Size Does Matter
Cessna Chooses Pratt and Whitney For Its Thoroughbred ...
On January 9, Pratt and Whitney Canada announced it will build a new type of small, efficient turbofan to power Cessna's new entry-level Mustang, which is seen as a direct competitor to the Eclipse 500. Trying to beat Eclipse at its own game, Cessna has being heavily promoting its smallest jet ever. Cessna chose the PW615F to power the Mustang, which was introduced at last year's NBAA Convention. The engine is flat rated at 1,350 pounds of takeoff thrust and has a dual channel Full Authority Digital Electronic Control (FADEC) system. The PW600 series is a new family of engines developed by Pratt and Whitney Canada specifically for the mini-jet market and can be built to thrust ratings anywhere between 1,000 and 3,000 pounds. There's also a turboprop version that can put out 500 to 2,000 shaft horsepower. "The key drivers for this new engine series have been defined as low cost of ownership and operating economics without compromising reliability, performance or durability and with minimum program risk," reads part of the description on the Pratt and Whitney Canada Web site. The company says the new engines have as many as 40 percent fewer parts than other engines it makes. In the news release touting the Cessna deal, Pratt and Whitney Canada clearly hopes other mini-jet makers will hop on board. "This represents an important strategic win for us and sets the stage for additional orders for variants of the new PW600 engine family," said John Wright, VP of Business Aviation and Military Engines. Weight and fuel consumption figures are not available on the Web site; however, the TBO is set at 3,500 hours and there's a three-year, 1,000-hour warranty.
... But Will Eclipse Follow? ...
Because they share the same basic philosophy and their performance and capabilities are almost identical, a logical question is: Will Cessna's Mustang and the Eclipse 500 share the same basic engine? Like Cesnna, Eclipse has also been negotiating with Pratt and Whitney Canada since parting company with Williams International, the original supplier of engines for the Eclipse. Eclipse claims to also be in negotiations with another unnamed engine maker. On the same day the Cessna deal was announced, Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn was sending a letter to 1,357 Eclipse position holders telling them they'd be the first to know when the company had found an engine to replace the Williams EJ-22. "The bottom line is you are going to get a superior airplane as a result of this change, there is no doubt about it," Raburn's letter is quoted as saying in the Albuquerque Business Journal. Eclipse has acknowledged that the new mill will be larger and heavier but put out more thrust than the EJ-22, which was supposed to develop 770 pounds of thrust from an 80-pound engine. Pratt and Whitney Canada's new PW600 series, of which the Mustang engine is a variant, would seem to match that description.
... And Handle Its Production Changes?
If Eclipse picks the new Pratt engine, it will set its development program back at least two years. Eclipse had hoped for FAA certification by the end of this year and deliveries in 2004. But Pratt and Whitney Canada only test flew a 600-series engine for the first time last October and certification is planned for the end of 2005, a year before Cessna had said it can start delivering Mustangs. The other variable for Eclipse is cost. No financial terms of the Cessna-Pratt and Whitney Canada deal were released but Cessna has pegged the cost of a Mustang at $2.3 million. Before the deal with Williams collapsed in November, Eclipse had promised to deliver the 500 for $837,500. To our knowledge, Eclipse has not speculated on how much that might rise with a different engine. AVweb's BizAv will continue to follow and report on these developments.