Engine makers: 5. Future

From:         Andrew Chuang <chuanga@iia.org>
Date:         11 Aug 94 02:18:16 
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What's in the future?
=====================

During the late 70s and early 80s, the oil crises had led to the development
of propfan/unducted fan, arguably the most interesting and exciting
commercial engine development since the jet engine was first introduced.
With the stablization of oil prices, the airline industry showed little
interest in the new technology, hence, the effort was halted.  Although, the
development may not resurrect in its full form, many pieces of the technology
developed have already been or will be used in other engines.

In the near future, the three companies will spend most of their resources
to evolve growth versions of the PW4084, GE90, and Trent 800.  These growth
engines will generate thrust ranging from 90,000 to 100,000-lb which are
required for the planned B-plus, C and stretched versions of the B777.

Global collaborations have been proven to be very effective in the engine
business.  The most recent one teamed up SNECMA and MTU of Europe with Pratt
and GE of the US to build a 20,000-lb thrust class engine to compete with
BMW-RR's BR700.  The program is dubbed "Project Blue" and the teaming of
several rivals certainly makes the cooperation very interesting.  On the
other hand, as Project Blue is way behind the BR700 program, their chance to
succeed is likely to depend heavily on whether Deutsche Aerospace (or DASA,
along with MTU are both subsidiaries of Daimler-Benz) will build a 100-seat
regional jet or not.  However, DASA have a strong financial interest in
Netherlands' Fokker which already have a 100-seat entry--the F100; and there
is a possibility that MTU may choose to cooperate with BMW-RR instead of
Project Blue.

On the other side of the globe, if Boeing and the Japanese decide to go ahead
with the B737-derived 80-100-seat regional jet, or the Japanese decide to
build their own YSX, the powerplant for either aircraft is most likely to be
a joint venture with Japan's IHI and/or Mitsubishi holding substantial
interests.  For instance, IHI have been talking to various companies
including BMW-RR, while P&W/MTU have recently initiated negotiation with
Mitsubishi about the possibility of Mistubishi joining Project Blue.

Besides, all the three major engine companies are talking about a new
45,000-lb class engine for the growth A340 and next generation B757.  P&W's
entry is likely to be a ducted propfan, or ADP (Advanced Ducted Prop); GE's
one will be the GE45, a GE90 derivative, or the CFM56-derived CFMXX; and
Roll's will be the RB411, a -535E4 derivative with Trent technologies.  P&W
seem to show keen enthusiasm towards the ADP technology that they have plans
for higher thrust applications using ADP, too.

Last but not the least, on both sides on the Atlantic, governments are
supporting the engine companies (P&W/GE vs SNECMA/RR) to design propulsion
systems for the next generation of high speed commercial transport.
Interestingly, during my preparation for this write-up, I found an old
_Flight International_ report of the B747 rollout.  In the article, it was
envisioned the B747 as an interim intercontinental aircraft that would soon
be replaced by the SST.  One must wonder if the second generation SST will
really take off this time?