Lufthansa recently ordered the A320neo, joining ILFC as a major customer in the first quarter. ILFC ordered 60 of their 100 aircraft with the Pratt & Whitney GTF, with 40 options, providing a boost to the GTF program. The focus is now on what Lufthansa will do. If it opts for the GTF, momentum will continue for the PW program. If it selects the LEAP-X, that rival engine will secure a major endorsement.
The battle for new technology engines for narrow-body aircraft, with the A320neo family, has now firmly arrived. While the PW GTF currently holds a 4-2 lead in aircraft applications (CSeries, MRJ, MS-21 and neo) over the LEAP-X (C919, neo), the only program offering a choice of both is the Airbus A320neo family. As a result, orders for the neo from influential customers could be a bellwether with respect to the relative success of each program.
The most recent order for the A320neo comes from Lufthansa, which deferred their choice of engine until their analysis is complete. A Lufthansa acquisition of an aircraft or engine is always viewed upon favorably in the industry due to the depth and quality of the analytical effort Lufthansa customarily uses in their decision process. An order from Lufthansa can boost the program of the winner, and often raise the question of “why didn’t LH pick them” for the loser. Lufthansa has always been an opinion leader in the industry, and their current Executive Vice President for Fleet, Nico Bucholz, is well respected .
The spotlight is on Lufthansa, who fully understand they are in a position to “make or break” the buzz and industry momentum for a program. We believe both manufacturers will compete hard for this order, with price concessions, maintenance cost guarantees, and other inducements to win the day and influence the market through a LH endorsement.
Today, Pratt & Whitney’s GTF has significant momentum, having already been selected by Lufthansa for the CSeries, and having won the lion’s share, and potentially all, of a 100 aircraft order from ILFC with firm orders for 60 of the aircraft, and 40 options. With an earlier introduction into service, the GTF is farther along in its development than the LEAP-X, and will be generating significant publicity over the next two years as it is introduced with the Bombardier CSeries.
The LEAP-X, not scheduled for introduction until two and a half years later, is also progressing well in its program, but at an earlier stage of development has naturally not generated the same level of publicity and market excitement as the GTF. The LEAP-X will replace the venerable CFM-56 series of engines, known for their record reliability and time on wing. LEAP-X promises to maintain those very high standards of dispatch reliability and longevity between maintenance visits.
Of course, the jury is still out. The industry rumor mill indicates that extremely attractive terms are being offered to Lufthansa. As their complex evaluation models translate all of the potential events over the life cycle of an engine into dollars and cents, and the opportunity exists for a great deal for an influential early launch customer. While it is too early to predict an engine winner, it is not too early to predict that LH will likely receive an excellent deal when it makes its choice.