Confidence in Pratt & Whitney’s geared turbofan (GTF) program is such that company president Steve Finger is talking about a potential widebody application for the engine. “We’re looking at that for late next decade,” he told Aviation International News.
The 30,000-pound-thrust demonstrator engine is due to be run up in November and is expected to take to the air aboard a converted Boeing 747 next summer. “We feel pretty good about a mid-year flight test date,” said Finger.
The company has logged more than 1,800 hours of tests on the GTF drive system. “Our current technology readiness plan is to run more than 4,000 additional test hours on the fan drive gear system through 2008, including more than 1,000 hours before the first flight test next year,” he said.
Confidence about the geared system comes from P&W’s extensive experience on geared system with other engines, amounting to more than 340 million hours on turboprops, turbofans and turboshafts. Finger said the geared system is essential to achieving the highest thermodynamic efficiency possible. “Today’s engines are maxed out with regards to tip speeds and the relationship of the fan to core speeds,” he said.
At the same time, however, he confirmed that should the geared system prove unworkable for commercial service, P&W continues to support a backup solution
in its Advanced Turbofan (ATF). “We’re working ATF technologies in parallel with the GTF,” he acknowledged.
According to Finger, talks with airframe manufacturers and the airlines continue
on a regular basis. “We’re showing airlines a game-changing technology,” he said, adding that between 20 and 30 airlines have been given detailed technical reviews. “We’re saying we’ll complete ground and flight testing in time for entry into service in late 2012,” he stated.
Full engine testing later this year is expected to confirm the predicted 12-percent improvement in fuel consumption over the best engines in the field today. In the context of the increasingly intense debate over aero engine emissions, the world airline fleet burns 80 billion gallons of fuel per year and, according to P&W, each gallon deposits 21.3 pounds of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. “Anyone who has a solution to substantially reduce that has a winning solution,” said Finger.