Development of two airplanes–the Airbus A330neo and a replacement for the Boeing 757–may be pushing to the forefront, according to two news articles yesterday.
Reuters reports that a decision whether to proceed with the Airbus A330neo could come before the Farnborough Air Show, even if a formal launch isn’t announced at the international event next month.
Bloomberg reports that Boeing may be nearing the launch of a 757 replacement sooner than expected.
We’ve written extensively about both prospective airplanes, with the A330neo concept one of many subjects from the Airbus Innovation Days. The Reuters article reports what we have been hearing for some time: the airplane could be announced at Farnborough–but it might not be, either. What is new is the increasing likelihood Rolls-Royce will become the sole-source supplier. Aviation Week originally reported this prospect.
Airbus lifted the embargo on John Leahy’s presentation, allowing immediate publication.
There is no aircraft order bubble, says John Leahy, COO-Customers of Airbus. Emerging markets and passenger traffic doubling every 15 years, bolstered by GDP growth, means orders will hold up, he said, leading off the Airbus Innovation Days Tuesday.
Highlights of Leahy’s address:
The low pressure turbine failed in the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan engine on Bombardier’s CSeries, reports investment bank UBS, citing Bombardier.
BBD confirmed that recent GTF engine failure was in the low-pressure turbine and that the airframe (FTV1) was damaged in the incident, but downplayed the impact to the program schedule. While root cause analysis is ongoing, BBD emphasized that the failure was unrelated to the gearbox, and also suggested that a manufacturing defect (rather than a design flaw) may have been the cause. The subject engine was known to have problems, and BBD had considered sending it back to Pratt prior to incident on 5/29. Engine was instead repaired at BBD and the failure occurred during subsequent ground-testing. Root cause expected by end of week, corroborating message from our meetings with UTX on Monday.
The LPT is at the rear of the engine. A BBD official told us previously that FTV 1 was equipped with prototype engines, and that the production engines are first installed on FTV 4, the airplane that is designated to validate engine performance.
Engine failures during test programs are rare but not unknown. Rolls-Royce experienced a test-stand engine failure of the Trent 1000 for the Boeing 787 in which components blew apart.
Separately, a GEnx engine spit parts out of the back of the engine while a 787 was taxiing at Boeing’s Charleston 787 plant. Neither incident has serious impact on the program.
By Leeham Co EU
We’ve seen it for decades: the War of Words between Airbus and Boeing around their competing aircraft. It hasn’t taken long for the WOW to emerge over the prospective A330neo. Only a few months ago, Boeing was muted in its assessment about the NEO and its response. No longer.
For the 200- to 300-seat segment the WOW warning was raised Sunday at Doha, Qatar, in advance of the IATA Annual General Meeting, and no doubt it will stay aloft until this year’s Farnborough Air Show, where the formal launch of the A330neo is expected (as if anyone is doubting after Sunday).
As Aviation Week reports from the eve of the IATA AGM, John Leahy, Airbus’ chief operating office-customers, threw down the gauntlet by claiming an A330neo economics would be “unbeatable” and its “cash operating cost would equal 787-9.” Boeings counterpart John Wojick countered “at no price can it compete with the 787-10”.
Of course, that’s not what Leahy claimed. Comparisons have been between the A330-300 and 787-9, not the 787-10.
What it is all about
After our New Year’s analysis showed that there was a real case for an A330neo (A330neo prospect gains traction) we spent a further four months on the case, digging deeper and deeper. The result was put in our report The Business Case about the A330neo, a 60-page study which took a deep dive into the economics of the A330neo vs the A330 Classic and the Boeing 787-8/9. We did not examine the neo vs the 787-10 because these are different category airplanes, as Boeing’s Wojick should know full well.
In an apples-to-apples comparison, we found the A330neo significantly narrows, but does not entirely close, the operating cost gap between the A330 Classic and Boeing’s new airplane. Airbus can close the gap and achieve an advantage, however, if it lowers the price of the A330neo to a level the 787 can‘t give. This is central to Leahy’s argument, which is used for the A330 Classic but achieved only with the most favorable assumptions for the Airbus airplane
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.
