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April 23, 2024
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Commercial aviation is a very high stakes game.  Get it wrong and you’re lucky to get a second chance.  In order to reduce risk the players hedge bets.  For example, in the case of OEMs, a typical solution is to offer engine choices.

Of late, this has not been occurring like it used to. Whereas Airbus offers engine options on the A320 family, Boeing does not on its 737. It also does not on some 777s and the 747i.  Airbus at present does not offer an engine option on the A350 – but really it would like to.

The decision by Boeing not to offer engine options on some its aircraft is based on its strong relationship with GE.  This is a relationship that works on multiple levels – GE is both a vendor and a customer. Therefore it is a powerful relationship that is hard to dislodge.

But let us walk down a different path.  Here’s a provocative thought.  Airbus is working very hard to get its A350 XWB to EIS on time.  After the A380 and A400M as well as early A350 challenges, this is totally rational.  Indeed, the putting of the A320 NEO on pause is a reaction to greater risk aversion at Airbus.  Too much risk on the table is an distinctly unpleasant thing and to be avoided.  Hence Mr Enders and Mr Gallois recent statements.

However even as the NEO project gets slowed down, Airbus has not reduced enough risk in our view.  It is facing some risk with the A350 XWB – specifically with engine choice.

Airlines want choices – they need a strong Airbus and Boeing to fight for business.  They also want GE, Rolls-Royce and P&W to fight for business.

Step back and think about this.  Airbus clearly wants another engine on the A350 XWB.  GE is their first choice.  But GE is reluctant because of a threat to their investment in the 777’s success.

Given that, let us now throw a wild card into this mix.  It is obvious that into this perceived “gap”, where Airbus wants an alternative and GE has managed to avoid a commitment, there should be an irresistible opportunity for P&W.

P&W is, based on everything we have come across, growing ever more delighted with its GTF.  The engine is apparently proving to every bit as good as they say it is.

With that backdrop we can share that P&W’s future big commercial engines will all use GTF technology.  The current GTF has caused friction with Rolls-Royce and therefore P&W is unlikely to say anything publicly about next steps.  But there can be no doubt within the corridors at 400 Main Street in East Hartford  there has to be talk about what comes next.  P&W has a partnership with GE on the A380’s GP engine.  Therefore P&W is going to speak quietly in-house.

The GP engine has been spoken of before as a possible A350 XWB powerplant. But there is the “GE/777 issue” and the idea has gone nowhere.  But the quiet discussions internally at P&W are surely about a widebody option as a follow on to the current GTF.

We have reason to believe this talk is about a ~75k thrust engine.  The current GTF has been tested to 40K, and P&W knows a lot about the 70K  engine class.  The gap to bridge is therefore, in our view, eminently bridgeable.

With a 70K thrust GTF, P&W offers Airbus a choice.  Just as the current GTF is a game changer, a 70K thrust version will also be a game changer.  Imagine Airbus being able to offer an engine that is quieter and significantly (“double digit”) more fuel efficient. The A350 XWB numbers would be of even greater interest to airlines then.

Green is in and the GTF technology totally plays to this.  But equally important, P&W can play this card even as GE is reluctant to do anything on the A350 XWB.  Rolls-Royce will be miffed but what can they do?  The current 787 program underscores why Boeing is so happy they have engine choices.  Imagine the 787 program not having the GenX – the testing and certification process could be held up until the Rolls-Royce engine has Boeing’s full confidence.

Imagine then Airbus’ angst if its A350 XWB testing and certification program is dependent on one engine. Not a pretty sight is it?  Rolls-Royce builds fine engines. But like everyone, it also runs into issues with new technology and products. The risk is there for all to see.

The necessity of options seems to be telling P&W to move ahead rapidly, if quietly, with a 70K GTF engine.  The window of opportunity with the A350 XWB is wide open to exploit.

To reduce their own risk, and to consider how disruptive the GTF has been already (Airbus A320 NEO), imagine what a P&W 70K GTF could mean to a re-engine program for the 777-200?   That is a fine airplane under threat from the A350 XWB and Boeing is going to have to react.   Boeing might be thrilled at a GTF option because a customer like United has a bunch of early 777s that could have a great future even as United takes A350 XWBs on board.  Which is to say that a 777 GTF would be highly disruptive – just the thing airlines would really like.

It is always good to have disruptive technology on your side. Which is why Airbus and Boeing are likely to view a 70K GTF as a very interesting idea.

