and Rolls-Royce are working on geared turbo fans. Why would yours be better than theirs?

BL: I’ll answer that in two ways. We took 20 years and a billion dollars to develop the gear system. I think it’s really hard to develop a reliable gear system in five years.

Number two, we have 3,500 US patents on our gear system. We think it’s very difficult to design around those patents.

That’s why we think it’s better.

Supplier issues

LNC: At the media day last year, Greg Hayes [CEO of United Technologies] said that 44% of the suppliers on the GTF were not performing to PW standards. What’s that comparison this year?

BL: I don’t know the exact percentage. The delivery assurance and the quality signature in the supply chain is significantly better than it was a year ago. When Greg said 44% were underperforming, he didn’t mean they’re bad suppliers. We have a program called Achieving Competitive Excellence. We considering performing suppliers doing over 90% on time with basically five Sigma qualities.

We had a lot of suppliers that were in that 85%, 80% range, not quite five Sigma quality. I can tell you it’s a lot better than it was a year ago. Just given the fact of materials flowing to our engine lines, given the fact that we’ve had very few quality recalls on the commercial side in the last year, it’s significantly improved.

  • Pratt & Whitney provided travel assistance for its media days.
  • More reports to come.

34 Comments on “Pratt & Whitney, rest of industry, await Boeing decision on NMA

  1. If P&W have 3,500 US patents on the gear system, is there really any manoeuvering room for any of the other engine manufacturers to develop their own GTF?

    • Taking out patent and actually having them upheld are two different issues.

  2. I’ve just read the article in FlightGlobal with regard to patent rights with respect to reduction gear boxes. That article and this article suggest that PW own the rights to redution gear boxes regardless of the design, planetary, star or any other design.

    Reduction gearboxes have existed for hundreds of years, but now we are being told PW own them. I know competition is tough, but it is getting silly. I remember Apple launched a patent dispute with Samsung because their respective phones looked too much alike, for example round corners.

    I wonder when somebody is going to try and patent the wheel!

    • I seem to remember learning in school that the planetary wheel reduction box was invented back during the industrial revolution to get round a patent on use of the crank of a competitor when dealing with early steam engines.

      They are too right about Airbus sitting pretty with the A321, this caused me to go look at the recent production rates and the A321 is being churned out at around the same rate as the A320. Each one presumably earning a nice additional margin given the lack of effective competition in this segment.

    • the wheel gets patented weekly, it’s called a design patent, which is different from a functional patent.

      a design patent is about how something looks, as opposed to how it functions. they have a much lower bar for issue and are generally harder to successfully enforce than function patents.

      • A good example is the 3 shaft architecture. Another good example is titanium hollow fan blades. Only their specific implementations can be subject to a patent defence not the concept of 3 shafts or hollow titanium blades.

        So the wheel can’t be patented!

  3. Is there any reason the US dod can’t go else where for its KC46 engine overhauls? It’s a stupid way of pricing engines, it’s about time someone taught them a lesson. Perhaps it could be linked to a reduction in the price of F 35 engines.

    • Better yet, why not have the Chinese make the F-35 engines? I bet you the Chinese could do it a lot cheaper than Pratt, and they seem very motivated to invest Billions of Dollars to learn how to do so. All the Air Force would have to do is ship them the tooling and the designs to China, and I think the Chinese would be more than happy to make the Air Force a fine F-35 engine at a great price!

        • No they dont – thats fake news.
          They fly a highly modified Mig 29, which still had the same twin front wheels amoung its many basic similarities, and every thinks – oh thats a F-35 for sure

          • The F-117 used the gear of the F-15 and the same engines as the F/A-18. Doesn’t mean it was a derivitive of either.

            Reagrdless it hardly seems like “fake news”

            “In the past year (2009) alone, Lockheed Martin found “six to eight companies” among its subcontractors “had been totally compromised – emails, their networks, everything” according to Lockheed Martin chief information security officer Anne Mullins.”


            It sure as hell looks more like an F-35 than a mig-29. Accident?







          • I was under the impression that everything Bae had, the Chinese have. Admittedly, it’s another thing to actually build it. LM has all of the plans and even they are struggling.

