What does American’s surprise choice of the IAE V2500 for the A321s say about engine choices for its coming fleet transformation? Are we seeing the first effects of the recent reshuffle at IAE and the new marketing dominance of Pratt and Whitney as it pushes the PW1100G geared turbofan?
Just to recap, American announced in July it would acquire A320s as part of its fleet renewal (along with 737NGs, A320NEO and 737 MAX). Earlier today it revealed it would split this initial order between A319s powered by CFM56-5B engines and A321s powered, more surprisingly, by IAE V2500s. Unlike a handful of other carriers – such as Lufthansa – which also split engine suppliers along similar lines, the reasons behind this venture could be far more significant than tactical marketing or strategic support of affiliated MRO operations.
What engine maker's badge will appear on American's A320NEOs? (Airbus)
The A321 deal is almost certainly part of broader efforts by Pratt to secure a place for the PW1100G on the American A320NEO. After all, the American order was seen as a flagship deal by Airbus and a win for Pratt would mark a major coup in its battle against the Leap engine. Beginning in 2017, American expects to begin taking delivery of 130 A320NEOs for which the engine selection has yet to be made. It will be a key decision and a bellwether for many other operator selections as American is scheduled to be the first network airline in the U.S. to deploy this new technology.
However, just because CFM already has the lion’s share of the American deal thanks to its exclusivity on the 737 and 737 MAX, as well as its selection on the A319s, don’t expect the GE-Snecma joint venture to roll over on the A320NEO fight at American. As always, everything is still to play for – particularly as American’s continued interest in the GE90-powered 777-300ER continues to provide the negotiators with yet more cards to play with.