On Tuesday we had an opportunity to speak with John Saabas, President of Pratt & Whitney Canada. While our discussion was wide ranging, we focused on four major thrusts for the company — the ground breaking PW800, the forthcoming advanced turboprop for regional aircraft, future plans for the venerable PT6, and the APU market.
The PW800 engine is a new technology engine for large business jets. It combined the core of the new geared turbofan engine with a smaller fan to accommodate the dimensions and fuselage mounting of engines on business jet aircraft. The engine has been selected for the Gulfstream 500 and 600, and has been well received by the marketplace.
Currently P&WC has 17% of the heavy jet (5000+ miles range) market. With Gulfstream deliveries, this going to jump to 50%. Things are looking good for other programs, as well, and the engine is currently under consideration by Cessna for their new Hemisphere aircraft. In addition to new aircraft, an opportunity will exist to re-engine older Challenger 600, 601, and 603 series aircraft, adding more power and speed for those aircraft while reducing fuel burn. The core of the engine is the same one used on the CSeries, and with the MRJ core forthcoming, P&WC could readily have another engine available in the 10,000 to 12,000 pounds thrust category. With the neo core they could get up to 20,000 pounds thrust for even larger applications, although there’s nothing on the horizon for that quite yet. But the heavy jet segment is worth about 270 aircraft per year. Then add 2-3% growth, things look good for P&WC in that market. Despite China having seen a slowdown, and also Brazil, with the PW800 John believes the company has a good future, indicating “it’s a good place for us to play.”
Another possibility for the PW800 is the Dassault Falcon 5X, which has been delayed two years because of Snecma’s difficulties with the Silvercrest engine. While Dassault has indicated they intend to stay with the Silvercrest, the next six months will determine what happens. We are keeping very close to them in that regard. P&WC has a strong reputation and long history with Dassault – almost 18 years. The Silvercrest was also the original selection for the Cessna Hemisphere, but that process has now been re-opened.
We asked about the potential for a re-engining of the Bombardier CRJ. John indicated that P&WC has not put any thought into this, but could easily use a lower thrust PW800. A PW812 would be feasible. “We would not be worried at all about the “hammering” an engine like this would take with many short cycles per day because we’d use the MRJ core, and that core is designed for the same type of flight schedules.” Any stress would be in the core and the core can handle that. But they haven’t been asked to look at that.
P&WC recently announced a new Advanced Turboprop to replace the PW100 series for the regional market, with a substantial upgrade in performance. We asked John about this engine and applications. He indicated that P&WC still believes there is a need for a 100-seat turboprop. There is need for a new airframe and cabin, with features like active noise balancing and propeller balancing. We’ve completed the design for the compressor for our NGRT – our compressor is mapped out. We are looking at a range between 3,500 to 6,000 SHP. The new engine will offer better SFC, lower noise and lower operating costs than the PW150.
Our belief is that someone will need to invest in a true 100-seat turboprop. We would offer 35% better fuel efficiency on a typical 500NM mission than a jet. The challenge is to make the cabin comfort similar to that of a jet to ensure passenger preference.
We asked John about longer-term threats, particularly the Siemens/Airbus joint venture to develop a hybrid aircraft engine. John indicated that P&WC is aware of the Siemens/Airbus hybrid development program, but that it’s not clear what will result from that program – how much of the engine will be electric? We could see a co-existence for the next twenty years of various technologies. We have the experience with the market and supporting operators in this market. It’s not only about SFC – it’s also about product support. Today we can offer additional support in terms of data, pro-active maintenance systems that improve engine time on wing. We have continuously improved our maintenance costs to enable our customers to stay competitive.
We are also developing our engine propeller electric control systems (EPECS) which has patents pending. We should demonstrate this technology within a year from now. It’s a full FADEC with propeller controls and health monitoring built in. We need a new aircraft program to drive this innovation.
John began by indicating that the PT6 is not an engine – but a family of engines ranging from 500 shp to 1900 shp. Although it dates back to 1963, the power to weight has improved 50%, SFC improved 20%, with pressure ratios now up to 14:1. The PT6 is a family that has evolved a lot. But it is more than an engine. It’s a brand. It a modular design that has allowed P&WC to mix and match – up to 120 variants with 89 applications and 45 of those applications over the last 52 years still in production.
The PT6 is a vast thing that keeps evolving. We have 400m hours of flying time! We have a total shutdown of 3 per million flight hours. Nobody is going to replace the PT6 tomorrow. And we are currently investing in what the next generation PT6 will be. John indicated that P&WC will be able to match our new competition, and combine it with their strong customer base, broad service and support network, continue legendary reliability and that P&WC will aggressively defend their market leadership in the PT6 segment.
P&WC has taken responsibility for the APU business at UTC, and that segment is growing quite nicely. John indicated that P&WC will pursue additional programs and continue to grow this segment, in which they can leverage the advantages of the PW toolkit to stay ahead of their competitors.
The Bottom Line
Overall, John seems quite comfortable in the growth trajectory of P&WC, and their positioning in its major market segments. P&W president Bob Le Duc described P&WC as the “jewel in the crown”, so that comfort is supported. Technologically, P&WC is leveraging the GTF core and other elements from the P&W and UTC tool kits, and P&WC is committed to continuing its leadership in the turboprop and business jets segments while gaining market share in APUs.
Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.