Farnborough Air Show

Geared Turbofan Promises Game Change

 - November 14, 2006, 11:05 AM

The geared turbofan (GTF) is Pratt & Whitney’s “game changing” stake in the future of propulsion for the coming new generation of single-aisle aircraft that will eventually replace the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320. Mindful, however, of the Superfan fiasco in 1986 (in which IAE attempted to develop a geared fan engine for the Airbus A340) and its problems with the PW6000, the company is being careful not to put all of its eggs in one basket and is therefore developing what it calls the advanced turbofan (ATF) in parallel.

Steve Heath, vice president for commercial engine programs at Pratt & Whitney, said that while the “primary path” to the future remains the GTF, the ATF is “less of a stretch, technology-wise.” While there remain unknowns about the GTF, including installation and weight issues, Pratt & Whitney is “still very bullish about the engine,” he told Aviation International News, adding that there is “plenty of cross-applicability to the ATF.”

Work on a slimline nacelle for the GTF, active boundary-layer control, fan case integration and containment issues all mean developing a closer partnership with the airframe manufacturers. “There will be increasing emphasis on noise and emissions instead of performance,” said Heath. He admitted that the GTF configuration is “challenging” while concluding that Pratt & Whitney feels “it has the best opportunity to meet the targets that will be set.”

As program manager, Heath has adopted a conservative approach. “I need to make sure I have a risk mitigation plan,” he said. “We don’t see any show stoppers with the GTF, but we don’t want another Superfan-type problem.”