Archive For The “Pratt & Whitney” Category

The GTF engine and the news – a perspective

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Should the market be concerned about P&W?

Yet another issue with the Pratt & Whitney GTF was reported last week.  Certainly, frustrating airlines and Airbus again. This time it’s the high-pressure compressor and the knife edge seal.

The pattern was detected in late January by some accounts, and by February 8, EASA issued an emergency airworthiness directive, requiring aircraft with both engines from the affected population of engines to be grounded. That number seems to be small – by P&W’s count, it was 11 aircraft. Aircraft with one engine from the affected population – 21 by P&W’s count – can continue to fly but not on ETOPS routes.  P&W started to work on the issue immediately – before the AD.  The AD came after the fourth case of an engine problem.

On any other engine on any other day, it would be have noted but not headline news outside of aviation media.  But this is the GTF, and after last year, everyone watches P&W very closely.  Deservedly so – their introduction of the first new engine architecture in 30 years warrants the kind monitoring they’ve been getting.

How are they handling this issue?

In answering this question, compare P&W’s handling of this issue with the handling of the #3 carbon seal last year.  Then the #3 carbon seal issue led to grounded aircraft, most notably in India, in summer last year. P&W was in reaction mode until the redesigned part was certified, at which point they seemed to take a more proactive approach to telling their story. It was a summer of pain – for their customers, for Airbus, and for P&W.

P&W has handled this issue differently – far more proactive, with more confidence and transparency, to their advantage. The number of engines worldwide in service affected by this HPC issue is 43 – on 32 aircraft, so the scope is significantly smaller and contained, unlike with the #3 seal issue. The mitigation plan is far more immediate than with the #3 seal, too. And most of all, P&W shared a more technical information through their official press releases than they have before.

The Leduc impact

This may be the first signs of what P&W President Bob Leduc calls his “cultural transformation” in action. Mr. Leduc came back to P&W after many years’ absence and, in his words, “didn’t recognize the place I once loved.” Decision making had been pulled up to the highest levels, people were afraid to communicate bad news, and the entire company seemed bloated and bureaucratic. It’s surprising the GTF comes from P&W, with the culture Leduc re-entered in 2016.  All trade media trying to get information out of the company over the past 24 months knows this.

Mr. Leduc realized there were issues needing attention: a majority of its engineering talent was going to retire in the next decade. Technology was reshaping the factory floor, changing the fundamental role of hourly workers. And he was facing a production ramp for the GTF and F135 programs that the company hadn’t seen since the 1980s, or arguably since the second world war.

Leadership shuffles, not just the heads of the major product lines, but throughout the organization were made. Mr. Leduc started doing more internal employee meetings, preaching the gospel of their mission, all revolving around the fact that every second of every day, someone somewhere depended on a P&W engine to get them where they needed to go.  Last year he championed a leadership course by the Thayer Leader Development Group, led by retired Army commanders who know about leading in a volatile environment.

Mr. Leduc’s work is far from done, but something seems to be catching on. He’s helped by the support from United Technologies, and the fact that while the GTF has had a series of issues, crucially none of these technical problems are related to the gear system itself. Plus, the engine is meeting and even exceeding performance promises for fuel efficiency and noise. It is only on the A320neo program that these issues have occurred.  Bombardier, Embraer, Mitsubishi, and IRKUT all seem pleased they chose the engine for their programs. Even Sukhoi is flirting with using it.  If the engine was fundamentally a risk, the OEMs other than Airbus would not be using it exclusively.

Our assessment

The GTF is sound, and the issues are irritating but ultimately solvable. We like the direction P&W is taking but they must “walk the talk.” They recommitted to meeting their 2018 production numbers, (after having met the production numbers in 2017) so time will tell, but for now, we think it’s appropriate to give them the benefit of the doubt. Remember how Boeing had an uphill battle with India-based 787s?  Boeing got through it.  So will P&W.

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Update on PW Airworthiness Directive

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The emergency airworthiness directive issued Friday for knife-edge seals on Pratt & Whitney GTF engines on the A320neo family covers 43 engines post serial number 777450 that are active in the Airbus fleet.  The AD today has grounded at least 11 aircraft that are equipped with the new model engines, as well as halting deliveries of new engines to the Airbus production line, resulting in additional customer delivery delays.

Because the AD requires “de-pairing” of the affected engine models, engines from those 22 aircraft on which they are installed will likely be transferred to other aircraft in existing fleets to mix impacted and non-impacted engines and avoid the potential for a dual IFSD. This means the AD will likely impact 44 aircraft overall that are currently in service once the de-pairing is completed.  There are currently 113 GTF powered A320neo family aircraft in service with 226 engines, so the AD impacts the most recently delivered 19% of the fleet.

