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Pratt Stays in Market for Biggest Jet Engines

February 19, 2013

United Technologies Corp. (UTX:US)’s Pratt & Whitney unit said it remains committed to developing a version of its newest engine for wide-body jets even after opting not to compete on Boeing Co. (BA:US)’s latest 777 model.

While Pratt & Whitney skips the so-called 777X to focus on outfitting single-aisle planes, building a geared turbofan engine to go on some of the industry’s largest aircraft remains a priority, Vice President Bob Saia said in an interview.

“One should not walk away saying Pratt has focused on being only a single-aisle manufacturer,” said Saia, who oversees Pratt & Whitney’s next-generation products. “We are heavily investing in technology for the wide-body thrust class and we continue to be very positive on taking a geared turbofan architecture up to 100,000 pounds of thrust.”

Such an engine would need to be as much as eight times more powerful than the Pratt & Whitney units producing 13,000 pounds of thrust to be used on Embraer SA’s revamped regional jets. General Electric Co (GE:US).’s GE90 is the world’s biggest commercial jet engine, with as much as 115,000 pounds of thrust.

Pratt & Whitney is the world’s second-largest maker of aircraft engines by sales, after GE and ahead of Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc. The East Hartford, Connecticut-based company hasn’t introduced a new engine design for wide-body jets since the PW4000, which entered service in 1987 and is used on some Boeing 747s and 767s and Airbus SAS A330s. Wide-body planes are typically used for long-haul international flights.

Different Speeds

The geared turbofan engine uses a gearbox to let the fan in front and turbine in the rear spin at different speeds, which the company says boosts fuel efficiency and cuts noise. Embraer chose the engines last month over GE and Rolls-Royce offerings to upgrade its E-Jets family.

Different versions of the engine will also power planes under development at Japan’s Mitsubishi Aircraft Corp., Canada’s Bombardier Inc. and Russia’s Irkut Corp. The most powerful current version will be used by Airbus’s A320neo and Irkut’s MS-21, providing up to 33,000 pounds of thrust.

Boeing hasn’t decided to go ahead with an overhauled version of the 777. The current version of the plane uses the GE90, which is 135 inches (343 centimeters) in diameter.

“The decision that we made on the 777X is that it didn’t meet our base criteria for us to be able to go forward and be able to submit a proposal,” Saia said. “That’s not to say that if something changed, or if another wide-body application were to come up with the right timing, that Pratt would take the same position.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Tim Catts in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Ed Dufner at

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