It’s as if P&W can’t catch a break.  Today we have another negative story.  The proposition is that CFM’s LEAP has outsold the GTF by ten to one in 2017.

It is true P&W has stumbled with the GTF.  Stumbles are common in high-tech environments.  Remember the Apple iPhone 4 and how quickly the 4S came along?  The level of technology in the GTF is cutting edge.  An argument can be made that the GTF is ground breaking – there have been geared fans before, but not this big and not with the level of new materials.  While the competing CFM LEAP is also high-tech, it is an extension of the highly successful CFM56.  The GTF has no heritage from the V2500 which it is replacing.

The biggest area of negative news around the GTF is tied to the A320neo program.  Look at the current program numbers.  The GTF and LEAP are running neck and neck; both have 111 active and on-order neo aircraft on the production list.  Some engine selections are still being made.

Should the GTF have higher numbers? Yes, were deliveries to be going as scheduled, P&W might well have a distinct lead.  But the program has hit snags in supply chain initially (since resolved) and its GTF aftermarket network maturation has been moved forward by several years with the brisk overhaul business as it weaves improvement packages and upgrades into current engines.

The significant ramp up is also a factor. P&W took 30 years to build 7,000 V2500s and will build that number of GTFs in six years.  This context might help some critics better comprehend what P&W is facing.  P&W, as we have said before, is undertaking a production increase it has not faced since WW2 and has invested more than $1 billion in upgrading its facilities and manufacturing processes to meet the ramp.

Snags in manufacturing and entry into service are not unusual; P&W also hit snags with its V2500 (starting with the SuperFan) at EIS.  But today the V2500 is delivered on schedule and operates with the level of performance airlines expect. So much so, the V2500 is the preferred engine on the A321 by some margin.

But back to the source of negative news from India’s A320neo fleet.  India is currently the region with the most A320neos in operation, so we see more instances of impact there.  Over the initial 250,000 program hours worldwide, P&W identified five issues.  None have been safety related.

The five snags are:

  • Startup – resolved
  • Fan blade – supply being increased
  • Nuisance fault messages – fixed
  • Combustor – we expect a resolution to be announced in the next several months, but in the meantime this is a somewhat predictable issue, so airlines are able to schedule the removal for overhaul and plan their schedule adjustments accordingly. Cold comfort to the airline, but if you’re going to have a schedule interruption, any advanced notice is welcome.
  • #3 oil seal – While P&W released its improvement package earlier this year, those engines with longer operating time had accumulated enough wear to require an overhaul. India, having more GTF neos than anywhere else, took the brunt of this. The good news on the oil seal issue is that new production engines with the improvement package seem to be performing well as they gain time on wing.

Besides the Indian market being home to the largest GTF fleet, it also generates some unique challenges.  The environment is tough: pollution and heat make it one of the toughest environments for airplanes, so building and fixing the engine to operate in this environment should make for easier operations elsewhere. As India goes, so goes the GTF program.

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Addison Schonland
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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.

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