12 thoughts on “The Necessity of Options

  1. Thanks Addison !

    I’m too, very fanatic, with the GTF technology !
    But,
    1/ The A350XWB, should be centered on the A359 engine, so 85 000 lb may be needed as a centerline to avoid the inconvenients experienced by GE !
    2/ Seems to mi the gap is too wide, to go so quickly to such a large Gear/Reductor, before completing the engines they are due to produce, the bigger is for the MS21, and P&W has to make the proof it works correctly !
    3/ Anyway P&W will not be able to produce a Geared engine, with C-R,Blisk and so on, in the 75-90 000 Lb before 2018, and may be later …. sure it’s not impossible, and better if GE do not make the move before !
    But the engine may be just in time, for the A380-900 for example!

    I just think it may be more cautious, for P&W, to see if they are able to make a Geared engine in the 45 000-65 000 Lb range, before making such à large jump, there are lots of Aircraft to re-engine, A330, B767, military transports, and the Russian planes !
    And may be in 2018, the A350’s with reduced MTOW !

    Jean-Paul RS

  2. I agree with the previous poster; 70K won’t cut it–especially for the whole A350XWB family. GE would have been happy to do the 358 & 359, but EADS insisted on the A350-1000XWB as well. Perhaps GE and EADS are still talking?

  3. RR needs competition on the A350 and the sooner that Pratt or GE step up to the plate the better. RR are having serious problems developing their “Extra Wide Body” engine. Trent XWB….what a dumb name for an engine:)

  4. Once the scaled up GTF hits the market it will make the competition look like real fuel hogs.

  5. @J Smith
    Please enlighten us at to what specific troubles has RR run into with the TrentXWB other than you don’t liking the sound of it’s name?

    Cause by the looks of things the 787 will carry the brunt of ironing out all the development issues of the engine in time for the A350 to enter into service spotting an engine that exceeds spec.

  6. Why not GTF for the 787-9 or proposed -10? It was be back to the future, GEvRRvPW.

  7. RR with an engine surge at idle thrust and an uncontained failure in the test cell do not bode well for RR. The GEnx is proving to be the superior engine choice on the 787 by the number of airline orders and it’s fuel burn and reliability exceed the competition.

  8. That article you linked to show about Airbus and GE is from 2007, if I’m not wrong, Airbus has sold over 300 planes and no airline beside Airfrance/KLM looks like picking the 787 over the A350 because of lack of options(though the AF CEO has said if the A350 is the right plane for their needs, no GE won’t matter). RR has a lot of time to experiment and iron out growing pains that might happen on the TXWB with the T1000, so they should get it right.

    I don’t see Airbus crying and losing sleep over GE not being on the programme just like GE probably isn
    t crying and losing sleep over losing 500 or more engine sales that could have been theirs. Airbus will be just fine if they deliver on their A350 targets, one engine provider or not, don’t you worry.

  9. Haven’t heard of any development problems on the Trent XWB. Can you elaborate? There was a well publicized incident on the Trent 1000, but I have heard that was caused by testing the engine to its extreme limits.

  10. Some said that the C Series got no orders at Farnborough because airlines were uncertain about the reliability of the GTF and whether it could meet the performance specs PW claims. Whether this is true or not, I think suggesting a much larger GTF for the 787/A350 puts the cart before the horse. PW have to to get to focus now completely on getting the engine for the C Series out the door and working in practical day to day environment before they focus on anytihing else. Like Airbus in their consideration of the A320 NEO, the question for PW is how much risk to this goal should they take on now. To me it is obvious that for PW to start dreaming about getting back into the engine business for large wide bodies creates unacceptable risk to the C Series. programargdevqaminqarto start thinking about a newer, bigger GTFgBi at riuc’uathat his engineOPW haveesuspect causedqancermarand ability to do what PW/said airProblem seems to be that PW

  11. Don’t think that we will see it soon. PW will have to get version 1 right and then deliver the true benefits in version 2 which is to be released around 2025 in time for them to compete with open rotor. Then you might want to look at increasing the size to scale up to the A350 level.

    Maybe you might see the engine on a refreshed A340 earlier.

  12. Forget about open rotor as it will never fly on a civilian airliner. GE and Pratt tried it in the 1980s and it did not work out. Now RR are trying to reinvent the wheel by copying what was previously done 30 years ago. Go figure???
    The GTF is a far superior idea and so far it looks good in trials. Hopefully this will be the gamechanger to place Pratt in the #2 spot again for civilian airliner propulsion.

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