Aviation International News(01-01-2006)

New Engine Technology  
By Thierry Dubois 
New aircraft designs boost engine demand
Demand for lower fuel consumption, more power and improved reliability keeps engine manufacturers constantly renewing their market offerings. Simultaneously, the growing number of aircraft models on the market, due to both the emergence of the very light jet (VLJ) segment and the numerous derivative designs aircraft makers are marketing, demands an ever expanding range of engines.

In its business aviation outlook, Honeywell Aerospace forecast deliveries of as many as 745 new business jets last year, up from 589 in 2004. This year deliveries are expected to exceed 800 for the first time in industry history. Of course, that translates into record numbers of engine deliveries, too.

Williams, for example, told AIN it delivered “more than 300 general aviation turbofans” last year and plans to deliver “more than 400” this year. Rolls-Royce also delivered high numbers of corporate aircraft engines, with 133 BR710s (for the Bombardier Globals and Gulfstream G500 series) and 56 Tay 611-8Cs (for the Gulfstream G350/450). GE delivered 76 CF34-3B engines for the Challenger 604 last year and expects to deliver the same number both this year and next.

P&WC, which did not separate engine deliveries by category, told AIN that it delivered “more than 2,000 engines” last year. This year, it plans to double post-9/11 production–a low of 1,200 engines.

In the helicopter segment alone, Rolls-Royce delivered 334 Model 250s last year and plans to deliver 400 this year. Turbomeca told AIN that it expects to deliver 930 helicopter engines this year, up from 650 last year, when it delivered approximately 80 Makilas, 140 Arriuses and 430 Arriels. “However, those figures include some military applications for our civil engines,” said Charles Claveau, Turbomeca’s director of helicopter engine programs. After deliveries of 40 CT7 turboshafts last year, GE is planning 42 for this year.

Predictions for the Near Term
What about market trends? “The helicopter market is generally in good shape. The market for civil helicopters remains steady and may benefit from additional parapublic orders as a result of its high-profile roles in recent disaster-recovery operations; the high price of oil is also driving offshore demand,” according to Rolls-Royce. GE’s Harry Nahatis, director of turboshaft engine sales, agreed. “High oil prices are encouraging exploration by oil companies,” he pointed out.

Turbomeca’s Claveau sees the market growing until 2008 or 2009. “We expect this year’s orders to equal those of last year. However, our increasing delivery numbers are due to the market shares we earned, more than overall market growth,” he said. He added that the demand is strong in emergency medical services and that “India and China have huge needs.” Generally speaking, “the helicopter industry wants to bring its safety record up to that of the airlines, which implies some renewal of the world fleet of rotorcraft,” he said.

Rolls-Royce put a figure on its predictions for the helicopter market over the next three years: “A flat but steady market, with 1 percent growth per year or so.” Competitor P&WC is experiencing “a considerable upturn” in its helicopter business, which has been “very strong” this year and is predicted to continue at this rate of growth.

For all three engine categories–turbofan, turboprop and turboshaft– P&WC executives see an international market that is “buoyant again.” They note, “Most of our customers have healthy order backlogs, so the market should show solid growth for at least the next few years. Beyond that, who can say; it is a cyclic industry depending heavily on corporate profits and overall economic growth.”

Nonetheless, with its PW600 turbofan line powering three of the in-development VLJs–the Cessna Citation Mustang, the Eclipse 500 and the Embraer Phenom 100–P&WC is looking forward to “rapid continued growth.” The PW600 will enter production early this year.

According to Newtown, Conn.-based Forecast International, “Pratt & Whitney will be the major bene- factor of [the new VLJ] class of aircraft by providing its PW600 series turbofan.” The market research firm sees that category of engines stimulating the turbofan engine market.

“These engines, lumped into the 0- to 70-seat aircraft segment, will see a 50-percent increase in production during the forecast period–from 1,997 in 2005 to 3,110 in 2014,” said Aero Gas Turbine Analyst Will Alibrandi, author of a late-2004 study.

Charles Blankenship, general manager of GE’s small commercial engine operation, sees “a steady to improving market volume due to the expectation of continued strong corporate performance.”

In stark contrast to the picture a decade ago, turboprops are facing tough competition from small turbofans and even, at the lower end of the spectrum, from diesel engines. However, according to Forecast International, “As the requirement for larger turboprop engines grows, we can look forward to manufacturers adapting other designs, particularly turbofans, for turboprop variants.” Forecast International predicts that during the 2004 to 2013 time period, the market for turboprop engines will remain strong, with production of 9,538 engines worth $7.8 billion.

New Market Entrants
So business aviation is thriving, helicopters are enjoying a healthy market and the choice of engines available to aircraft manufacturers has increased significantly. In the last decade, P&WC alone has developed some 45 engines. However, in a striking difference from the aircraft manufacturing industry, the number of new entrants in the engine field is much lower. Excluding the established OEMs, there are only two other companies making engines.

In 2004 GE and Honda established their joint venture, GE Honda Aero Engines, to develop and market the HF118 in the 1,700-pound thrust class. The HF118 engine has recently benefited from several technical improvements (see turbofan story page 38) to make the engine attractive to VLJ manufacturers. Although the engine lost to P&WC in the contest to power Embraer’s new small jets, GE and Honda are continuing their cooperative effort. The 50/50 joint venture foresees annual sales of at least 200 VLJs.

In France, start-up company Price Induction is striving to ground-test its first 560-pound-thrust turbofan, the DGEN 380, in a few weeks (see turbofan story page 38). The 12-employee enterprise is aiming to enable the creation of a new class of light aircraft–in short, a Cirrus with turbofans. “P&WC’s PW600 line is made for small business jets, whereas our engine will fit enhanced general aviation airplanes,” Bernard Etcheparre, the company’s founder and CEO, told AIN.

Less capable than the Eclipse 500, Adam A700 and so on, such a light aircraft would also be less expensive. The DGEN 380 will be suited for a 250-knot cruise speed and a 12,000-foot cruise altitude. “Instead of $200 to $250 million for a current VLJ, the aircraft’s cost of development would be in the $30 to $35 million range,” Etcheparre predicted. That would yield a $650,000 to $700,000 price for the finished airplane. The engine will sell for $106,000.

Etcheparre believes pilots upgrading from piston singles to DGEN-powered jets would find a speed advantage without the need for a dramatic advance in flying technique.

But Price Induction is pursuing more than just the owner-flown aircraft market. “The air-taxi concept, if successful, will be better addressed by the kind of aircraft we are working on than other, bigger ones,” Etcheparre asserted.

Have any aircraft manufacturers ordered DGEN engines? “Several are interested in it and did come to our design offices in Anglet, in the southwest of France, and all said, ‘Run your engine first!’” Etcheparre said.

Agilis Engines, once a contender in the small turbofan market, failed to find an application for its TF1000 engine line after the original Safire S-26 project was shelved in 2002.