Paris Air Show

P&W ‘laser focused’ on CFM56-3 parts campaign

 - June 13, 2007, 11:20 AM

In January, Pratt & Whitney achieved a major milestone in its campaign to become a certified supplier of spares for CFM International’s CFM56-3 turbofans when it ran the first engine test containing parts it had re-engineered and manufactured. The event marked one of the final steps toward certification and delivery of the first P&W-manufactured CFM56-3 parts to the ground-breaking service’s launch customer, United Airlines. CFM International is a 50-50 joint company of GE-Aviation and Snecma, which is now part of SAFRAN.

“We’re laser-focused on the program because we know we have to get it right,” Matthew Bromberg, vice president and general manager of Pratt & Whitney’s new Global Material Solutions (GMS) business, told Aviation International News.

With more than 4,500 CFM56-3 engines in the field requiring shop visits every four years costing up to $1.5 million, P&W is chasing a serious business opportunity, even if it has to weather accusations from CFM that only the original equipment manufacturer should be qualified to supply CFM56 spares.

Bromberg insisted that competition is good for both suppliers and customers and pointed out that the CFM56-3 parts program will be certified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), in parallel with the European Aviation Safety Agency and Chinese civil aviation authorities. “We chose those three agencies because they cover 75 percent of the global installed CFM56-3 base,” said Bromberg.

“Our criteria is to offer fully interchangeable parts for all stages of the CFM56-3 overhaul process. The engine won’t know that it is running a Pratt & Whitney part,” he added. The claimed advantage to customers choosing P&W is a “significant” reduction in cost of ownership of the engine, “because we will provide better value based on the combination of cost and performance.”

The first–and so far only–customer for the GMS package is United Airlines, which signed up when the program was launched in February 2006. Bromberg declined to reveal the business conditions of the deal, saying only that it covers “between 200 and 300 engines.” He said that the program attracted a “very exciting” rush of initial interest from a widespread potential customer base including legacy airlines, low-cost carriers and new airlines “that are looking at totally new maintenance strategies.”

Since then, and the first display of actual CFM56-3 components at the 2006 Farnborough airshow, the program has matured. “We’re about halfway through; we’re on track and we’re in the process of holding final negotiations with several potential customers,” said the P&W executive, while dampening expectations that a further spares deal may be announced here at the Paris show this week.

The test program is being carried out on a pair of Pratt & Whitney-owned CFM56-3s that have been wired up to deliver performance and telemetry data enabling P&W to understand fully the operating parameters of the engine in all conditions. The data are then entered into P&W’s CFM56-3 engine-lifting analysis system, which will be used to certify new life-limited parts when they become available early next year.

The first of 29 packages of gas path components and 19 packages of life-limited components, such as turbine discs and rotor shafts, is now with the FAA and the remainder will be sent to the agency sequentially. Approval for all of the packages is expected within the next 12 months.

The resulting 48 packages account for 90 percent of the value of parts required in a typical overhaul. “Of that, 60 percent is new materials,” explained Bromberg.
P&W argues that its extensive knowledge of engine overhaul and lifting from its own engine programs should represent a confidence factor that potential customers cannot ignore. “We’ve built up more than one-and-a-half billion hours of experience with our own programs, and we have exactly the same data points for the CFM56-3,” Bromberg stated.

The company does not deny that it is seeking spares business from other CFM56 engine types. “If we find the right customer we will pursue other models,” said Bromberg. The CFM56-5 and -7 are the likely next candidates for the GMS treatment once the CFM56-3 is fully certified and in the field. “We already service all three types at our Norway engine center,” he said. “There are more than 16,000 engines out there now and there will be 25,000 by the time production ends. That’s a huge customer base. We see a potential $17 billion service market, of which $11 billion will be for new materials. That’s not something you can ignore.”