In the relatively predictable world of aero engines there are few moments of genuine jaw-dropping shock.
Yet for those of us who monitor such things, the date of Oct 12 could well become as significant as knowing where you were when, say, a President was shot or a space shuttle crashed.
That’s not to say the news of Rolls and Pratt tying the knot on a new civil engine partnership itself was in anyway bad – just astonishingly unexpected.
How many remember, for instance, where they were when they heard that GE and Pratt were forming the GP7200 Engine Alliance, or that Rolls and GE were creating the F136 Fighter Engine Team or Rolls getting together with BMW? Probably not many outside of those directly involved.
Further back what about the original formation of IAE, or even CFM? The point is that even in earlier, far less transparent days when such top-level agreements were sealed behind closed doors, the world was generally prepared for the news. Every one of those deals was proceeded by months, and often years, of posturing and negotiation.
But this is different. To the outside world, Rolls and Pratt have spent more than two years effectively falling apart. The increasing alienation between the main IAE partners has been marked by a litany of nasty law suits over fan designs, Pratt’s single-minded pursuit of GTF regardless of its largest IAE partner and Rolls’ equally dogged rejection of all-things geared.
The news that Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce were forming a new joint venture to pursue future airliners was therefore something of a surprise to put it mildly. To then cap it off with the revelation that the parallel deal involved Rolls selling its 32.5% share in IAE to Pratt put the icing on the cake.
Both parties agree it is a win-win. They would say that, of course. But the two agreements do seem to offer mutual benefits.
For Rolls it opens up a door back into the future mid-thrust market, access to Pratt’s geared know-how for turbofan and open rotors, and possibly a longer term stake in the engine for the A320neo.
For Pratt, its commercial leadership of IAE will allow it to make more attractive deals over GTF at a key time in its market battle with CFM’s Leap.
As it spends money on four engine development programs (three and a half in reality if you compare the almost identical A320neo and MC-21 engines), the support of Rolls could well come in very useful – not to mention the welcome income of the majority of the V2500 aftermarket spares support.
Mark King, Rolls-Royce Civil Aerospace president seemed confident an ‘elegant solution’ has been created. How about a name for the joint venture, I asked. “Not yet” was his reply – followed quickly by a clarification “that’s not the name of it by the way!”