Cash flow, life-cycle management and aircraft downtime are some of the factors in determining whether an operator uses an engine-exchange program.
But “the main advantage to exchanging an engine rather than buying one outright is the ability to reduce the cash outlay required to procure an engine,” says Geoffrey Corbeil, Pratt & Whitney Canada’s (P&WC) general manager for aftermarket commercialization. “The operator’s core engine [which either is damaged or has run out of life-limited parts life] is effectively a means of payment for an exchange engine that has time remaining,” or green time, supplemented by cash. “The other important element is that an outright purchase would provide an operator with an additional engine, while an exchange keeps the number in the books flat,” he says.
More than 130 different aircraft types—regional airliners, business jets, general aviation aircraft and helicopters—are powered by P&WC turbine engines and auxiliary power units. To support this vast market, P&WC says it offers the largest engine rental and exchange pool of any engine OEM—more than 850 engines worldwide to support its MRO activities.
The company has offered engine exchanges for more than 25 years and sees its rental-engine pool as “a unique asset that enables P&WC to offer multiple options to its operator base when it comes to engine exchanges,” says Corbeil.
“Each operator has a different mission, and with the number of rental engines we own, we are in a position to cater to each operator’s used-engine exchange needs,” he says. “Additionally, our rental pool is continually renewed with new engines.”
“Exchange programs basically help whenever engines [are] . . . impaired by a long repair turnaround time, generally in the hot section of the engine,” says Thierry Chabroux, who is responsible for engine product and network development for Air France Industries-KLM Engineering & Maintenance. “Offering an exchange program to an airline can help find the optimum balance between engine turnaround time and maintenance costs.” Airlines also can benefit from an MRO’s parts pool and logistics.
Engine-exchange programs are not limited to exchanges of whole engines and modules. “The exchange programs that we see go from full-module standard to piece part-standard exchange. Requests depend on operators’ policies and engine types. These programs can be systematic or on-demand,” says Chabroux.
Pratt & Whitney Canada offers more than 850 engines for rent or exchange, including the PW150, pictured. Credit: Pratt & Whitney Canada
The P&WC Airtime blog recently quoted two operators of P&WC turbine engines on the merits of the company’s engine-exchange programs. Bernie Wagner, director of maintenance for Missouri-based business-aviation operator Meisinger Aviation, said: “We knew exactly how much we were going to be spending as opposed to waiting to find out the cost of an overhaul. By using [P&WC] exchange engines, we were able to minimize our downtime because we did not have to use rentals, which would have resulted in an extra removal and replacement.”
Ryan Slaughter, continuing airworthiness manager for Colombier, Switzerland-based Swiss Flight Services, says, “We gave our time-expired core back to P&WC, and we received an exchange engine with all the service bulletins and all the work carried out on it, so there were no surprises or additional cost [as] could have happened during a normal overhaul.”
Through GE Aviation Materials’ TrueChoice Transitions program, GE Aviation offers exchange programs for engines and noncore modules such as fan and low-pressure turbine modules (which can be removed while the engine remains on wing) across its commercial-engine range—including all CF34 models, CF6-80Cs and -80Es, and GE90 and GEnx powerplants.
Typically, GE Aviation has 20-40 engines available in its exchange pool, not including other green-time engines it makes available for short-term lease until life-limited parts ( LLP) run out of cycle life, at which point GE Aviation tears those engines down for the remaining used serviceable parts. Through the CFM Materials joint venture between GE Aviation and Safran Aircraft Engines, CFM offers similar exchange programs for CFM56-7Bs, CFM56-5Bs, CFM56-3s and their noncore modules.
Rudy Bryce, general manager of GE Aviation Materials and head of its TrueChoice Transitions program, says GE offers “a very open and competitive aftermarket model, so it gives owners and operators more flexibility” in using exchanges to manage their engine ownership and operating requirements. But because “engine exchanges are definitely not for everybody,” he says, engine and module exchanges represent just two of the TrueChoice Transitions aftermarket service portfolio offerings.
GE Aviation usually finds airlines that are most interested in engine exchanges are those “that require spare-engine support or have a short-term need for spare engines and want the best overall choice for their investment horizons and operational needs,” says Bryce. Typically, they are smaller carriers, but even large airlines can find engine exchanges worthwhile: “It depends on their operating horizons—they may have a situation where an exchange may be advisable,” he notes.
CFM also offers an exchange program, including for the CFM56-7B, pictured. Credit: CFM International
For any customer, Bryce says, “Our mantra is to offer as much choice and flexibility as possible.” This means GE Aviation is open to providing exchange engines built to each customer’s specific workscope requirements: If an operator wants an engine that contains as much used serviceable material as possible or is built to a specific LLP life, the company will provide it.
If the operator desires, GE Aviation will also include used serviceable parts from the engine the operator is replacing, such as its quick engine-change kit or line replaceable units (LRU). Also, if an operator requires an exchange-engine build that will take GE Aviation some time to complete, the company will initially provide a green-time engine for short-term lease, so the operator immediately receives a replacement engine to keep the aircraft in service.
Engine exchanges can be particularly valuable for airlines when they are dealing with engine-related aircraft-on-ground (AOG) emergencies. Not only does an engine exchange allow an airline to get an aircraft operating again quickly, but if the AOG incident leaves the airline with a damaged engine that may be beyond economic repair, the OEM (GE Aviation, CFM or P&WC) will buy the remaining serviceable LLPs and LRUs in the engine in a separate fair-market-value transaction to add to the inventories they keep for used-parts sales.
Another benefit Bryce says airlines see from performing an engine exchange with GE Aviation or CFM is that the two OEMs certify all their exchange engines under their joint TRUEngine program. This certification ensures that the engines have been maintained to the standards specified by the OEMs’ manuals and recommendations. Not only does this give all GE and CFM exchange engines access to TRUEngine support programs, but because TRUEngine certification often increases engines’ residual values, operators can benefit from greater access to refinancing opportunities for engines they acquire in exchanges.
P&WC’s exchange engines offer similar engine-value retention benefits, according to Corbeil. “Our Fleet Enhancement Program (FEP) is an exchange program where operators trade in their time-expired core engine for a brand-new P&WC engine of the latest configuration, including the new engine warranty and brand-new life limited components,” he says. “This translates directly into a gain in aircraft residual value while minimizing maintenance costs. P&WC’s FEP has been in place for more than 20 years, and operators have benefited from it in all of our [market] segments.”