Innovations in Turbine Engines

A common definition of innovation “is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society.” An innovator can be an organization that is first to...


A common definition of innovation “is the creation of better or more effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas that are accepted by markets, governments, and society.” An innovator can be an organization that is first to introduce something better than what exists, which often opens up a new area for others to build on.

Examples of innovative aircraft engines are the R1340 Wasp, the JT-3, the PT-6, and the JT-9. Pratt & Whitney would be considered an innovator of aircraft engine technologies. After 20 plus years of research and development the PurePower PW1000G geared turbofan engine family is operational. It appears that the PW1000G engine is new from the spinner to the tail cone.

According to experts, this engine is a model of innovation and not another of P&W’s traditional turbofan engines with a few incremental improvements. AMTs always want to get their hands on a new engine, to look under the cowling and learn more about mounting, servicing, maintenance, and overhaul. The PW1000G is a new engine that has not yet seen continuous airline service.

Innovative design

The fan drive gear system (FDGS) is the fulcrum of the innovative design for the PW1000G. P&W took years and spent about a “billion dollars in research and development” to prefect this geared system. The robust “star gear system leverages the basic laws of physics to improve propulsive efficiency.” The reliable gearbox is, lightweight, about “20 inches in diameter, and transmits about 30,000 horsepower.” The FDGS follows the fan shaft but separates the engine fan from the low pressure compressor and turbine. The “fan rotates at a slower speed and the low pressure compressor and turbine operates at a higher speed. This allows each engine module to operate for optimum efficiency.”

This engine has significant improvements in aerodynamics, application of lightweight materials and efficiency gains with the high-pressure spool, low-pressure turbine, the combustor, engine controls, and the engine health and maintenance monitoring systems. These improvements are made possible by the step change in the basic engine architecture of the fan drive reduction gear. The engine has a lightweight composite fan case and low-pressure fan that move more than 90 percent of inlet air around the core engine.

This design resulted in a “50 to 75 percent reduction in engine noise over current models, a remarkable 12:1 bypass ratio, and an expected 16 to 20 percent better fuel burn over today’s engines.” The compact, high-speed low-pressure system runs cooler and accomplishes more work with fewer stages, a design feature that helps reduce the number of airfoils and life-limited parts. “The high bypass ratio and the efficient Talon X combustor help reduce fuel burn and carbon and nitrogen oxide emissions.”

Maintenance and overhaul

From the information published about the PW1000G, it appears the P&W engineers have been very considerate of the maintenance community. The interviews suggest that the engine has many features that facilitate maintenance and reduce time and cost while the engine is in overhaul. P&W also offers a “PureSolution Service” maintenance plan customized to the scope and scale of the owners’ operation.

The health of the PW1000G engine is monitored by a P&W maintenance team, 24x7 regardless of location. It does this by using “enhanced diagnostics that will enable a considerable increase in the level of data with improved speed and reduced operating costs for the airline.” Once the data is in and analyzed, the P&W support team provides the best solutions to address on and off-wing trouble shooting and engine repair or exchange.

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