By Chris Sloan and Gordon Smith
January 11, 2033, © Leeham News: In 2023, a slew of problems plagued propulsion providers, with Pratt & Whitney’s GTF Engine and supply-chain shortcomings grabbing the bulk of negative headlines and customer complaints. There were bright spots for all the big three with a slew of significant orders, emerging technologies, and critical management shifts.
As the calendar turns to 2024, all eyes will be on a return to fulfilling enormous backlogs, supporting OEM production rate increases, and returning GTF-propelled planes to the skies – while edging towards new technologies, both incremental and revolutionary.
Editor’s Note: As Airbus and Boeing consider new airplanes, their current generation aircraft are plagued with technical issues. The engines on the A320neo and 737 MAX families continue to have problems years after entry into service. The Boeing 787, which had ground-breaking technology when it was designed, has production issues. Flight testing early on revealed technical problems with the engine on the 777X, prompting the president of Emirates Airline to publicly suggest he won’t accept delivery until the engines are fully “mature.”
Aviation Week’s Check 6 podcast last week examined Boeing’s path toward a new airplane. Boeing CEO David Calhoun insists on waiting for new technology. But “new technology,” while in theory is a great idea, the phrase also scares people. LNA reported on this in March 2020. We’re reposting this article from then.
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By Scott Hamilton
March 16, 2020, © Leeham News: “I can tell you from our perspective, we’re kind of sick and tired of new, new technology. It’s not proven to be the home run.”
This blunt assessment comes from the chief executive officer of the big aircraft lessor, Avolon.
Domhnal Slattery, the CEO, was giving his critique of whether Boeing should launch a new airplane once the 737 MAX crisis is over. (Update: Since this interview, Slattery retired from Avolon.)
Boeing was on a path to decide whether to launch the New Midmarket Airplane when the MAX was grounded one year ago this month.
Airbus was waiting for Boeing to move before deciding how to respond.
Sept. 12, 2023, © Leeham News: The Next Boeing Airplane (NBA) may be a moonshot for CEO David Calhoun, but airlines will probably be reluctant to take a moonshot on the next new engine.
Service issues with the CFM LEAP and Pratt & Whitney GTF engines are driving airlines batty. The failures of the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 years after entry-into-service (EIS) cost RR hundreds and millions of dollars and a confidence crisis that hurt future sales. LEAP engines are coming off wing well before initial forecasts. Every aircraft model using the GTF faced groundings as engine failures piled up.
Boeing sorely needs a successor to the 737, now in its 55th year and fourth iteration. Ron Epstein, the aerospace analyst for Bank of America, was biting in a Sept. 7 research note.
“We note that Boeing continues to ride on the coattails of its past glory. The original Boeing 737 prototype first flew in April 1967, entering service less than a year later in February 1968 with Lufthansa. Fifty-five years later, the 737 airframe remains in service through a multitude of derivative models, including the most recent 737 MAX,” he wrote.
“However, we note that the model was never intended to be such a blockbuster long-term solution. Instead, the 737 was expected to be a band-aid for the Boeing portfolio to compete with the market share-winning DC-9. The Boeing fleet lacked a smaller narrowbody model to complement the company’s larger jets, like the 707. In the spirit of the General Motors model, the 737 was intended to be the ‘cheap Chevy’ of the portfolio. Fledgling carriers would operate the cheaper model before upgrading to Boeing’s large, higher-end products like the 707 and, later, the 747, which one could see as the ‘Cadillacs’ of the portfolio.
“In our view, while the longevity of the 737 is impressive, the aircraft is now a bit of an anachronism. Operating the aircraft is like driving around in a 1968 Chevy Impala with a semi-modern dashboard. It is important to note that the 737 is the only currently manufactured commercial aircraft without fly-by-wire controls, which are a staple in modern aircraft control system design.”
Epstein worked for Boeing from 1995 to 1999 as an Applied Research Scientist. He’s a technical advisor to United Airlines for the alternative energy sector.
June 16, 2023, ©. Leeham News: This is a complementary article to Part 17. Airframe with lower induced drag. It discusses in detail the simulations we have done on a Truss Braced Wing, using our Aircraft Performance and Cost model to compare it to today’s wings and alternative future concepts.
May 30, 2023, © Leeham News: “The need for radical fuel improvements will only increase over time.”
That’s the definitive conclusion of Arjan Hegeman, GE Aerospace’s general manager of advanced technology.
GE is working on Performance Improvement Packages (PIPs) of its current engine lineup used on Airbus and Boeing airliners. It’s also developing the GE9X, now in testing on the Boeing 777X, and concepts of a hybrid-electric and hydrogen-fueled engine.
