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Pratt & Whitney GTF flight testing phase one complete; next stop Airbus

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Pratt & Whitney has completed the first phase of flight testing for its Geared Turbofan demonstrator as it prepares to fly the engine with Airbus in September.

The GTF demonstrator amassed 43.5 hours over 12 flights that demonstrated the handling characteristics and overall performance of the engine up to 40,000 feet and .85 mach, exploring the full flight regime up to redline at 30,000 lbs of thrust.

The test programme, which began 11 July, included a robust package of accelerations and decelerations, high angle of attack takeoffs and other maneuvers, including wind up turns, as well as the starter assist and windmill relight capability of the engine.

Phase one focused on short range aircraft performance in preparation for applying the lessons learned to the Mitusbishi Regional Jet and Bombardier CSeries, both expected to enter service in 2013.

The engine "met our prediction of what the ground to altitude relationship would be" and P&W has an improved understanding of the "geared components in terms of optimizing the engine for fuel [burn]," says Bob Saia vice-president of next generation product family.

P&W achieved "near double-digit" improvements in fuel burn on the demonstrator and validates the 12-15% improvement P&W hopes to deliver in service. In addition, Saia adds that P&W is "on the path to hit the maintenance cost values we've committed to for ANA and Lufthansa," launch customers for the MRJ and CSeries.

P&W identifies three objectives for the two-month, 75-hour flight test programme with Airbus, which is set to kick-off in the second half of September on a A340-600 test bed. First, validate the data from the 747 test bed by repeating phase one conditions. Second, explore the acoustic characteristics, not a done on phase one because of the older and significantly louder P&W JT9Ds on the 747. Finally, "work closely with Airbus" to determine the ideal design for mounting engine components on the pylon to improve the aerodynamic characteristics.

The engine is scheduled for handover to Airbus during the 3rd week of August.

Airbus has distanced itself from any suggestion that its role in GTF flight testing implies future usage on a commercial platform, though Airbus Executive Vice President for Programmes Tom Williams said recently it would take 24 to 30-months to develop a GTF-powered A320 if the airframer decides to do so.

P&W says it is "on track" for the new PurePower engine family and expects detailed design work to begin when the demonstrator flight testing is complete. The non-geared PW810 engine core will begin ground testing in mid-2009, followed in December by testing for the MRJ's PW1217G and 1st quarter 2010 for the CSeries PW1524G. For the PW1000Gs, twin 40-50 hour flight test programmes are planned for the mid 3rd quarter of 2010 and "a few months later" on the PW1217G and PW1524G respectively.

Posted as written for Flight International

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