Air Transport World

Farnborough finds industry on edge of many decisions. (Farnborough air show, 1986)

Farnborough finds industry on edge of many decisions London--During the meeting at Farnborough it became obvious that there was an abundance of choices. By the time the world aviation manufacturing community comes together again in June at the Paris show many decisions will have been made, some of which will have a profound effect on the future of air transport technology, including judgements on the status of potentially revolutionary propfan technology, Airbus Industrine's effort to be a full-range producer, McDonnell Douglas' move to reinvigorate its widebody line and Boeing's intention to recast the way it makes airplanes with the 7J7 (ATW, 9/86).

Key to many decisions is the result of the flight testing now underway of General Electric's Unducted Fan (UDF) propfan engine. Two of the three major airframe manufacturers--Boeing and McDonnell Douglas--are considering the timing of launching aircraft using UDF or other open propfan powerplants. Airbus, although wedded to turbofans for wing-mounted installations in present and forthcoming projects, is very much aware of propfan developments and is exploring how to effectively use this technology on the wing.

While not occupying center stage at present, the propfan efforts of Allison and Pratt & Whitney, plus assorted approaches to ducted and open fans--geared and turbine-drive, single rotation and contrarotation--will advance, allowing more informed discussion than some of the pie-in-the-sky talk that was at Farnborough.

By next June G.E. will have long finished UDF flight tests on the Boeing 727-100 and will have just begun tests with a second generation demonstrator on the McDonnell Douglas MD-80. But before Paris--by year-end, in fact--G.E. will have decided whether to maintain its schedule to certificate the all-new GE36 in 1990. …

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