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As new propulsion technologies take off, Keith Mwanalushi looks at their application on the next generation of narrowbody aircraft

In February, the Airbus A320neo took off on its first delivery flight to Lufthansa, powered by Pratt & Whitney's (P&W) much anticipated PurePower Geared Turbofan (GTF). According to Airbus, the first experiences with the neo clearly show that the 15% lower fuel consumption mark has not only been achieved, but even slightly exceeded.


Since the first delivery flight, P&W say the PW1100G-JM engine is performing with a very high dispatch reliability rate. “The engine is hitting all of the performance metrics for fuel burn, noise and emissions,” a P&W spokesman tells Low Cost & Regional Airline Business.


The GTF engine architecture also allows room for growth – as demonstrated by the promise that by 2020 there will be an additional 2% fuel burn enhancement offered to operators, further reinforcing the A320neo's 20% fuel burn savings.


Efficiency gains from the new engines will be a key factor for airline operators. However, some analysts have argued that the current low price of oil somewhat undermines the fuel efficiency attributes of these new engines.


P&W responds with confidence that the PurePower engine will provide more than 16% engine fuel burn reduction, which has a direct, positive impact on CO2 emissions reductions. “The GTF engine’s energy efficiency will save airlines about 15 billion gallons of fuel from now up until 2025,” the company says.


Engine maintenance is also a key issue (and cost) for airlines. According to P&W, the GTF is designed with maintenance in mind, providing aircraft operators with significant reductions in fuel burn, emissions and noise.  The GTF engine has 2,000 fewer airfoils, six fewer stages and lower engine core temperatures when compared with conventional turbofan engines.


“From a line maintenance perspective, we have gathered worldwide operator input to design the GTF engine internals and externals to simplify line maintenance. The fan drive gear system is designed to run for infinite life, with no life limited parts,” say P&W.


To support GTF engine operators, P&W have made two significant investments: firstly, the company has fully executed readiness plans with tools, training, simulations, manuals, spare parts on shelves, field representatives and spare engines in place, as well as making initial provisioning hardware available. Data analytics will help provide improved visibility to the overall health of the engines.


Secondly, they have established a GTF engine MRO network to provide operators with maintenance support. Pratt & Whitney and its OEM programme partners – MTU in Europe, and JAEC in Asia – are ready to support this new fleet.


The Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ) also took off for the first time last November; it too was powered by the GTF. P&W reports that the engine performed well during the first flight and has continued to perform well during testing.  >>

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