There’s been much speculation about whether the Pratt & Whitney geared turbofan could be used to reengine an Airbus A320 or Boeing 737, to give those narrowbodies a few more years of life before they need to be replaced.
Pratt officials for some time have indicated they think it’s unlikely, but the speculation has persisted. Now, Bob Saia, Pratt’s VP for future programs makes the best case, yet, for why it is unlikely.
“You can always take an engine and adapt it for a given airplane,” he says, but adds that in most cases it just doesn’t make good business sense. The bill for a development program of that type is about $1 billion.
"We would want to have an airplane that’s going to be in production for 10-15 years,” he points out. With the 737 and A320 replacements expected to come into service around 2017-2020, that’s not going to happen.Moreover, some customers would stick with their current engine-types to avoid having to manage a split fleet.
Also not in the cards is a GTF application for the A350XWB, for which Airbus would like a second engine offering. Although Pratt plans to offer a GTF in that thrust class, it’ll be another ten years or so before it has scaled the technology to the needed output levels.
The work to develop larger GTFs has started, though. Pratt is working on the technology to upgrade the current GTF to power the next Airbus and Boeing products. A demonstrator could run around 2012/13, Saia says.
Pratt has recently completed a series of trials of its PW1000G GTF demonstrator. Here’s a pretty good video summary, courtesy of the engine maker.