GE exec says avoided geared design in jet engine battle with Pratt

Mon Sep 15, 2014 7:58pm EDT
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By Lewis Krauskopf

(Reuters) - General Electric Co (GE.N: Quote) avoided using a geared design for its new engine for narrowbody jets because of concerns about weight and reliability, said a top GE executive on Monday as it battles with rival Pratt & Whitney for billions of dollars in engine orders.

Pratt, part of United Technologies Corp (UTX.N: Quote), developed a geared turbofan that relies on a gearbox and lets the front fan operate at a different speed than the rest of the engine, while on GE's traditionally configured engines the fans run at the same speed.

Speaking at a Morgan Stanley investor conference, GE Chief Technology Officer Mark Little said the company had "considered a geared approach ... and we chose very consciously not to take that approach."

"Some other application someday, maybe, but not for this one," Little said at the conference in Dana Point, California, that was broadcast over the Internet.

Through its joint venture called CFM with France's Safran (SAF.PA: Quote), GE is competing against Pratt for airline and other customers that choose Airbus' (AIR.PA: Quote) new A320neo single-aisle plane. Both engines promise significant fuel savings over older models, and Airbus buyers can choose the Pratt or CFM engine.

CFM's LEAP, among other improvements, uses new materials designed to reduce weight and add durability.

"We thought that the addition of the extra component would add reliability and weight challenges, and durability challenges that we could avoid by going the path we went," Little said.

"We like the bet that we've made," Little said.   Continued...

The General Electric logo is seen in a Sears store in Schaumburg, Illinois, September 8, 2014. REUTERS/Jim Young