Pratt & Whitney’s long running efforts to introduce geared turbofan technology into the mainstream air transport market took a huge jump forward today with the formal ‘last bolt’ ceremony to mark completion of the first test engine for the Airbus A320NEO test program. Pratt has been discussing forms of geared fans since the 1970s and testing advanced geared architectures for the last 20, so for the company employees gathered to witness this moment in its propulsion history this was a milestone event. Undismayed by the storming winds of Hurricane Sandy outside Pratt & Whitney’s West Palm Beach facility where the unveiling took place, Airbus and other program partners examined the engine at close quarters – remarking on the amount of daylight visible through the 12:1 bypass ratio engine’s fan.
Collector's item - Aurora on show. (P&W/Nicholas Phillips)
Of note was the now traditional hand-painted spinner which proclaimed the first PW1100G as the ‘Aurora’ engine – the dawn of a NEO era. Previous engine names included ‘Phoenix’ for the MRJ’s PW1200G and ‘Mighty Mouse’ for the CSeries’ PW1500G.
Prattt expects to start the first test runs of the Airbus A320NEO engine next month and is due certificate early in the third quarter of 2014. The engine and should power the A320NEO for the first time on its initial test flight a few weeks after that.
The first engine will go to test without it's painted spinner. (P&W)
Pratt currently has 1,036 PW1100G engines on firm order for the A320NEO, or slightly under half the overall market that has so far selected an engine. The first Pratt-powered NEO is due to enter service in October 2015. Pratt plans to fly the PW1100G on the company's Boeing 747SP flying testbed in the second quarter of 2013 - a few months before the competing CFM Leap-1A engine is due to fire up for the first time.