International Lease Finance Corporation has become the first leasing to order the Airbus A320neo family, 100 of the aircraft. Interestingly, at least 60 of those aircraft will be powered by the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G Geared Turbofan (GTF) engine, adding to Pratt & Whitney’s early market share lead over the competing CFM International LEAP-X. This provides another validation for the PW GTF program, which is introducing innovative gearbox technology that enables the fan and core to run at different speeds, optimizing their efficiency.

The GTF, which is scheduled to enter service in 2013 on the Bombardier and has engines currently being tested, is farther along than the Leap-X, which will be introduced in 2016. With significant experience prior to introduction on the NEO, the GTF will have proven itself in service before the LEAP-X enters service.

ILFC also ordered 33 Boeing 737-800 narrow-body jets, which will be equipped with the new Boeing “Sky” interior. These aircraft are likely to be delivered prior to the neo, which will enter service in 2015.

ILFC’s order for Airbus comes at the expense of the long-expected cancellation of orders 10 A380 aircraft. ILFC had 104 wide body aircraft on order, and prior to the Airbus and Boeing orders announced today, less than a dozen narrowbodies. These orders, combined with the A380 cancellation, re-balance the ILFC order book to more closely reflect aircraft demand.

ILFC has changed its focus from wide-body to narrow-body aircraft, placing its larger bet with Airbus and new technology. But the balance of 104 wide body to now 155 narrow body aircraft still doesn’t reflect the overall fleet balance within the airline industry. Could we see potential orders the CSeries or 797 coming at Paris?

Perhaps the most interesting element of these orders is the validation of the PW GTF. With Bombardier and Airbus as believers, and now ILFC adding its stamp of approval, the momentum is building the GTF. While fuel burn is roughly equal for the LEAP-X, the GTF will be quieter and cost 20% less to maintain, a significant advantage. It appears that PW is now firmly back and competitive in the narrow-body segment that it once dominated.

AirInsight believes that there is another major A320neo family order pending, with the likelihood that this will be the GTF as well.

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