Paris Air Show

New P&WC fan picked to power C Series airliner

 - December 15, 2006, 9:46 AM

Pratt & Whitney Canada plans to build a brand-new engine for Bomardier C Series line of single-aisle commercial airliners. The Canadian airframer confirmed the powerplant selection at the Paris Air Show yesterday during an unveiling of partial cabin mockup on display at Le Bourget. The revelation ended a month of speculation about which, if any, engine builder would step forward after the CFM International and International Aero Engines consortiums rejected Bombardier’s appeals for a nonderivative engine.

According to P&WC president and CEO Alain Bellemare, United Technologies sister company Pratt & Whitney will contribute to the effort, but he would not elaborate on how or to what extent. Neither Bellemare nor Bombardier New Commercial Aircraft president Gary Scott would offer details on the proposed engine’s design characteristics, saying only that it would contain the latest advances in materials and flow technology.

The new engine will have to produce at least 21,000 pounds of thrust to satisfy Bombardier’s requirements. The most powerful commercial P&WC engine in production–the PW307A–generates a maximum of 7,500 pounds of thrust. The PW800, still in demonstration trials and without a customer, can produce about 16,000 pounds.

The choice of Pratt & Whitney Canada would seem a natural one, given the Quebec government’s financial stake in the C Series and its recent commitment to invest another C$250 million ($200 million) in research-and-development support for P&WC over the next three years. Nevertheless, Bombardier approached P&WC only after it could convince neither CFM nor IAE to build a new engine for the airplane. Pratt & Whitney in the U.S. had offered the PW6000–one of the engines available to power the Airbus A318–but Bombardier rejected it because it couldn’t meet Scott’s requirement for half of the planned 15-percent operating cost benefit over similar designs.

Quebec minister of economic development Claude Bechard also took the podium at yesterday’s event and revealed that Bombardier’s plant in Mirabel, site of CRJ700 and CRJ900 assembly, would house the airplane’s final assembly line. In April, the Canadian and Quebec governments pledged $262.5 million in launch aid for the C Series, prompting Bombardier to announce that it would build the airplane somewhere in the Montreal area. Another $340 million will come from the UK government, in return for Bombardier’s promise to employ its Short Brothers plant in Belfast to build wings, nacelles and composite empennage structures.

Originally hoping to launch the program this summer, Bombardier has moved back its target to the fall after failing to come to terms with CFM and IAE. Here in Paris, Scott seemed relieved to have finally found an engine partner, even though the companies haven’t yet signed a firm contract. “We’re making good progress,” said Scott. “It’s really a match made in heaven. We found out that the girl next door was the best proposition after all.” Scott said the companies would sign a final contract “hopefully before the launch [of the C series].” Still in the joint concept definition phase, the project needs to nail down all the major partners, which, under Bombardier’s funding plan, would have to contribute one-third of the development cost.

The smaller member of the two-platform family, called the C110, would carry between 110 and 115 seats, while the larger member, the C130, holds as many as 130. A short-range version of each would fly 1,800 nm, while planned transcontinental-range variants would fly as far as 3,000. Maximum takeoff weights would range from 120,600 pounds for the short-range C110 to 146,000 pounds for the long-range C130.

After deciding against the all-composite fuselage many at first anticipated, Bombardier settled on a 20-percent plastics content. Fiber composites would appear in part of the center and rear fuselages, tailcone, empennage and wings. The development schedule shows first flight of the C110 in 2008 and service entry in 2010. The larger airplane would come later, but the company hasn’t set precise timeframes.