Pratt & Whitney targets backlog with updated A320neo engine

Pratt & Whitney’s improved version of the geared turbofan engine used by Airbus SE’s (AIR.PA) strong-selling A320neo jet family will help build backlog, the engine maker said on Thursday.

Raytheon Technologies’ (RTX.N) Pratt said it will also meet the demands of its largest commercial customer, Airbus, which has asked suppliers to explore rates as high as 75 a month by 2025.

The GTF Advantage update comes with 4% higher thrust, 1% improved fuel burn, and can last longer between scheduled maintenance appointments. Pratt says the updated GTF will be the most powerful engine for the A320neo family when it enters service in January 2024.

“This is not a paper engine,” Tom Pelland, Pratt senior vice president of GTF engines, told reporters at the company’s media day in Connecticut. “This is an engine we’re testing today.”

The development, reported by Reuters on Wednesday, comes as airlines are under pressure to slash emissions with engine makers eying longer-term advances like hybrid-electric propulsion to improve fuel efficiency.

Pelland said the GTF could deliver future double-digit improvements in efficiency, using new technologies, compared with the original engine launched in 2016 that improved fuel burn by 16%.

Pratt could not specify a timeframe for such an update.

Pratt faces rival CFM International, co-owned by France’s Safran SA (SAF.PA), and U.S.-based General Electric (GE.N), which leads in market share on the A320 program.

“We expect to continue to grow our backlog and keep our delivery share in about the same or better place,“ said Rick Deurloo, Pratt’s chief customer officer.

Deurloo said the engine maker is not trying to grow its A320 market share of around 40% but wants to be more selective about finding airlines that are more likely to fly the planes.

Engine makers make most of their money over the life of an aircraft in the aftermarket.

The update could help win orders in China which has airports at high altitude, he said.

“There’s a lot of activity we suspect will happen in China next year,” he told Reuters.

Earlier in the day, French jet engine maker Safran said the worst of the coronavirus crisis was over but took a cautious view on long-term airline traffic in a continuing stand-off with Airbus over proposed increases in jetliner production.

Asked about Airbus’ plans for 2023, Pratt & Whitney President Christopher Calio told reporters, “We’re going to meet the demands of our customer.”

Deurloo said Pratt hasn’t yet set plans for the following two years.

“We have a general question around what that demand may actually be which is why we haven’t locked in for 2024 and 2025,” Deurloo said.