Pratt & Whitney Bullish On Geared Turbofan

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Twenty years in development, the new geared turbofan engine from Pratt & Whitney is currently nearing the completion of tests and the company sees big things in its future. The engine is designed to cut fuel burn by 12 percent, compared to the most modern engines currently available, and should be scalable. "We see the geared turbofan concept playing out for the whole future family of engines," Pratt & Whitney President Steve Finger recently told Reuters. Pratt hopes that after 2013 the engines will find a broad range of applications, beginning with upcoming regional jet aircraft from Bombardier and Mitsubishi and scaling up to produce more than 95,000 pounds of thrust. "Whatever happens" said Finger, "we don't believe anyone can bring anything that can compare with a geared turbofan for a long time."

Pratt expects to experience single-digit growth in 2009, and with geared turbofan tests due to complete in the near future, the company's new product may soon find favor with more airframe manufacturers. The near-term hurdle is convincing those manufacturers of gearing's long-term reliability. According to Finger, gearbox durability is not a significant issue and is not even within the top ten causes of in-flight shutdown or problems with reliability. Bombardier expects to be flying examples of the engines on its CSeries aircraft in 2013 and that line of aircraft may become the proving ground that stimulates the currently dormant interests of Boeing and Airbus.