With Boeing choosing to proceed with a re-engine for the 737, Pratt & Whitney is out of luck. The exclusive supplier contract between Boeing and CFM means CFM retains the re-engining rights to the airplane.
Last March, Mike Bair, VP for future programs for the 737, told us the contract with CFM did allow for the prospect of switching engines. A competing engine had to have better economics and the commercial terms had to be better than the technical details and commercial terms offered by CFM, which had the right to match or exceed those offered by a competitor. Boeing’s assessment of the CFM LEAP, PW P1000G Geared Turbo Fan and the Rolls-Royce RB282/285 were that economics were about equal. Naturally Bair would not comment on commercial terms.
That CFM is the engine choice for the 737 MAX is no surprise; it was theirs to lose. PW all along figured it had little chance of participating in a re-engine scenario and RR bowed out of this game a year April with Boeing or Airbus.
But for Pratt, the market realities don’t end there.
Boeing and GE have an exclusive supplier’s agreement for the 777-300ER (and the 777-200LR) which likely precludes the prospect of PW developing an engine for the 777X. Indeed, the discussion we hear both through our own sources and through others with their own sources is that Boeing is talking with GE about a variant of the GEnx that powers the 787 and 747-8. The engine would have to be upsized to the 100,000-110,000 lb thrust class. PW’s GTF can grow to 110,000 lbs but if Boeing and GE are married, then what about Airbus?
We thought the prospect of a GTF for the A350 family, particularly for the A350-1000, might be a good alternative engine to the RR Trent XWB under development. But with Airbus and RR announcing an exclusive supplier agreement for the A350-1000 at the Paris Air Show, kiss this opportunity good bye.
Can PW develop an engine for the A350-800/900 which doesn’t appear to be covered by an exclusive agreement? Certainly, in theory. But not for some time. PW said it’s not interested in a large-class engine for many years, concentrating instead on the A320neo family.
So what’s left?
A real long-shot might be a prospective re-engine of the A330, which is aging. Although the A330 got a second life as a result of the 787 delays and has proved to be a remarkably resilient and efficient aircraft—particularly with Airbus extending the range of the A330-200 to as much as 7,200nm—Boeing is planning a 787-10 derivative aimed squarely at the A330-300 and counting on once the 787 finally enters service, the life of the A330-200 will be limited.
The CEO of AirAsia is pressing Airbus to re-engine the A330. So far, at least in public, there is no interest from Airbus—but Airbus also downplayed the prospect of re-engining the A320 for two years.
A re-engined A330 with a GTF is an interesting prospect, as this column as written before. The A330 is larger than the 787 and can carry more passengers and cargo. If Airbus could shave 10%-12% off the fuel burn—and thereby extend the range of the -200 and the -300 by another 500nm (roughly the amount the neo adds to the baseline A320), this would be an interesting airplane indeed.
And it would be the only realistic new opportunity for PW to extend its GTF technology beyond the 70-200 seat markets any time in the foreseeable future.