Airbus goes the last bolt with new A320 engine option
With perhaps as much innovation in PR as engineering, a new type of jet engine for Airbus A320s has been accorded a ‘last bolt ceremony’ but there is something important going on here.
It is with a rising sense of alarm that an Airbus media release about a ‘last bolt ceremony’ is read concerning the completion of the first fully scaled up functional Pratt and Whitney Pure Power GTF or geared turbo-fan new engine option for the sharklet equipped A320 program.
Will this be followed by ‘first bolt ceremonies’? Will Boeing strike back with first door opening or wing joining ceremonies for the 787-9? In a media scene where free social media trumps paid print, and anything that moves is an excuse to cause millions of likes on Facebook and tens of millions of YouTube viewings, the event spinning game is in overdrive.
However, putting aside disquiet over the rate at which such events are manufacturered in media messaging in every aspect of government and public administration as well as in celebrity tracking and almost every consumer product promotion on the planet, there is a talking point in the completion of the first A320 sized Pure Power engine.
Which is that it doesn’t fit under the wing of the competing 737 MAX program for bringing the benefits of new engine technology to single aisle airliner families that have been around for decades as Airbus and Boeing jets.
This means that if the P & W Pure Power does what has been promised, and radically improves the economics of airlines that use them, buyers of the 737 MAX series which is timed to appear from late 2017 compared to late 2015 for the A320 NEOs are going to have a second rate, that is, more costly to fuel and operate jet on their hands than competitors who have replaced their older single aisle jets with this option on new single aisle Airbuses.
In Australia that would mean that Virgin Australia, which has ordered the 737 MAX 8, will have also purchased an inbuilt cost disadvantage over any competitor flying the P & W engine on an A320 NEO.
Of course, it may not turn out like this at all. The Airbus A320 NEOs have two options, the P & W Pure Power engine which has a very wide diameter as shown above, and the CFM International Leap-X design, which is not quite as wide, and which is also the only option made available in an even narrower version on the Boeing MAXs, because they have less clearance under the wing.
If Pure Power doesn’t deliver better improvements than promised with similarly fervent conviction by the makers of the French-American Leap-X engines, then Pratt and Whitney is going to be up to its armpits in ordure.
This is what was said about the ‘last bolt’, and remember, we keep stuff like this so we can audit it against actual results:
Significant milestone reached and A320neo program on track
Airbus’ A320neo program has moved a step closer to the real aircraft with the assembly of the first engine-to-test – the Pratt & Whitney (P&W) PurePower PW1100G-JM engine. This engine is due to begin testing very soon at P&W’s facilities in Florida, USA.
The PurePower engine uses an advanced gear system for the fan. This configuration was validated in Toulouse on Airbus’ A340 flying-testbed aircraft in 2008 during P&W’s ‘geared-turbofan’ conceptual phase. The gear allows the engine’s fan to operate at a different speed than the low-pressure compressor and turbine. The combination of the gear system and an all-new advanced core is a solution which delivers fuel efficiency and environmental benefits.
Paul Adams, Senior Vice President, Operations & Engineering, Pratt & Whitney said: “Pratt & Whitney is proud that its PurePower PW1100G-JM will be the first engine to enter service on the Airbus A320neo. We are confident the Geared Turbofan provides the best value proposition for the future, and that our new engine for the A320neo family is well positioned to support Airbus in this market segment.”