As we obtain more information on the timing of the potential fix, we will continue to update the story.

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EASA Issues New Airworthiness Directive for PW GTF Engines on A320neo Family

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EASA today issued an emergency Airworthiness Directive related to Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan engines on A320neo family aircraft.  That AD can be found here,   Apparently, several rejected take offs (RTO) and in flight shut downs (IFSD) have occurred with the PW1127G-JM, PW1127GA-JM, PW1133G-JM and PW1133GA-JM engines having engine serial numbers P770450 or subsequent.

While the root cause is not known, preliminary findings indicate that the affected engines, that had a high pressure compressor aft hub modification that began with serial number 450, are more susceptible to IFSD, which if not corrected could lead to dual engine failure.  Pratt & Whitney indicate that the issue is related to a “knife-edge seal in the high pressure compressor aft hub” and are already at work to find the root cause and fix for that issue.

Emergency operational restrictions called for in the Airworthiness Directive include de-pairing affected engines within 3 flight cycles, and within 1 flight cycle eliminating ETOPS operations for aircraft with 1 affected engine installed.

This Airworthiness Directive presents another blow to the GTF program just as production rates had ramped up to planned levels.  It appears that because this AD impacts newer engines, Pratt & Whitney will need to stop production to modify the current build standard and fix the cause behind the higher than expected IFSD rate.

At this writing, we cannot project how long it will take for Pratt & Whitney to develop a “fix” for the problem, nor the overall impact on A320neo operations with affected customers.  This AD will likely impact about 226 engines on 113 aircraft in service with 18 customers.  It is also likely to impact a few more engines currently on the production lines at Airbus and Pratt & Whitney that will likely need to be retrofit prior to installation on new aircraft, as well as spare engines in inventories.

As we obtain further details, we will update this story.




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Pratt & Whitney having a great show

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The Singapore air show got off to a start yesterday.  It hasn’t been a noisy affair.  Boeing picked up a lot of service business – which is a key goal for the company.  Boeing also seems to be using the show to broaden discussions with the world beyond customers about its 797.  The big question though is where are Boeing and Embraer going with their deal?  There are some conflicting stories about this – some media talk about a 90% deal and others indicate Brazil will not be rushed into this. The Brazilian air force now seems to hold the decision.

The company that seems to be having a great show so far is Pratt & Whitney.  It announced an inauguration of GP7200 overhaul capability at its Singapore engine center.  Pratt & Whitney also announced orders to supply GTF engines for A320neo for Aviation Capital Group (20 aircraft), SWISS (15), Aircalin (2) and lessor BOC Aviation (12).  Then subsidiary Pratt & Whitney Canada signed a contract with Qantas Airways for the maintenance of 51 APUs on aircraft flown by the Qantas Group. The contract covers 20 APS2100 APUs for QantasLink Boeing 717s; 19 APS5000 APUs for Jetstar and Qantas Boeing 787s; and 12 PW980 APUs for Qantas Airbus A380s.

To top this off, Sukhoi announced that they are working on a 75-seat shrink of their SSJ and considering using the same version of the GTF seen on the MRJ for this aircraft.  Considering the GTF is also found on the C Series, E2, neo, and MC-21 this is an excellent statement of confidence in that engine.  One might argue that for the market between 75 to 150 seats, the market has embraced the GTF as the new standard. Having a GTF solution for the A321 and MC-21 helps boost that program all the way to over 200 seats.

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Aeroflot places $5bn order for 50 MC-21s

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Aeroflot ordered 50 MC-21s today from IRKUT.  Aeroflot will receive the first jet in the first quarter of 2020, with the full delivery to be completed by 2026.  Under the terms of the order, Rostec, the leasing subsidiary of Aviacapital-Service, will supply the 50 MC-21-300s. These aircraft are to be leased for a term of 12 years, with the option of two-year extensions on the lease no more than three times.

RT reports that the first 25 MC-21s delivered to Aeroflot will have Pratt & Whitney PW1400G engines.  At this stage, we do not know if the remaining aircraft will be equipped with the PD-14 engines, due to be certified later this year.

Aeroflot plans to use the MC-21s to replace its remaining Soviet-era Yakovlev Yak-42, Tupolev Tu-134, Tupolev Tu-154, and Tupolev Tu-204/214 aircraft.  Aeroflot configurations are to carry 169 passengers, with 16 business-class and 153 economy-class seats.  The airline will be using the aircraft on domestic and international routes.

