The case for dual engine orders

Airlines with A320neos on order typically face a high-stakes bet between two unproven engine models that are both still in testing – CFM’s LEAP and Pratt & Whitney’s PW1000.

Beyond manufacturer bluster, there is little to indicate how each engine will perform relative to the other, so selection often hangs on whether an airline wants to gamble on the new technology of P&W’s geared turbofan, or stick with the reputation of record-selling CFM.

Lufthansa, however, has circumvented this dilemma by ordering both types: the PW1100G for 60 of the A320neos it has ordered, and the LEAP 1A for the remaining 40, plus any additional A320neos it commits to.

PW1100G-equipped aircraft will be the first to arrive in Germany following Lufthansa’s selection of P&W in 2011 for 30 A320neos that it should begin receiving next year.

New orders this week with CFM and P&W will see the next batch of PW1100G-powered narrowbodies arrive from 2019 to 2021, while CFM hasn’t specified when its engines will be delivered.

Carriers with large narrowbody fleets may possess the scale and thus the luxury of picking both engine models, but that decision is about more than just hedging one’s bets.

Lufthansa, for instance, already uses both the CFM56 and V2500 on its current-generation A320s, and as a result has developed strong ties to CFM and Pratt.

Another large carrier to fly both the CFM56 and V2500 on the A320 family is American Airlines, which selected the V2500 for the A321 due to its perceived better performance at higher thrust ratings.

With airlines now leaning more towards higher-gauge A320s than they did in the past, such factors could prove important. Of course, there is no reason why the V2500 advantage outlined above should extend to the geared turbofan and, indeed, Lufthansa was content to order CFM’s LEAP for 25 A321neos.

AA still hasn’t chosen an engine for its backlog of 130 A320neos, but it will see other advantages in Lufthansa’s split.

Chief among them is aftermarket experience for the airline’s MRO arm – Lufthansa Technik – which will gain a massive revenue boost by offering repair and overhaul services for other airlines’ PW1000s and LEAPs.

Crucially, neither Pratt nor CFM’s recent releases about their Lufthansa sales contained any mention of a bundled maintenance agreement.

Not only will this allow the airline to build aftermarket capabilities on both engines, it also grants it the perfect vantage to assess the relative performance and reliability merits of the next generation of narrowbody engines.

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