Singapore Air Show

Heart of P&W’s new geared turbofan on view

 - December 1, 2006, 9:14 AM

The planetary gearbox on Pratt & Whitney’s Asian Aerospace stand (A909), may not look very exciting, but it could represent the future of aircraft propulsion technology.

The gearbox is the most crucial component in the company’s geared turbofan (GTF) demonstrator, due to run for the first time in 2007 and to fly in 2008. If P&W can satisfy doubts about the ability of the gearbox to survive the extremely tough performance and reliability targets set for it, the demonstrator will almost certainly become Pratt & Whitney’s trump card in powering the new generation of 120- to 180-seat airliners being studied by Airbus and Boeing.

The GTF demonstrator, based around a PW6000 core and a completely new low-pressure system, is due to be ground tested in the third quarter of 2007 and, if the trials are successful, flight tests will follow the year after. The engine will produce 30,000 pounds of thrust–the power level required by the market.

March Young, P&W senior marketing manager, commercial engines, said talks with Airbus and Boeing on the GTF are happening regularly. Describing the GTF as “revolutionary,” P&W claims the engine will produce 70 percent fewer emissions, half the noise and burn 12 percent less fuel than today’s in-service single-aisle engines. “Airlines are very interested in those kinds of figures,” he told Aviation International News.

While Pratt & Whitney is the only one to have a visible result of its efforts on its Singapore stand, Rolls-Royce and General Electric are hardly dragging their feet in the race to ensure they are part of the future single-aisle market. Questions remain, however, as to the  “route to market” each manufacturer will choose.

P&W says its preferred route is via International Aero Engines (IAE), supplier of the V2500 in which it is partnered with Rolls-Royce, MTU and Japanese Aero Engines. It has hinted, however, that the nature of the collaboration could change to give it a higher share of the eventual program.

Rolls-Royce also says IAE will be its pathway to the single-aisle market, but adds that it is “evaluating all options,” insisting that it has the necessary technology in hand to ensure it meets all potential environmental and fuel burn targets without having to go the GTF route.  Officially, its long-term technology effort remains linked to its own Vision 20 program and the European Commission’s ACARE initiative, which calls for a halving of current noise levels and an 80-percent reduction in nitrogen oxides by 2020.

GE will use its highly successful CFM International platform as its vehicle and two years ago began talking about developing an all-new engine, although it remains committed to the goals set out in its LEAP56 program, a follow-on to the Tech56 program which has already seen new technologies incorporated into existing engines.