Pratt Boss Says New Engine Meets Benchmarks for Airbus Planes

  • Geared turbofan ‘is as we advertised, period,’ Leduc says
  • Comments follow criticism from chief of Qatar Airways

The head of Pratt & Whitney said its geared turbofan engine is meeting performance specifications for Airbus Group SE’s new narrow-body jet, following criticism from one of the plane’s earliest customers.

Bob Leduc, president of the engine maker, cited fuel-efficiency, noise and emissions achievements of power plants on the seven Airbus A320neos in service, saying claims of reliability problems are overblown. The engines being shipped today have the necessary fixes to earlier issues, including a cooling problem that delayed startup under some circumstances, he said.

“The engine is as we advertised, period. Full stop,’’ Leduc said in an interview during a media day in East Hartford, Connecticut, for the United Technologies Corp. unit. “The facts belie the accusation.”

The geared turbofan’s success is critical for Pratt & Whitney, which spent $10 billion developing the quieter and more fuel-efficient engine for planes such as the A320neo and Bombardier Inc.’s C Series. The engine is one of two available for the new Airbus jet, along with the Leap from CFM International, a joint venture between General Electric Co. and Safran SA.

Qatar Airways

Akbar Al Baker, the chief executive officer of Qatar Airways Ltd. and a frequent critic of the Pratt engine’s early performance, said last week that the carrier exercised a walk-away clause on its first A320neo and may do the same on subsequent planes. Qatar, which had ordered 50 of the new jets, was slated to be the launch customer late last year before engine issues led the airline to refuse delivery. 

Deutsche Lufthansa AG became the A320neo’s first operator this year and initially restricted operations because of engine issues.

Pratt has won orders for about 7,100 of the new engines, and that could grow to around 7,500 by the end of the year, Leduc said. Pratt is on track to deliver 200 geared turbofans this year, he said.

The new engine improves fuel efficiency by about 16 percent over previous models, Leduc said. Engines in service have achieved 99.75 percent dispatch reliability with no in-flight shut-downs or required air turn backs, he said. He lamented that achievements have been overshadowed by minor faults.

“These are pretty de minimis issues,’’ Leduc said. “Admittedly, it caused our customers disruption, and we take that very seriously, and we dealt with it in a very expeditious manner.”

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