          • I can tell you from a lot of experience that even the best design and drawings don’t necessarily get you parts that perfectly match them. Actually it’s quite often a long way from design to production.
            In reality a good engineer designs every single part, knowing exactly which machine will be making it or even who is handling that machine. You also need to know the materials beyond their “norm”, especially when it comes to advanced materials like composites or ceramics. You can spend days over finish qualities, tolerances, minor deviations in material specifications and all this.
            So even if you have both the drawing AND a sample, you may still not be able to reproduce it if you are not perfectly familiar with the way it is made.
            This is why in the 19th Century German engineers were sent to England to work in the factories for a long time. There they had a chance to copy drawings, aquire samples AND learn everything about the way how to actually make things.

          • Highly modified MiG-29, because it has twin nose wheels (never mind that it retracts forward on the J-31 and backward on the MiG)? You have to be kidding. On that basis, the F-22 is a highly modified F-15 (in fact, they’re more alike than the J-31 and MiG-29 in some ways).

            The engines? I suppose that makes the 737NG a highly modified A320 (quite apart from the fact that the Russian imports are intended as an interim solution)? Also, while SAC (the J-31 manufacturer) license produced & copied a Russian fighter, that was Sukhoi’s Su-27 – there are no known ties to MiG. The latter is known to have worked with competitor CAC instead, allowing them to clone the MiG-21 as the J-7 and consulting on the JF-17.

            I’m not saying that the J-31 is an F-35, but if one thing is for sure it is that it’s not a MiG-29.

          • “twin nose wheels (never mind that it retracts forward on the J-31 and backward on the MiG)? ”

            If you see the Mig 29 land based version with its gear down, notice the retraction strut is in front which indicates a forward retraction. It seems the later and naval version is the other way.
            China doesnt fly the Mig but North Korea does have early versions

            The overall design is a very close match to the Mig 29 configuration, it having a completly new forward fuselage and different intakes.
            As you mention the JF-17 is an update of the Mig21, which was first down with Grumman help about 12 years ago. The latest version seems to have a further changes.
            This sort of proves my point about a variation of an previous design can have some changes and even look reasonably different

          • “If you see the Mig 29 land based version with its gear down, notice the retraction strut is in front which indicates a forward retraction. It seems the later and naval version is the other way.”


            5 minutes on google image search, query: mig-29 take off. Polish air force, so the same first generation airframe as the North Korean fleet (as a matter of fact, there is no difference in gear retraction sequence on the new navalized models).

            “The overall design is a very close match to the Mig 29 configuration, it having a completly new forward fuselage and different intakes.”

            Is it? Intake positioning is different (no longer shielded by the wing strakes), engine positioning is different (much closer to the centreline than on the MiG, without a tunnel in between), wing planform is different, empennage planforms are very different, horizontal tail mounted on F-15 style booms vs. no booms…

            I urge you to calibrate your subjective impression by applying the same logic to the F-22/F-15 (the Raptor is a wholly bespoke design, I hope that’s something we can both agree on). They are *significantly* closer than the J-31 is to the MiG-29 (wing/empennage planforms, inlet & engine positioning, landing gear, horizontal tail mounting), yet there is no relation whatsoever.

            “As you mention the JF-17 is an update of the Mig21, which was first down with Grumman help about 12 years ago. The latest version seems to have a further changes.”

            Again, different manufacturer (CAC, as opposed to SAC). Also, the Grumman-aided MiG-21/J-7 derivative was known as the “Super 7” and pretty much stopped dead after Tiananmen. The JF-17 as it emerged almost 20 (!) years later is designed to fill the same role, but rather than “further changes” it is completely new, instead adopting elements of a different (unbuilt) MiG light fighter. Take a look at main landing retraction this time…

  4. The USAF could buy ex Singapore 747-400 PW4000 powerplants, have them and its nacelle compotetively overhauled and Engines uprated to 62k and ship to Boeing for installation or any other 767/747 PW4060-3 surplus Engine and nacelles sourced. As the KC46’s will stay mostly on ground waiting for the next major war. Not very likely the USAF will save Money that way with a generous POTUS.

    • Claes: You seem to have missed that there are active operations going on in Syria/Iraq, Afghanistan that will never go away.

      You also seem not to get that places like Spain is a major refuel base for traffic passing overhead.

      Fairbanks has a whole squadron to support air ops in the State as do many other air bases around the US and world.

      The USAF is now talking about upgrading the KC135 as they do not have enough.

