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Committed To Boosting India’s Aviation Space: Palash Roy Chowdhury, Managing Director, India, Pratt and Whitney

Pratt & Whitney is the world’s leading maker of aircraft engines, both fighter, and commercial. Its F 135 & F 119 engines are powering the fifth-generation fighter aircraft F 35 & F 22 Raptor. With India on the lookout for engine capability to leapfrog into the world of aerospace, Manish Kumar Jha of BW Businessworld caught up with Palash Roy Chowdhury, Managing Director - India, Pratt and Whitney during the Paris Air Show 2019 to discuss the possibilities of cooperation.

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Pratt & Whitney is facing issues in India related to its fuel-efficient geared turbofan engine. Could you elaborate on this?

The revolutionary new architecture incorporating a fan drive gear system that allows the fan and turbine to spin at their optimal speeds has performed phenomenally since its entry into the service in 2016 and has hit the promised fuel, noise and emission goals from the first day. As a new technology, we did experience some technical issues that have since been resolved. To date, the engine, with its 16 per cent better fuel efficiency, has saved airlines in India 200 million litres of fuel (53 million gallons). 

Since 2018, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has grounded a number of A320 Neo aircraft of IndiGo and Go Air due to safety concerns over the P&W engines. How have you responded to such large scale glitches? 

Safety is our top priority and PW1100G-JM engines remain within all regulatory safety criteria for continued airworthiness. Engines have been through a rigorous testing process and were certified for operation by numerous government regulatory agencies around the world, including the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Authority (EASA) demonstrating fit-to-fly status at the time of delivery. The DGCA elected to ground a certain population of engines following a self-disclosure in February 2018 regarding a seal; the total population of engines affected by this was 43 installed on 32 aircraft worldwide. By March 2018, all new production engines had incorporated a revised design of that seal. 

Separately, all the engine programmes are monitored to ensure performance. We are in regular and close contact and communications with the Indian authorities, with the support of Airbus, to address technical issues and provide solutions in a timely manner. Pratt & Whitney will continue to work closely with Airbus and our joint customers to make sure they have engines to support aircraft deliveries and operational commitments. 

What’s your take on Indigo, India’s largest carrier, moving away to buy engines from GE, SAFRAN for Airbus A320 Neo planes? What it because of the P&W engines?

The global demand for the GTF engine is strong with more than 10,000 engine orders and commitments to date across five aircraft platforms. We worked closely with IndiGo to provide a competitive offer, but we respect their decision and look forward to continuing supporting their large fleet of Pratt & Whitney-powered aircraft for many years to come. As an early adopter of the GTF engine technology, we share the same spirit of innovation and growth of aviation.

India is at the threshold of establishing a robust aerospace ecosystem. Does Pratt & Whitney have any plan for setting engine units or building advance capabilities in India?

The Indian aviation market is on a high growth path. It is expected to rise nearly six-fold from 187 million passengers in FY 2018 to around 1,124 million in FY 2040. This includes around 821 million domestic passengers and around 303 million international passengers (to and from India). The country is expected to become the third-largest aviation market by 2022. 

Pratt & Whitney has been committed to enhancing India’s aviation ecosystem. In 2015, the company opened its India Customer Training Center (CTC) in Hyderabad with the aim to provide training for geared turbofan and V2500 engine customers. This is one of the three Pratt & Whitney training centres globally that offers specialised DGCA and EASA Part 147 approved training for airline customers and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facilities, as well as academic skill development programmes. 

Pratt & Whitney is investing in the technology and extending these capabilities with automated inspection and direct machine-to-cloud data feeds, in order to realise the true benefits of “Factory 4.0”. 

The company is making a considerable investment in its digital programme and have a strategic approach to investing in IT. The company has invested in things that will create value for our customers, employees, and company.

Indian defence is also getting ready for the indigenous Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA). Could you partner with the Indian industry? Do you expect policy incentives from the Government of India for bringing the engine capability to India?

Pratt & Whitney currently powers the India Air Force’s C-17 fleet and its Pilatus PC-7 trainer fleet. Beyond that, Pratt & Whitney powers the F-35 and the F-22 Raptor, the fifth-generation aircraft. We do not discuss interactions with customers or potential customers. 

Pratt & Whitney’s F135 propulsion system is the engine of choice for the world’s most advanced and the only fifth-generation fighter — F-35 Lightning II — developed by Lockheed Martin. What would be the next-generation combat jet engine technology? 

Pratt & Whitney’s F135 propulsion system powers all three variants of the F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft — the F-35A CTOL (Conventional Takeoff and Landing), F-35B STOVL (Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing) and F-35C CV (Carrier Variant). The affordable, available, adaptive F135 is the world’s most advanced fighter engine, delivering more than 40,000 lbs of thrust and unmatched advances in safety, design, performance, and reliability.

The F135 propulsion system for the fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II continues to redefine what’s possible for customers, but Pratt & Whitney is not stopping there. We stand ready to take the world’s most advanced fighter engine to the next level with growth options to keep customers ahead of evolving threats. The company’s growth options for the F135 incorporate next-generation propulsion technologies that offer improved thrust and fuel burn as well as power and thermal management capacity to meet the demands of future mission requirements.

 Pratt & Whitney also powers the F-22 Raptor with its F119 engine, the first operational fifth-generation engine. Our history and expertise with advanced propulsion systems are unmatched in the world. 

Pratt & Whitney has collaborated with NASA to advance green engine technologies. What will the elements of such futuristic engines be?

Yes, Pratt & Whitney has been chosen by NASA’s Aeronautics Research Mission Directorate to be a part of NASA’s Ultra-High Bypass Advanced Nacelle Technologies Flight Demonstration. The goal of the partnership is to develop engines for commercial airliners that produce less pollution and are more fuel-efficient.

 This is not the first time that Pratt & Whitney has worked with NASA to advance green engine technologies. The two organisations partnered a number of times during the 1990s and 2000s, and together, they have made significant advancements in fuel-efficient technologies.

The most notable result of the P&W-NASA partnership is the development of technology for the geared turbofan (GTF) family of engines. The GTF engine improves efficiency by over 16 per cent and increases fuel savings while dramatically reducing noise by 50 per cent, a profound advancement for the aeronautics industry. 

Moreover, we are currently working with NASA on the New Aviation Horizons initiative, through which a new generation of revolutionary “X-planes” featuring advanced technologies will be designed, built and tested over a 10-year period.                                                            

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