Qatar CEO says airline has opened talks with CFM on A320neo engine choice

An artist's impression of an Airbus A320neo in Qatar Airways livery. (Airbus)
An artist’s impression of an Airbus A320neo in Qatar Airways livery. (Airbus)

Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker says the airline is prepared to switch engine suppliers for its order of Airbus A320neos should Pratt & Whitney fail to fix issues with its PW1100G geared turbofan “very soon”.

The oneworld alliance member had been scheduled to be the first airline to take delivery of the neo before the end of 2015.

However it declined to accept the aircraft while Pratt & Whitney developed a fix for the PW1100G, which currently has to idle for between two and six minutes after start-up before the aircraft can taxi under its own power.

Instead, Lufthansa became the launch customer of the A320neo at a low-key ceremony on January 20.

Al Baker said Qatar is willing to go with the CFM LEAP 1A, which is expected to be certified on the A320neo later in 2016, should Pratt & Whitney not find a solution.

“We have already notified Pratt & Whitney officially that if they do not put this product right very soon that Qatar Airways will cancel the order for Pratt & Whitney engine aeroplanes,” Al Baker told reporters at a media conference in Sydney on Thursday.

“We have already opened negotiation with CFM to be prepared to switch the engine type on our A320s.”

Qatar has ordered 50 of A320neo family aircraft, comprising 34 A320neos and 16 A321neos.

Al Baker said he was extremely disappointed with the delay.

“I should be honest here and say that the problem has nothing to do with Airbus. It is solely at the door of Pratt & Whitney who have not tested the engines adequately,” Al Baker said.

“We have refused to take the delivery of that aeroplane until we are absolutely satisfied that that engine performs as contractually guaranteed to Qatar Airways.

“Qatar Airways is very focused to make sure that we will not take an aircraft that does not meet performance guarantees and product guarantees as stipulated in our contract.

“Pratt and Whitney falls far behind this.”

Qatar Airways chief executive holds a media conference in Sydney. (Jordan Chong)
Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker speaking at a media conference in Sydney. (Jordan Chong)

Airbus chief executive Fabrice Bregier told reporters at the opening of an Airbus A330 completion and delivery centre in Tianjin on Wednesday the issues with the PW1100G engine were expected to be resolved “by mid year”, FlightGlobal reported.

“By mid-year, this is at least our goal, is that we will have a very reliable A320neo with Pratt & Whitney engines, which will allow us to ramp up production and deliveries in the second half of the year,” Bregier said.

“We have a gentlemen’s agreement with Qatar to postpone delivery and they will take the aircraft when we believe it is mature enough for them, and around mid-year is what I would guess.”

Test flights on the A320neo with CFM LEAP-1A engines began in May 2015, with commercial service due to begin some time in 2016.

Pratt & Whitney president Bob Leduc said in February fixing the start time issue was the “biggest concern we have got”, according to a report from Aviation Week.

“On an A320 it takes about 150 to 160 seconds to start both engines, and those are (IAE) V2500 kind of numbers,” Leduc said.

“The initial PW1100G engines we put into service on Lufthansa take about 350 seconds. All engines have a bit of rotor bow. The V2500 had it, the PW2000, PW4000 and the CFM(56) had it, there’s not an engine built that doesn’t have a certain amount of rotor bow. We have taken an incredibly conservative approach here. We basically have dictated start times to ensure ourselves we will never rub a rotor out.”

Comments

  1. Craigy says

    Seriously, how many additional minutes is this requirement on top of the time between start, push back completion and taxi? I think Baker is grand standing as he normally does to squeeze a cost reduction out of the supplier. If I was PW, I would call his bluff and say go with CFM. At the end of the day Qatar is a minor player compared to other opportunities

  2. Ipper Collens says

    If it were a bluff it would have been called. Every supplier out there understands up front how demanding AAB is; the wisdom of launching with Qatar has to be a calculated risk.