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Gear change

The Geared Turbofan engine from Pratt & Whitney is now flying on more than 60 aircraft. Keith Mwanalushi reports that initial snags are now being addressed

It has not been an easy ride for Pratt & Whitney (P&W), and its revolutionary Geared Turbofan engine (GTF) of late. The widely reported reliability issues that have plagued the new engine have put a bit of a grey cloud over what should be a blissful period for the engine programme, especially with the PurePower PW1100G-JM application on the much anticipated A320neo. It just goes to show that there is always an element of risk when it comes to new technologies. 


GTF engine technology features a reduction gearbox between the fan and low-pressure turbine; on the conventional engines, the two are rigidly interconnected through a shaft. Due to having a gearbox, the large-diameter fan can run slower and the turbine much faster, permitting both components to operate at their best. The result should be a significant reduction in fuel consumption, emissions of carbon dioxide and noise.


Some airlines that have operated the new GTF have since reported various problems, primarily relating to reliability concerns about a fuel seal and a combustor liner. 


IndiGo was among the first to fly the GTF-powered A320neo but was soon forced to find ways to deal with exasperating technical snags with the engines.

Reports from India suggested IndiGo had to fly its snag-hit A320neos at lower altitudes in order to reduce the strain on the engines even though this meant higher fuel consumption at lower altitudes. 


Spirit Airlines also announced adjustments to some 2018 deliveries of A320neos, replacing them with the A320ceo instead, based on similar problems. Then again, teething problems are not uncommon with newly designed platforms and P&W has offered full support to airlines with GTF technical issues. P&W reports that its carbon seal improvement package received certification on 12 April and is deployed to all its operators. The company tells Low Cost & Regional Airline Business that all customers have completed the No 3 upgrade. 


These changes are designed to improve the carbon seal’s durability for engines on the A320neo fleet. The engine OEM will continue to work closely with its customers to support operators in their daily operations. 


The company also reports that the combustor chamber testing is progressing and on track to support introduction of an upgraded combustor liners to be available starting in 4Q17.


Today, P&W say the response to the GTF has been strong across all platforms. The engine is actually the only one that covers the regional segment as well as the single-aisle segment. To date, orders and commitments for all platforms stand at more than 8,000. The aircraft platforms include the Airbus A320neo, Bombardier C Series, Mitsubishi Regional Jet, Embraer E-Jet E2 family and Irkut’s MC-21.


P&W is keen to emphasise that the GTF engine delivers dramatic savings in fuel, emissions and the noise footprint. Initial reports from Lufthansa, the first carrier to fly the A320neo, revealed that the first experiences with the A320neo showed that the 15% lower fuel consumption mark that was promised by the manufacturer was not only achieved but even slightly exceeded. >>

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