      • I can agree the USAF do areal refueling. Still seems cheaper to land and refuel on ground in friendly countries Air Force bases and change crew when practial. The US could pretty easy “borrow” land from Syria on the Mediterranian coast and build a suitable Air Force base there. If it was 1947 it would be done in a month.

  5. “We lose money on each GTF engine we deliver” aka, dumping is standard business practice across the industry.

    • Thats not what dumping is .
      It specifically means ‘selling in overseas market for less than home market’

      • Duping would explain why Boeing would not use P&W engines then.

        Its simply a matter of principle!

        And in reality, does not P&W sell engines other than the US (like France?)

  6. It’s ridiculous when basic engineering concepts get patented. I thought that geared fan engines are nothing new, what’s different about. P&Ws?

  7. I checked through Google patents for assignee Pratt & Whitney and terms ‘geared’ and turbine. It gave 204 hits.
    Unusually they are all held by Pratt & Whitney Canada , which makes some sense as all turbo props are ‘geared turbines’

    Some are for new ideas such as ‘offset drive for gas turbine engine’
    So I dont dont how many of those 204 are the real juice such as :
    US8956108B2 Geared Fan Assembly

    as a major turbo prop builder, I would assume the bulk of P&W patents in this area are for geared turboprop engines and some of those would have ‘expired’

    • Looking at the Honywell Bae 146 engine, it seems to have a planetary gearbox, is that right? It seems to me that US patent law is probably doing more harm than good for the US, by stifling competivity as well as being frequently unjust.

      • As do most turbo prop gearboxes, so that cant be part of the patent

        • You can patent new applications for existing technology. The core gearbox cannot be, but there will surely be lots of things surrounding it that are new and patentable.

          • Well there have been a couple of engines that used it.

            All WWII V liquid cooled engines used them.

            I doubt it has any merit.

      • Pratt doesnt use a simple planetary gearbox

        “Epicyclic gear system in star arrangement is used for the speed reduction from the LP turbine blade to the fan blade in Pratt & Whitney Geared TurbofanTM PurePower® engine arrangement.
        The LP shaft attached to the sun gear acts as driver and the ring gear is attached to the fan blade. The planet carrier holds 5 planet gears and doesn’t rotate relative to the engine nacelle .”
        ‘Open Access proceedings Journal of Physics’

        They mention that RR UltraFan will have a variable pitch fan for thrust reverse ?

  8. There are many ways to work around patents, which is why I don’t think that the people at P&W believe their own words.
    Their only true advantage long experience, but that dosn’t mean that RR and the other guys wouldn’t eat up this advantage quite soon. I would also think that all the engine makers are familiar with gear boxes and have all these years made their own studies, so maybe the advantage wasn’t even that large from the onset.

    • The advantage is experience gained, and that is the most valuable.

      Everyone else has to work their way through all the problem and issues.

      If it was easy P&W would not have spent a billion on it.

      P&W already is looking to change the ratios as they did not take full advantage (pun) of them.

      You can even see what someone else did but you don’t know how it works with your design until you produce one.

      You have to be conservative, a major bust and your engine is toast for a long time.

  9. Popular Mechanics put the P&W innovation in simple terms
    about a concept thats been around for over 30 years

    “The biggest challenge in scaling up was how to keep the gearbox, which is about 20 inches in diameter and weighs about 250 pounds, from being torn apart if there was a shock that wrenched the fan in one direction and the shaft in another. Adding steel for stiffness would make the engine too heavy. To put some give into the system, McCune’s team attached the gearbox rigidly to the fan but somewhat loosely, with bendable metal baffles, to the compressor/turbine shaft and the engine case.”-Popular mechanics

    A turbine and gearing ? Parsons was working on it in 1896. His introduction of steam turbines had been some years before this.

    “In 1896, he started his work with gearing and in 1897 used a 10-horse power geared steam turbine to drive a small 22-foot-long boat. The gear reduction was 14 to 1 with the prop running at 1400 RPM. ….”

    His first cargo ship was converted from triple expansion steam reciprocating to geared turbine in 1909. Special machine tools to cut the gears needed to be developed.

    Often taking an existing good idea and making it more useful on the shoulder of previous pioneers is how progress is measured.
    If Parsons could only see where his little innovation in a 22 ft long boat has ended up

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