Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Pratt & Whitney Finds Silver Lining in Pandemic

While virtually no one welcomed the near pause in airline operations this spring caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, one of the industry’s prominent engine companies has managed to find a silver lining. Pratt & Whitney, whose geared turbofan (GTF) family for years suffered from technical snags, has seized the opportunity to aggressively address some of the GTF’s latest problems, perhaps most notably those involving the main low-pressure turbine (LPT) in the PW1100G—one of the engines that power the Airbus A320neo.
Speaking with AIN just before the start of the July 20 to 24 FIA Connect event, Pratt & Whitney chief commercial officer Rick Deurloo expressed satisfaction with the progress his company has made in replacing the parts in the PW1100Gs in the field during a time of low utilization due to the pandemic.
“I can't tell you how many airline executives have said to me, 'Don't ruin this opportunity,'" said Deurloo. “And we are actually laser-focused on taking our GTF fleet and taking a look at what that configuration looked like pre-Covid and making sure when we exit this calendar year, and as we go forward, we are able to upgrade that configuration.”
Areas of focus include the PW1100G’s accessory gearbox, an airworthiness directive for which the FAA issued late last year. Deurloo reported good progress on that replacement program, as well as on one that involved the LPT, the blades on which required a material change. “That’s a known challenge—we have a new material going into that third-stage LPT; we’re setting up quick turns,” he explained. “One of the things we did as a company during this crisis is committing ourselves to the MRO piece and upgrading the GTF fleet across all platforms—Neo, A220, E2—to take the opportunity to focus on the entire fleet.”
Deurloo described the effort to solve the LPT problem as a “surgical strike” in which the company managed to access excess capacity at MRO partners caused by the Covid-19-associated lull in operations.
“Let me give you a great example—Delta Air Lines," he said. "They are a GTF customer; they have the A220 airplane they’re flying today, and they have an order book with us on the GTF for their A321neos. They also have an MRO partnership with us, similar to how Lufthansa does. As Delta's MRO load came down, it freed up capacity for them to say, ‘Hey, you know what? I’ll accelerate these LPT quick turns.’ They stepped up.”
Deurloo reported that Pratt “feels comfortable” that it will have gained access to all the A320neos at Indian airlines Indigo and Go Air for LPT retrofits by the August 31 deadline set by India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The agency extended the deadline for replacing the LPTs from the end of May to allow for disruptions caused by the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.
20/07/20  Gregory Polek/AINonline
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