The Economist has written a superb article extolling the excellence of the P&W PurePower® geared turbo fan. This superb piece does not explain the relevance of how this major advance in technology should impact or influence ICAO in the pursuit of a greener aviation industry.
To show the background of this new engine design, the writer shows his knowledge of global aviation history and starts the story with early US innovation—the Wright Brothers and their famed mechanic Charles Taylor. The tale then picks up the British contribution to turbine development mentioning Sir Frank Whittle and ignoring the German Hans von Ohain, who moved to the US to continue his work on this new form of aviation propulsion.
From the past, the focus moves to the present, actually the last two decades. P&W has invested 20 years of research and $10,000,000,000 to engineer the geared turbine. That’s a financial outlay which reminds one of the book, The Sporty Game by John Newhouse, recounted the massive “bet” of Boeing in the B-757 and B-767 aircraft projects with no guarantee of success and with the risk of bankrupting the company. “To bet the company.” As The Economist aptly explained:
“The firm has spent two decades and more than $10 billion developing them. Connecting an engine’s inlet fan to the compressor and turbine in its core through a gearbox should give better fuel economy and make the thing quieter—both desirable outcomes…Pratt & Whitney has persevered because it thinks the conventional, ungeared turbofan is reaching its limits, and that only by adding a gearbox can airlines achieve the performance and economy which will be required of them in the future. Airlines, though, are notoriously conservative, and are wary of new, complicated kit like gearboxes, which are yet one more thing that can go wrong. So Pratt & Whitney has had its work cut out to persuade them.”
“Quieter” and “Greener” are marketing terms which have been repeated so many times that they have become virtually meaningless; so here is a definitive sound comparison of the PurePower®. Listen and you will be convinced that this new technology delivers major improvements over noise performance of the recent past. It’s impressive
The next paragraphs (~500 words) relate the physics and engineering which the geared turbine encompasses. The materials and manufacturing of the gearbox, the innovative element of the PurePower®, are well explained. Below is the graphic which summarizes those technical aspects:
What does this P&W investment mean to airline customers (most airframe manufacturers offer competitive powerplant to the airlines)? Here is the Hartford, CT statement of this new design’s benefits (one version of the engine):
- “The PurePower PW1500G engine contributes to the exceptional economic benefits of the CSeries, which delivers 20% fuel burn advantage over in-production aircraft.
- Our geared engine architecture reduces the number of stages and parts while simultaneously improving efficiency.
- The PW1500G engine’s environmental benefits are equally impressive:
- 20 dB margin to Chapter IV noise with high-efficiency components and
- advanced combustor technologies that slash CO2 and NOX emissions.”
And here are the published specifications:[i]
- Type: Geared Turbofan
- Length: 133.9 inches (3,401 mm) (fan spinner face to aft flange)
- Diameter: 56.0–81.0 inches (1,422–2,057 mm)
- Dry weight: 6,300 pounds (2,857.6 kg) (PW1100G)
- Compressor: Axial flow, 1-stage geared fan, 2-3 stage LP, 8 stage HP
- Combustors: Annular combustion chamber
- Turbine: Axial flow, 2-stage HP, 3-stage LP
That’s a most impressive innovation and thanks to The Economist for featuring this new powerplant.
The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP 21 issued a Declaration which instructed ICAO as follows:
- Welcomes the fact that, as of November 2015, 83 Member States that represent more than 80 per cent of global international air traffic voluntarily prepared and submitted their Action Plans to reduce international aviation CO2 emissions to ICAO;
- Welcomes the actions, as reflected in States’ Action Plans above, that ICAO Member States and the aviation industry have taken and intend to take to reduce aviation CO2 emissions, including air traffic management modernization, acceleration of the use of fuel-efficient aircraft technologies, and the development and deployment of sustainable alternative fuels;
- Recalls that the Assembly decided to develop a global market-based measure (MBM) scheme for international aviation, and commits to finalizing work on a global MBM scheme and making a recommendation that addresses key design elements and the mechanisms for implementation of the scheme from 2020, for decision by the 39th Session of the Assembly in 2016;
- Reaffirms that the development of a global CO2 Standard for aircraft is on track for adoption in 2016, and that the ICAO Global Framework for Aviation Alternative Fuels (GFAAF) continues to facilitate actions on sustainable alternative fuels for aviation;
- Emphasizes that ICAO Member States require adequate capacity building and financial resources to address CO2 emissions from international aviation and to effectively respond to the global climate change challenge; and
- Urges ICAO and its Member States to express a clear concern, through the UNFCCC process, on the use of international aviation as a potential source for the mobilization of revenue for climate finance to the other sectors, in order to ensure that international aviation would not be targeted as a source of such revenue in a disproportionate manner, as requested by Assembly Resolution A38-18, paragraph 30.
ICAO should take note of this technology development with private capital alone.[ii] Before this UN organization decides to impose a MBM or a tax on aviation to finance climate change in other sectors, well in advance of ICAO and the EU starting their campaigns on CO2 and other reductions, P&W invested $10 billion in an unproven technology, the geared turbo fan. Technology and private enterprise—without any international organization incentives, even negative actions like a CO2 or climate change transfer tax—designed a new engine which produces green benefits NOW.
Taxes reduce the dollars, pounds, marks, rubles ,yen or whatever capital available to invest in TECHNOLOGY which P&W proved can produce more immediate benefits and without the administrative costs.
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