Air Transport World

Cheap is good

Pratt & Whitney's PW6000/8000 family of engines takes a new slant on what airlines want and throws in a gearbox to make life interesting

EAST HARTFORD, Conn.-After the past several decades that the industry has spent chasing fuel burn along with reliability as a defining feature of a good engine, Pratt & Whitney's approach to the PW6000/PW8000 family is a shock.

While good fuel burn remains important, a major shift in focus toward low cost of acquisition and of maintenance in these engines vies for sales pitch supremacy.

That low-cost, cheap-maintenance element is the "what" of this engine family. The "why" of it all is a simple acknowledgment by Pratt that if it wants to stay In the game, money must be spent and new products must be developed to put the company back into contention across the full range of air transport power plants.

The lesson of McDonnell Douglas's strategy of piecemeal spending on incremental-and ultimately unsatisfying-developments has not been lost on a Pratt management that watched the airframer carefully protect its bottom line until it was out of business.

The family link of this tandem program is a core that produces a lower-end 15,000-25,000-lb-thrust turbofan power plant, the PW6000, for aircraft in the 100-plus-seat size that Pratt has not contended for since the early days of the JT8D. Adding a geared fan, upgrading the high spool with materials and more cooling flow and adding a new high-speed low spool make the power plant into the PW8000 with a thrust range of 25,000-35,000 lb. to contest for the Boeing 737/Airbus A320 class aircraft now dominated by the CFM56 of GE Aircraft Engines and Snecma, with Pratt a market participant only in its share of the International Aero Engines V2500 on the A320 line. While IAE is doing well in A320 competitions, Pratt has decided to be the lead dog in the next generation of development.

Ultimately, the selection of which engine to develop first will be left "to the market," says Ed Crow, senior VP-technical. At launch, the PW6000 got the initial nod.

However, at presstime, talks were under way with Airbus Industrie to fit the PW8000 on the A320 line, while the PW6000 is contending for the proposed A319M5 110-seater. Airbus officials confirmed to ATW that the consortium welcomes an aggressive offering by Pratt on the A320 line not only for the benefits it will offer on its own but also for the fire it will light under competing engine manufacturers-meaning CFMI--to improve their products (See box, p. 52).

If an early agreement were to be reached with Airbus on an A320 development and test program, the development work on the PW6000's core will help advance the 8000 program, which would become the lead engine. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.