Engine Glitches On New Airliners

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The next generation of airliners use a lot less fuel and are whisper quiet but squeezing all that efficiency out is challenging and it’s causing some headaches for airframers and their engine suppliers. Bombardier and Airbus have been having issues with the Pratt & Whitney PurePower geared turbofan that they’ve hung their sales on and Boeing briefly suspended the flight test program for its 737 Max because of turbine disc issues with the Leap 1B turbines made by Safran, a joint venture between GE and CFM. Boeing hadn’t noticed anything wrong but grounded its test aircraft after Safran warned it of potential issues. The 20 test and pre-delivery aircraft were inspected and returned to service late last week, and first delivery is planned for May 22 to Indonesian carrier Lion Mentari Airlines.

Meanwhile, the issues with P&W’s engines do appear to be design-related but are being addressed and aren’t hurting sales of the CSeries airliner, according to Bombardier. CEO Alain Bellemare told analysts on a first-quarter earnings call there’s a bearing that needs upgrading and a combustor lining needs beefing up. But Bellemare said the engine has been reliable in service and dispatch rates are exceeding the expectations of the two carriers flying the new twinjet. Airbus uses the same basic engine on its A320Neo but some of the suppliers and contractors in the program are different.

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