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.
The recent announcement by Rolls-Royce that their future engines will contain gearboxes has put GE and its CFM partner SAFRAN under considerable pressure.
GE/SAFRAN were together with Rolls-Royce proponents to go directly from Direct-Drive turbofans to Open Rotor designs for the next generation aircrafts. This left Pratt & Whitney as the only major engine manufacturer promoting high by-pass ratio geared turbofans as a better alternative for these aircrafts. With the Rolls-Royce announcement of Advance for 2020 (Carbon fanned tri-shaft) and Ultrafan (Geared big fan) for 2025, this has all changed. Suddenly Pratt & Whitney has strong support in their strategy and GE/SAFRAN stand out as loners.
By honing key technologies in their traditional two shaft turbofans GE, and GE/SAFRAN in CFM, have built a market leading position in all thrust classes, Regional (CF34), Single Aisle (CFM56) and Dual Aisle (CF6, GEnx, GE90). Their declared next step was Open Rotor for future Single Aisle while keeping Direct-Drive for larger engines.
Airbus and Snecma continue to research open rotor technology. Aviation Week has this story.
Now this solid position is threatened. The geared architecture has won the future regional market (CSeries, MRJ, E-Jet E2 goes PW GTF), market parity on the A320neo family and the 757 replacement studies by Boeing (dubbed NAS, New Airplane Study) will not go Open Rotor as Open Rotor only works up to M 0.75 and the 757 replacement will likely fly over 4,000nm, necessitating higher cruise speed. The NAS will thereby favor a geared turbofan instead of Open Rotor. Why not Direct-Drive? There are two major reasons:
GE/SAFRAN has shown with their CFM LEAP project that they can match the efficiency levels of a geared engine like Pratt & Whitney’s GTF, using its superior hot section technology to achieve the high efficiency. It cannot achieve the low noise levels of a geared fan however; engine noise stands in direct relation to fan rotational speed and pressure ratio.
It will thereby be the environmental factors that will put the most stress on GE/SAFRAN’s present strategy. Having lost the regionals to the geared camp, will it also lose the next generation short/medium haul? It will be interesting to watch the GE/SAFRAN over the next 18 months: does it change strategy or not? If one goes by the recent words of GE Aviation President David Joyce (who spoke at last week’s opening of their Indiana LEAP factory), he thinks his present line-up is fine for a 757 replacement, and he sees no urgent need for new developments.
By Leeham Co EU
Twelve more Airbus A350-800 orders vanished as Aircraft Purchase Fleet canceled, according to the latest tally from Airbus. APF is the special purpose company set up for Alitalia Airlines, which is a financial basket case and probably couldn’t finance a Piper Cub, let alone an A350. In this case, the -800s were not upgraded to -900s or -1000s, according to the monthly Airbus Orders and Deliveries tally. There are now just 34 A358s in backlog.
The shrinking backlog further suggests the need for a refresh of the A330 with a re-engine, in our view. Without the A350-800, Airbus won’t have a competitor in the 250 seat sector that has any current technology. An A330neo with new engines would at least fill some of this void.
Meantime, Delta Air Lines issued a Request for Proposals for 50 wide-body aircraft to replace its aging Boeing 747-400s and some 767-300ERs. Delta’s CEO has said he could be interested in the A330neo. Delta eschews new technology, preferring “proven” technology, which could work against the Boeing 777X powered by an entirely new engine. By the time Delta would be ready to take delivery of its order, the A350XWB and its new technology will have been in service for many years. Delta has a deferred order for the Boeing 787-8 it inherited from Northwest Airlines, and this technology will be mature by the time Delta would be able to take delivery, so the 787 family could be in the mix. So could an A330neo, which would most likely be powered by one of the 787’s engine options, the GEnx or the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 TEN. Market intelligence tells us Delta is pushing the GEnx, given its strong relationship with GE.
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?
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.