RAA 2011: Engine advancements/fuel savings get to regional level

As Pratt & Whitney and General Electric look to the future, it is clear they are making sure the efficiencies developed for mainline jets are making their way down to the regional level, reports Kathryn Creedy.

As they roll out their efficiencies, they are also not ignoring what many have put down to a lost cause – 50-seat regional jets – making improvements that will keep them in service for many years. Indeed, the general consensus was that 50-seaters are expected to remain in the US regional fleet for some time.

Both firms are clearly applying what they have learned with the Geared Turbo Fan/PurePower and the GenX to the regional levels by not only improving current products but offering up new solutions that will allow regionals to pursue what has become their number one goal, improving cost effectiveness for their major partners who want nothing more than to lower CPA purchase costs.

P&W pointed out recently that the use of the PurePower engine on the Mitsubishi MRJ product brings the GTF efficiencies to regionals. Indeed, it suggested that those who acquire the MRJ will have a significant cost advantage over other regional jets and that puts Trans States in a leading position since it remains the only US regional to have ordered the Japanese regional jet.

All the other PurePower applications are for the 100- to 200-seat market – the Airbus NEO family, the CSeries and the Irkut MS-21 family. While the A320neo is raking in orders, many financiers, in noting the order in which the NEOs are entering service – A320, A321 and A319 – openly wonder whether Airbus will actually produce the below-150-seat variant. Regardless, it will still be a crowded market given the C919 out of China and whatever Embraer expects to do once Boeing decides what it wants to do.

P&W sees ongoing technology development in the 2017-and-beyond period for the PurePower family but it is Pratt & Whitney Canada that will be offering significant advancements for the regional airline industry.

GE and P&WC are each introducing a NextGen engine to power larger aircraft in the 90-seat category at 5,000- to 7009 shp range. The key is fully integrating the flight and prop control systems through a single FADEC box. “This will drive 20% better fuel efficiency,” said P&WC’s Richard Dussault.

The company, which is obviously looking for a customer, announced NextGen last year at Farnborough and is developing and testing components this summer working up to full core testing next year.

“We see a big future for turboprops,” Dussault, told press during the media day at this year’s RAA Convention in Nashville. “The big characteristic we need for our next generation engine is a lot of power and improvements in specific fuel consumption. We have made use of the technology and advanced materials of the GTF which will drive reduced fuel consumption and be environmentally friendly.” He added there is no timeline as there is no customer but it is pacing itself for service entry in 2016.

“Its a natural evolution and if it were available tomorrow I believe a lot of airlines would go for it,” Dussault added. He suggested there might be new-entrant programmes coming out of Asia for turboprops since those countries want to develop indigenous programmes so new products may emerge.

“We are talking to all the OEMs,” he concluded, “but it has to make sense to us but our readiness to launch is key.”

P&WC, which is obviously looking for a customer, announced NextGen last year at Farnborough and is developing and testing components this summer, working up to full core testing next year.

Dussault added that linked to that is building on the success of the PW100’s reliability and maintainability in the hostile and punishing regional airline schedule. At the show, the company launched an engine diagnostic tool – powered by Spotlight, for the PW100.

The interactive system, is designed to help operators and service providers solve issues in a fast and thorough manner. It speeds troubleshooting using Pratt & Whitney Canada’s Fault-Isolation Charts data and the collective experience of in-field service. This effort encompassed 26 engine models and created 1,680 fully validated fault isolation charts. It also harmonised fault isolation data across 11 maintenance manuals. Its online accessibility ensures collaboration with their other locations. The cost of this diagnostic tool is covered under customers’ technical publications subscription fees.

For its part, GE is also in active discussions with airframers for an application for its CPX38 Next Generation turboprop, also aimed at the 70- to 100-seat market, according to general manager–regional and large business aviation, Chuck Nugent, who also gave a briefing at the Convention. The CPX38 promises 15% better specific fuel consumption when it enters service in 2016. It, too, offers customers an integrated solution.

Nugent reported that its hardy and popular CF34 continues its standard 99.95% dispatch reliability having already completed 72 million flight hours and 59 million cycles after 19 years of service.

"GE plans to continue this same level of performance in the next-generation of CF34 engines,” said Nugent. “We are already working the technology for this engine in our NG34 technology development programme."

This programme will incorporate GE’s fuel-efficient, low-emission eCore and promises 15% better fuel efficiency than the CF34-10E engine. Employing GEnx technology, the core will incorporate advanced material, unique cooling technologies, next generation twin-annular, premixing swirler (TAPS) for more efficient and cleaner fuel combustion and new 3-D aerodynamic design airfoils. Testing of the advanced core technologies is underway with the second core demonstrator running in mid-2011.

Nugent told media through its programmes that power Embraer’s 190/195 as well as its Lineage 1000 biz jet, the CF34-10E has accumulated more than five million flight-hours and three million cycles. Meanwhile, having received FAA certification last July, the CF34-10A continues flight testing on the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) ARJ21. COMAC has announced orders for 240 ARJ21s and forecasts a demand for up to 850 aircraft over the next 20 years.

In service for 10 years, the CF34-8 engine powers the Bombardier CRJ700 and CRJ900 and Embraer’s 170/175 aircraft. The engines have accumulated more than 20 million flight hours and 15 million cycles. Its decade-long evolution resulted in enhancements that lowered part count, improved durability and reduced maintenance costs. The CF34-8C1 upgrade to incorporate technology from the CF34-8C5 version to create a common engine for the CRJ700 and CRJ900 is complete on the fleet. The upgrade provides either up to 5% thrust increase or up to 15% lower maintenance costs.

The CF34-3, in service since 1992 and powering the Bombardier CRJ100/200 aircraft, has an upgrade package which can convert the CF34-3A1 to a CF34-3B1 to improve fuel burn and climb thrust capability.

Kathryn Creedy, US correspondent, Low-Fare &Regional Airlines/LARAnews.net
Nashville, Tennessee, USA

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