Dreamliner woes blank out better news about Bombardier's CSeries and P&W's new engine
News that a revolutionary GTF engine is working as promised could also mean big trouble for Boeing, but given the 787 issues, that is definitely not high up on its list of really-annoying-things at this time.
While the 787 Dreamliner issues took all the oxygen this week, there was good news about a new jet airliner, the Bombardier CSeries, and a new engine, the Pratt & Whitney GTF, which will power it, and Airbus A320 NEOs and an almost brand new version of Embraer’s E-jets.
The GTF engine, which Airbus has already said will deliver on its promised 15% fuel burn reduction, is the news that will be of most interest to Australia’s airlines, and poses a risk to the Boeing 737 MAX program’s competitive position in sales contests with the Airbus A320 NEO series.
The latter offers both a version of the GTF, and the CFM Leap-X engine while the former comes only with the French-American engine. At the moment the commentary in American and European aerospace media is that the Leap-X isn’t leaping as promised, which would mean everything else being equal, airlines like Virgin Australia and SilkAir that have ordered the 737 MAX will end up with a sizeable fuel burn disadvantage.
But that is, at this stage, way too premature a call. Two things to consider are that CFM is a very accomplished and resourceful company, and will work to narrow, close or exceed any fuel burn gap like there is no tomorrow (which there won’t be if they don’t) and the real inservice reliability and longevity of the GTF technology won’t become apparent until at least one if not two years in service on A320NEOs, as well as on Bombardier CSeries jets, in a lower powered version.
The possibility of a measurable and costly gap between the LEAP-X designs and the GTF designs is just one of the many things that keep airline executives and airliner makers awake at night, but at the moment, wouldn’t really compete with the nightmare confronting Boeing over the Dreamliner, and Airbus, to an uncertain extent, over its application of similar lithium ion batteries in its A350s to the ones that variously caught fire or overheated in two 787s earlier this month, leading to the type’s indefinite grounding.
Compared to the graphic of a CSeries 300 at the top of the page, which is a natural replacment for 737-700s or A319s, below is a view of the final assembly line where the first of the smaller CSeries 100 jets is rapidly coming together.
The photo was tweeted by Bombardier and shows that after delays, the test and certification jets are rapidly taking shape. (There are two others visible in other Bombardier twitter feed pix.)
The first CSeries 100 is intended to fly this June, coincidentally the same month the initial A350-900 was hoped to fly, but that hope preceded the 787 Lithium ion battery incidents and groundings. The CS100 is pitched at the same market that was covered, rather unsuccessfully by the 737-600, its predecessor the 737-500 and the A318, as well as Embraer-195s, and as a Fokker F100 or Boeing 717 replacement.
Ben Sandilands has reported and analysed the mechanical mobility of humanity since late 1960 - the end of the age of great scheduled ocean liners and coastal steamers and the start of the jet age. He’s worked in newspapers, radio and TV in a wide range of roles as a journalist at home and abroad for 56 years, the last 18 freelance.