But the big bet is on the Open Fan “RISE” (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines). “The Open Fan technology—it’s a go,” Hegeman declared earlier this month at a press briefing in advance of the Paris Air Show next month.
The Open Fan is an evolution of the Open Rotor engine tested in the 1980s. The concept shows a dramatic reduction in fuel consumption compared with the engines of the day. But the counter-rotating rotor design was very noisy. Coupled with other technical challenges and a sudden drop in fuel prices, GE (and rival Pratt & Whitney) dropped the concepts.
But research and development continued. Today, PW thinks its Geared Turbo Fan engine will suffice for the future. Rolls-Royce is also pursuing traditional engine designs. But GE believes the problems of the Open Rotor have been solved for the Open Fan.
It comes down to supercomputing, said Mohamed Ali, GE Aerospace vice president of engineering.
May 9, 2023, © Leeham News: Last week, I provided an overarching view of the business model the engine makers used for decades to sell their engines and services to the airlines and leasing companies. Today, we discuss this in more detail and move to other issues facing engine makers as well.
Aviation Week’s MRO Americas last month was the venue for the engine panel.
The panelists include two from the manufacturers, Becky Johnson, I’m the Director of Marketing for CFM commercial programs at GE Aerospace, and Sam Raby, who is Associate Director at Pratt & Whitney for aftermarket marketing and strategy. Two other panelists were from the MRO sector: Russ Shelton, president of GA Telesis Engine Services, and Sebastian Torhorst, Head of Sales for Energy Services for the Americas for Lufthansa Technik.
As LNA wrote last week, the business model relies on selling engines at a steep, steep discount—sometimes up to 80%, and in rare instances, the engine maker gave (as in free) engines to customers. In either case, the quid pro quo was to enter into long-term service contracts for parts and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO). Deeply discounted sales meant it could take 10-15 years for the engine makers to recover development costs.
By Scott Hamilton and Bjorn Fehrm
May 8, 2023, © Leeham News: India’s GoFirst Airlines filed for bankruptcy last week. The carrier pointed to around 29 of its 50 Pratt & Whitney Geared TurboFan-powered Airbus A320neos being grounded as the reason.
The aircraft have been grounded for months. Despite negotiations with PW and a favorable arbitration ruling, GoFirst says PW failed to provide replacement engines. As a result, GoFirst paid about $196m in lease rates for the grounded aircraft, without being able to fly them for revenue.
Lufthansa Group last week complained that a third of its Swiss Airbus A220 fleet, also powered by the GTF, are likewise grounded with technical issues. As LNA previously reported, Air Baltic, Egyptair and Air Senegal also have A220s grounded. Iraqi Airlines has some A220s that are grounded. And now there’s news that Embraer E195-E2s at KLM’s regional airline are also grounded due to GTF issues.
India’s Indigo Airlines also has a large number of A320neos grounded with GTF problems. About 11% of the nearly 3,000 A320neos in service are grounded or fly one a week, an Aviation Week analysis revealed.
PW’s reputation was already badly damaged before the GoFirst bankruptcy. However, an LNA analysis shows that forward orders for engines on the A320neo already were suffering.
May 5, 2023, ©. Leeham News: In our series on the different technologies available when developing next-generation airliners, we have covered the fuselage configuration and engine options.
Now we turn to airframe technologies. We will look at different airframe architectures, their advantages, and disadvantages. To support the discussion, we will model the different variants in our Airliner Performance and Cost model to understand their characteristics.
May 2, 2023, © Leeham News: The business models for engine makers for decades have been simple: deeply, deeply discount the engines on the sale and make up the revenue and profits on the maintenance, overhaul, and repair (MRO) contracts.
It’s a model that’s served engine makers and customers alike well. Customers save millions of dollars on the upfront purchase of airplanes. The engine companies win market share.
There are downsides for the Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs), though. The discounts typically are steeper than those offered by Airbus and Boeing (and Embraer and ATR). LNA has seen deals with discounts as steep as 80% on the sales price. We’ve even seen one deal in which the OEM gave (as in free) the engines in exchange for the MRO contract.
The big downside to this is that it can take 10-12 years, or more, for the OEMs to recover their research and development and production ramp/learning curve costs. Then as the CFM 56 matured into perhaps the most reliable jet engine ever, with more than 25,000 hours on-wing, followed by the IAE V2500, MRO services contracts didn’t return the revenue and profits as quickly as before.
April 28, 2023, ©. Leeham News: This is a summary of the article New aircraft technologies. Part 10P. Engine choice. The article discusses the engine architecture choices that must be made when developing the next-generation airliners.