Thursday, 28 April 2011

Saj Ahmad got it wrong (again) on Pratt & Whitney GTF

Saj Ahmad's 10 Aug 2010, "analysis" via GLG (through Google News) is so laughable it deserves to be reproduced in its entirety. Fact Checker's Fact Checks follow.

Pratt & Whitney may end up a big loser if either re-engining doesn’t happen or if it is blocked out on a new narrowbody. 
  1. CFM International is under pressure to find another platform for the LEAP-X engine, but being aligned with the COMAC C919 means that they will have less to worry about than Pratt & Whitney.
  2. Pratt & Whitney has to develop three different fan and core engines for the Mitsubishi MRJ, the Irkut MC-21 and the Bombardier CSeries. That’s three times more risk than CFM is taking on. Further, any re-engine efforts by Airbus and Boeing would mean a fourth engine needs to be developed and would not be available until at least 2016, by Pratt & Whitney’s own admission.
  3. The MC-21 will struggle to sell beyond Russia and the MRJ can still be usurped by Embraer, who are rightly playing their cards close to their chest right now. The CSeries, as we all know, has been a six year long disaster yet to turn any corner (if ever). The C919, being a different animal may not sell well, if at all beyond the Chinese border, but in sheer unit terms, it will outsell and out deliver its nearest rivals in the CSeries and MC-21 combined.
  4. If Boeing re-engines the 737, the fact that the LEAP-X engine can fit with less headaches (and cost) than previously thought, Pratt & Whitney would be isolated from one of the big two OEMs. It cannot hope to recoup its engine investments on the marginalised MRJ-MC-21-CSeries triumvirate. Even if Pratt & Whitney is selected by Airbus (who want the GTF engine through the IAE consortium), they will be pitted directly against the LEAP-X. There are hardcore A320 customers who will not operate anything other than CFM engines – for Pratt & Whitney to make them switch will be an arduous task if not outright miraculous since the LEAP-X exists.
  5. Pratt & Whitney’s capital outlay for (potentially) four new engines against one CFM engine will be difficult to cover, especially if within a decade the move to a clean sheet replacement emerges – does Pratt & Whitney have the financial and engineering resources to partake? Probably, but that doesn’t mean they can deliver – the woeful PW4098 and PW6000 engines are proof of that.
  6. And while Pratt & Whitney’s partner in the IAE consortium, Rolls-Royce, continues to deride the benefits of the (essentially four decade old) geared turbofan design, the U.K engine maker is believed to favour the airline view of going toward a new narrowbody design ahead of re-engining the current A320 and 737 families.
  7. Pratt & Whitney is certainly back into the market and has made its presence felt, but the love isn’t being shared by everyone in the industry. The company is already dead in the large airplane market and its success in the narrowbody market is at the mercy of its competitors and their offerings.
  8. With CFM International at relative ease knowing that the C919 will be a hot seller post-Zhuhai Air Show, Pratt & Whitney may yet be marginalised all over again because of its alignment to products whose own longevity is questionable.

Fact Checker's Fact Checks
Going down Ahmad's "analysis" point-by-point:
Summary: Airbus has more than 300 orders for the A320/321neo and so far every customer who has chosen an engine has selected the Pratt & Whitney GTF. With Boeing putting off proceeding with a new airplane for another year or two, there is little to worry about for Pratt. Boeing says it likes what it sees in the GTF.
  1. CFM "has less to worry about than Pratt". This is another of Ahmad's fitting the situation to suit his purposes. As another one of Fact Checker's posts revealed, Ahmad runs hot and cold on C919 depending on his point of the day.
  2. Pratt's GTF core is scalable; Ahmad completely overstates the risk. Furthermore, one needs to remember that nothing Ahamd has written suggests he has talked with any independent, knowledgeable engineers--rather, it seems his information is derived from his small circle of nay-sayers.
  3. The MC-21 has sold to Malaysia and in fact has more sales than the C919. Ahmad once again gets his facts wrong on the CSeries launch date: it was launched in 2008; 2010 minus 2008 is, by anyone's math except Ahamd's, two years not six. Ahmad also wrote the C919 will sell well at least within China. Keep this thought in mind.
  4. "Pratt won't make CFM customers switch to GTF because Leap-X is available." Don't count on this.
  5. Sheer speculation that, in fairness to Ahmad, will takes years to provie right or wrong.
  6. Considering this had been in the press for months before Ahmad wrote this "analysis", this is hardly a sage opinion.
  7. This is a baffling statement that defies rationality or fact checking.
  8. "The C919 will be a hot-seller post Zhuhai Air Show". See Fact Checker's previous post in which Ahmad ran down the C919 just 30 days later. Also, the C919 had disappointing sales at the Zhuhai air show in November (only 55 firm orders) and none since.


  1. Bloomberg has a story today that they are confident to get significant orders for the LEAP-X in the future. Let's see if they are right, I can see AirFrance-KLM as the most natural possibility. On the other hand, if they loose AF-KLM, CFM would have a big credibility problem.

  2. Air France will never snub CFM, half-owned by France's Safran.

  3. Interestingly, the latest article at Aspire Aviation made Saj look silly.

    It seems that Saj is now being sidelined by his ridiculous comments.