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The Argument For Re-Engining Narrow Bodies

Posted on Thu, 11 Mar 2010 14:00:00 GMT
PW1000GWith the Bombardier's C-Series, COMAC's C-919 and UAC's MS-21 competition for the narrow body airliner market is heating up. Boeing and Airbus have both been enjoying their fair share of market dominance over the past decades, but with their competitors' new designs incorporating new engines, the hour has come for them to decide whether to deal or not deal.

"The major engine makers promise they can deliver double-digit efficiency gains on the 737, and Boeing is validating if gains would be enough to make re-engining worthwhile” said Boeing Chairman, President and Chief Executive Jim McNerney. “Airbus is moving aggressively on possible re-engining of its single-aisle A320 family, obviously what our competitor does, will bear on our decision" he added. Addressing the possibility that a re-engined 737 could cannibalize existing 737 orders, McNerney said: "You'd rather obsolete yourself a little bit than have someone else to it."

The prospect of a mid-decade re-engining of the A320–with either an IAE-led adaptation of the Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbofan or a CFM Leap X variant, or both–and a 2024 target for introduction of an entirely new Airbus narrowbody raises a crucial question for Boeing: Does the U.S. company follow its rival’s lead or go its own way, abandon re-engining and, instead, spend its resources on developing technologies for its own brand-new airplane, perhaps well ahead of 2024? Would such a move, then, prompt Airbus to move faster toward launching an A320 replacement?

AirInsight suggests that re-engining current narrow bodies could achieve the efficiencies sought until a new narrow body finally gets to the market at the end of the 2020 decade. “With new engine technology and more modern systems, the CSeries, MS-21 and C-919 would be 12-17% more fuel efficient than the existing A320 or 737NG models...” the team also reported.

Customers already know that engine advances could get them double digit gains in efficiency by 2015 and are thus anxious to get it since the hosing they took on fuel hedging. It is equally compelling for the manufacturers, since a re-engining program would be only a quarter of the costs of a new program.

It is definitely attractive for manufacturers to re-engine the existing models for the short term. Yet, it is still not clear whether a whole new design or just re-engining would be more profitable in the long run. But with the Airbus taking this opportunity very seriously, it is a fair bet that Boeing will also join the caravan and the engine offering will be brought to market, making airway transport a little cheaper for us in the process.

This article was contributed by resident Aviation News editor Yigit A. Coskun.

Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1000G Engine
Pratt & Whitney PurePower PW1000G Engine.  They seem to have chosen their catch-phrase right.

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Ian Stephens

About Ian Stephens

Ian Stephens is a flight simulation enthusiast also with a keen interest in aviation and technology.  Ian spends a lot of his time experimenting with various simulator packages but has a love for Microsoft Flight Simulator X because of the huge selection of add-ons available.  However, Ian also has copies of Prepar3D and X-Plane installed. 

Ian has been writing for Fly Away Simulation for over 9 years.  Should you wish, you can contact Ian via email at ian.stephens@flyawaysimulation.com.

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