Sunday, February 7, 2016

The NEO Two Engine Proposal Is Noodling

The A321 and the A320 have two new engine concepts. The Pratt & Whitney geared version and the CFM offering. It delivered the P&W geared version first with some engine hiccups causing a late delivery for the NEO's much vaunted arrival. The A320NEO delivered with diminished Airbus fanfare. It wasn't an auspicious occasion for any Airbus delivery.

 Image result for Leap 1-b Max

Now it is moving the CFM version to the forefront of testing and delivery schedules as the PW steeps longer in testing. Even though the PW version has some entry into service engine issues, the indication from operations is for the CFM being pushed forward sooner rather than later. 

The CFM Boeing version stole the 737 Max First Flight Show! Airbus then announces the CFM is coming forward in its NEO progression. This is an interesting development coming from Airbus.

Many interpretations come into view with this change:

·      The PW has more engine reliability and performance issues in front of it.
·      The Boeing/CFM demonstration has captured Market interest
·      The PW problems are bigger than what has been reported
·      The MAX test flight was an outstanding result coming forward from Aviation Intelligence
·      The NEO program is more vulnerable than what has been reported

If this is all wishful thinking on my part, then Airbus is pleased with everything and is allowing PW more time becoming a happy thought, and CFM is a good neighbor on the project. Airbus hedged its bet having a dual engine offering. Boeing has four decades of experience with the CFM engine and trusts its maker. The rumor is the CFM Leap 1-B is a great engine surpassing the Airbus Leap 1-A.

Why this could be true is from the design aspect of the 737 MAX. More power is confined in a smaller space offering greater challenges for Boeing's version. CFM had to rely upon its 40 year old partnership with Boeing to get it right. The ceramic fan blades on the Leap 1-B is not on the Leap 1-A. The ceramic engine infusion is proprietary. The Boeing design team had to fit the Leap 1-B on its wing for optimal effect. Since the smaller diameter provided less efficiency, it needed to make up the inefficiency factors with better aero design surrounding the engine placement. 

The synergy comes from both Boeing and CFM. The Max had to be built for one engine and one engine only, in a concert of optimization from body and engine maker. 

The Airbus offering went with a basic airframe design able to accept two different engine versions. It could not have two different body enhancements for optimization for different engine makers.

Airbus had to have a vanilla approach because of two different engine options offering customers a variety of engine choices. One airplane design does not always fit all engine types. 

Boeing was all-in with the CFM when it was drawing up its MAX design. They worked with CFM sculpting and moving power around here and there for optimal performance. Wing trim was added to play off the CFM engine. Body design was for maximizing the 68" diameter and its "hotter" engine.

The Max was built for the CFM offering and CFM worked with Boeing to get it right. After-all every 737 airplane today flies with a CFM and this company knew its future hinged on working with Boeing for getting it right.

Therein lies the problem with Airbus' dual engine option. They, the engine makers, are not all-in with the NEO design, when Airbus has contracted two makers for powering the NEO. It has not demonstrated its commitment to either maker by switching engine production after P&W is slow coming off the production, and has "some" issues to iron out as Airbus calls forward the Leap-A for the big dance.

Airbus has just blinked as it straps on another engine to the same Airbus Body, which is already powered by P&W geared turbine. Bring on the CFM for Airbus, the MAX has just flown the coop. It was marvelous. 

How is this different for the 787 with two engine options and the 777 with one engine option? A good question in light of what has been stated above.

The answer is fairly simple, Boeing was going for a moon-shot with the 787 and it fully did not have its arms around the 787. It needed both world leading engine makers for this moon-shot. The 787 design was not going to change just to fit an engine. The engine had to fit the frame coming from the engine maker. It needed to fly as is within the new design constructs when Boeing did not know how it would perform. The caveat is Boeing could not change an experimental airframe design and materials until it knew what it had. Now both GE and Rolls Royce fly the 787 family.

The 777 family of aircraft was built to be powered by the GE-90 as a joint venture. Boeing knew its aircraft family has a propensity for a one engine per model philosophy. The exception was the all-new 787. Boeing needed an engine for competition with a new concept and for its customers preference.

The Airbus NEO is not a moon-shot, yet it hasn’t found its engine yet. The MAX already knows what works extremely well for Boeing and it will continue forward as the Airbus nuts fall not far from the tree. CFM and the MAX is the Boeing product offering for forty plus years.