July 16, 2012
Credit: Photo Credit: Nigel Howarth/AW&ST
Guy Norris Farnborough
EDITOR'S NOTE: Aviation Week's video team was busy at Farnborough, recording the action and reporting on key commercial and military programs. Among the highlights in our Farnborough video library: An aggressive marketing campaign to sell the V-22 Osprey included daily flights of the tiltrotor at the air show. Abandoning a 28-year policy of not participating in flying demonstrations at air shows, Boeing showed off a 787 scheduled to be delivered to Qatar Airways. Saab promoted its new maritime surveillance aircraft just a month after unveiling its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance platform based on the Saab 340 turboprop. Check out these videos and more in the digital edition of Aviation Week on leading tablets and smartphones, or go to AviationWeek.com/Farnborough.
Facing huge development costs and a tightly contested market, engine makers have sometimes made archrivals into partners in efforts to compete across an expanding thrust range.
The establishment of CFM and International Aero Engines (IAE) in the 1970s and 1980s set the scene for the mid-thrust battles of the last three decades, but it was the teaming of General Electric and Pratt & Whitney 16 years ago that rocked the aerospace world. To the general astonishment of the industry at the time, the two former adversaries buried the hatchet to partner on an engine development called the GP7000.
Although launched for a stretched Boeing 747-500X/600X that was later canceled, the GE-Pratt Engine Alliance realigned its project to develop an engine instead for the Airbus A380. The resulting GP7200 went on to compete aggressively with the previously uncontested Rolls-Royce Trent 900, currently claiming just over half the market. The engine has also provided GE with an extra link to Airbus, while to Pratt it is a valuable long-term foothold in the high-thrust-engine sector.
The Engine Alliance was forged in an environment of financial exhaustion following the three-way dogfight in the early 1990s involving GE, Pratt and Rolls-Royce over the 777. But now, as engine makers once again face a potential three-way fight over a proposed new 777X derivative, could a potential new partnership be in the offing?
The intriguing possibility that Pratt and Rolls could build on their recently established agreement in the mid-thrust arena to form a new partnership aimed specifically at the 777X is not impossible, says Pratt & Whitney President David Hess. “I wouldn't rule it out. The relationship with Rolls-Royce continues to get better and better, and it's not beyond the realms of possibility. But it hasn't been decided and we'd have to pick an architecture—so right now on 777X we're going it alone.”
The two companies are preparing the ground for future collaboration on new-technology engines to succeed the V2500 and CFM on future single-aisle successors to the A320NEO and 737 MAX later next decade. Following the restructuring of the existing IAE without Rolls-Royce, a move that was officially completed at Farnborough, the first talks over the creation of a new IAE have begun.