Thursday, March 17, 2016

Boeing 737 Max may get a lift from Airbus A320neo's GTF engine blues

Boeing and Airbus are fighting to win orders for their competing small jets.

Boeing may be about to move ahead. Strong performance by the Boeing 737 Max’s LEAP-1B engines – while the competing Airbus A320neo GTF engines struggle – could be a boost for Boeing in the fight for orders.

On Thursday, Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr said the German airline won’t accept a second Pratt & Whitney-powered A320neo into its fleet until issues with the geared turbofan engines are resolved.

“The engine issues are slowly improving, we’re not there yet, that’s why we have not agreed to take the second aircraft into the fleet,” he said in a Reuters story.

The engines, built by Pratt & Whitney in the U.S., currently account for 47 percent of A320neo orders.

While the Airbus narrow body jet has been significantly ahead of the competing Boeing model in orders, now 4,414 to 2,931 according to the order tracking site PDX Light, the stronger Boeing engine performance could tip the balance, said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst for StrategicAero Research in Dubai.

“While I don’t see any sudden switch or order surge to the Max as a result of either GTF-related angst or smooth-sailing CFM progress,” he said, “it will certainly make Boeing’s task easier when it comes to pitching the Max versus the Neo.”

Boeing executives have consistently said they expect a future wave of orders from the more than 200 airlines now operating Boeing 737s.

"A lot of people have not voted yet,” John Wojick, Boeing Commercial Airplanes’ senior vice president of global sales and marketing, in a January interview.“It’s going to be a 20-year program at least. So we’ve got a long time to play this game out.”

Boeing now has two 737 Max jets in its flight test program, and those have been performing well, Ahmad said. He added that the Boeing 737 Max might exceed the 14 percent fuel burn improvement Boeing has promised, a big improvement over current 737NG models.

“The LEAP-1B engine is performing spot-on to what CFM said it would,” Ahmad said. "LEAP-1B certainly looks to be the less-risky option versus the GTF, particularly when you look at how legendary and always-on-spec CFM is when it comes to 737 engines.”

Here he’s referring to the joint venture between GE Engines and France’s Safran, which is developing and building the LEAP engines. Those engines will power all of Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft, and 53 percent of the Airbus A320neos so far ordered.

(Steve Wilhelm - Puget Sound Business Journal)

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