From discussions with IRKUT, we expect to see the MC-21 to offer operating costs around 6-7% lower than its competitors.  Which is a very interesting and exciting data point, numbers which we are in the process of verifying.  Every OEM that has deployed the GTF has seen fuel burn lower than expected and a consequent increase in range.  We expect the same to happen with MC-21.

Vitaly Saveliev, Aeroflot CEO, said: “The signing of a firm order for 50 MC-21 aircraft is a landmark event not just for our two companies, but for our country. Russian manufacturers have created the first next-generation passenger aircraft, marking Russia’s return as a global leader in the aviation industry.  In today’s geopolitical context we believe it is essential that there is competitive Russian-made technology, and that it is of the highest quality and competitively priced.  For this reason, our partnership with Rostec, our largest partner and a shareholder of Aeroflot, is of critical importance.”

Sergey Chemezov, Rostec CEO, said: “This agreement underscores that Russia’s civil aviation industry is making a comeback and taking its place among leading global manufacturers. The MC-21 represents a genuine breakthrough achievement for the aviation industry.  The aircraft uses cutting-edge materials and the latest generation of systems, created by leading Russian companies. Elements of the MC-21 that Rostec produces include titanium and composite parts, onboard electronics, chassis components, other systems, and the ‘heart’ of the aircraft – the PD-14 engine.  We believe that this engine will be selected by Aeroflot as the primary power plant for the MC-21.”

This is a program to watch.  Hopefully, we will see the flight test aircraft Farnborough this year.

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The A380 engine choice

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The latest order from Emirates suggests the engine makers are in for another round of tough bargaining.  No engines were selected for the latest deal.

Currently, Emirates is not only the largest A380 operator, it is the future of the entire program.  The latest order bought Airbus another decade and could be considered as a very big gift to the OEM.

We spoke with an A380 captain who told us that from his perspective he could not tell any difference in the aircraft’s performance with either engine type.


The company won the last round of Emirates orders.  Since the start of the program, the Rolls Trent 900 has seen three upgrades.  The engine is now performing at spec and these are the engines that Emirates has received.

The engines Emirates now have, are obviously more modern than the older ones and will have had improvement work done during their life. This is typical of all engine programmes to improve fuel burn efficiency and durability. This can be achieved both via some improvements to physical parts as well as software updates to help manage the engine more efficiently. We understand that Rolls-Royce has improved fuel burn efficiency on the engine by at least 1% since it first entered the market – a not insignificant amount and in-line with other engines in their fleet.

But looking forward, it is unlikely Rolls-Royce can build a business case to improve the current engine.  The A380 market probably does not provide an ROI.  It would seem then, from the Rolls-Royce perspective, the current updated Trent 900 is what they will offer Emirates.  Rolls-Royce, in our view, would think the deal will come down to price, again.  They won the last deal this way and probably feel some confidence they can do it again if it makes commercial sense.

Engine Alliance (EA)

The company won the first several rounds of Emirates orders (for the first 90 aircraft), and EA has since worked with Emirates to stand up engine maintenance work in Dubai. So despite losing the last deal, they still have a close relationship with Emirates.

EA claims the GP7200 has a 1.3-1.4% advantage over the Trent 900, even with the improvements that Rolls-Royce has made. EA feels that on long-haul routes like Dubai-Los Angeles, this could allow Emirates to carry more passengers and thus generate more revenue. In addition, EA claims the GP7200 is achieving a time onwing at Emirates that’s 2x to 4x longer than the Trent 900.

EA has spoken previously about the technical potential for a GP7200 PIP; however, they have always noted that the business case would have to make sense. Whether or not the manufacturer could or would offer Emirates a PIP for this order remains to be seen.

EA’s public response so far has been: “EA member companies, partners companies, and suppliers have retained the tooling and capability to produce the GP7200 and is prepared to adjust production accordingly.

We currently power 90 Emirates A380s (with more than 360 engines), with maintenance performed at Emirates Engine Maintenance Centre in Dubai. We remain committed to powering Emirates for years to come, and we would welcome the opportunity to work with Emirates to grow its A380 fleet.

Engine Alliance’s GP7200 engine is the quietest, most reliable, most efficient engine for the A380. This engine has been proven to be the most capable, most durable engine in the Middle East, with the longest time onwing.”

The bottom line for EA, though, it that the company appears confident going into an engine selection campaign – especially now that Emirates is able to compare the performance of both the Trent 900 and the GP7200 side-by-side.

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