Spirit Airlines accepted the first A320neo delivery in the United States with an aircraft on lease from AerCap. This is the first of five scheduled deliveries, with four additional options for Spirit.
Ted Christie, Spirit’s Chief Financial Officer stated “ The state-of-the-art technology will burn less fuel and lower our operational costs. We continue to lead the industry in both reducing our carbon footprint and providing ultra-low fares on air travel. Spirit is thrilled to be the first carrier to bring this innovation to the U.S.”
The A320neo provides the combination of a mature airframe with new technology engines, providing benefits of new technology while minimizing changes to the airframe, providing benefits in commonality and maintenance costs. The A320neo has about a one year lead over its competitor, the Boeing 737 MAX, due to enter service in the third quarter of 2017.
Spirit chose the Pratt & Whitney PurePower 1100G engines for its aircraft, more commonly known as the GTF, and also becomes the first US customer for that engine. There has been a lot of reporting on slower than planned deliveries of the GTF engine. But what hasn’t been reported on is how well the engine is performing in service.
The GTF is the first engine in recent memory not only to beat its customer commitments, but also to beat its performance targets. Engine makers typically have two sets of performance numbers – a public target of what they expect the engine to perform at maturity, and a guarantee or customer commitment that they will stand behind, and pay penalties should they miss them. There’s often a 2-3% difference in fuel burn between target and commitments or guarantees, a significant difference.
Some industry observers tend to blend the two, and don’t realize that an engine can still meet its airline commitments but does not meet its performance targets. In the case of the GTF, it met or exceeded both its targets and commitments right out of the box. That doesn’t happen very often.
Dispatch reliability for the engine is also quite exceptional, exceeding 99.9% from the introduction with both the A320neo and C Series according to industry sources. At the UTC press day in June, the GTF had reached a reliability level of 99.7%. With a number of early nuisance failures now corrected, the expectation is that dispatch reliability could rise above its current level of 99.9% by year end. That equates to mature reliability from a brand new engine; a rare occurrence.
The Bottom Line
For those airlines lucky enough to be operating the first A320neos with GTF engines, they have the benefit of strong performance and mature reliability, validating their choice of aircraft and engine. While production delays are unfortunate, it appears the A320neo and GTF engine are worth waiting for.