Pratt Whitney to announce engine upgrade for Airbus

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Pratt Whitney to announce engine upgrade for Airbus

The logo of U.S. manufacturer Pratt Whitney is seen as people visit the company's booth at the Changi Exhibition Center in Singapore Airshow.

Sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday that Pratt Whitney is set to announce an improved version of its geared turbofan engine used by Airbus' strong-selling A 320 neo jet family.

The update of Pratt's GTF engine will boost fuel efficiency by 1% and deliver 4% higher thrust when it starts to roll out in 2024.

Pratt, owned by Raytheon Technologies Corp, is banking on a combination of improvements to help win orders, with the higher thrust an advantage for Airbus' long-range narrow-body jet, the A 321 XLR. The XLR is expected to enter service in 2023.

The 1% improvement is a sluggish increase, but airlines are eager for any savings at a time of stressed balance sheets and oil prices, which had been creeping up since the recent spread of the Omicron coronaviruses variant.

The first update of the GTF engine since its introduction in 2016 is anticipated to be announced on Thursday by Pratt at a media event.

Pratt declined to comment on the update, which has already been quietly marketed to certain airlines, according to sources who spoke anonymously to discuss the matter ahead of the event.

Pratt faces rival CFM International, co-owned by France's Safran SA and U.S.-based General Electric whose engines power almost 60% of the A 320 program's ordered jets.

The upgrade comes as airlines are under pressure to slash emissions with engine makers eying longer-term advances like hybrid-electric propulsion to improve fuel efficiency.

CFM plans to test-build an open-bladed jet engine that can reduce fuel use and emissions by 20%. Single-aisle jets like the Boeing Co's 737 MAX and the A 320 had been benefiting from a rebound in domestic traffic, which plunged in 2020 due to the Pandemic. New travel curbs introduced due to Omicron are raising questions about the sector's recovery.

It is not yet clear how effective the update will be in winning customers.

One of the sources said the improvements could help Pratt attract airlines during sales campaigns in regions that are hot or at altitude, where engines need more thrust, such as the Middle East.

In November, low-cost carrier Air Arabia said that it was in talks with Pratt and its current supplier CFM for 240-250 engines for 120 Airbus A 320 neo jets.