RTX CEO: Pratt reputation will hinge on handling of GTF woes

Manufacturing quality Issue that requires urgent PW1100 inspections could affect other GTF models, too.

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Release Date
July 26, 2023
RTX CEO: Pratt reputation will hinge on handling of GTF woes
On March 18, 2020 a Vietnam Airlines Airbus A321 aborted its takeoff roll at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. The International Aero Engines (IAE) V2500 under the right wing of the older generation single aisle had suffered an uncontained failure when the high pressure turbine disk ruptured, piercing both the case and cowling of the engine. There were no injuries and while news of the failure was reported, it was overshadowed by the earliest chaotic days of the pandemic.

Pratt & Whitney, the lead partner in the IAE consortium, in 2021 traced the root cause of the turbine disk’s failure to nickel alloy powder contaminated by small bits of ceramic that broke off of tooling during the raw material’s creation. Made at its Clayville, New York plant, the powder serves as the basis for high pressure turbine disks that are found in all of Pratt’s modern turbofan engines powering commercial aircraft and business jets, including the PW1100 that flies on the A320neo — by far its highest output engine.

Until the spring, Pratt believed that it understood how this impurity could cause subsurface cracks to form and propagate in the disks under the punishing stress in the hot section of an engine downstream from combusted jet fuel. Now Pratt is staring down time-consuming inspections on a first tranche of 200 PW1100s that have to be returned by September 15. Another 1,000 engines will need the same inspections within a year. Airbus and Embraer have delivered 1,681 GTF-powered aircraft, including 1,327 A320neo family aircraft, according to ch-aviation. That tallies the total population of PW1000-series engines in the field at nearly 3,400 before counting spares

“This is going to be disruptive to the airlines,” said Greg Hayes, chief executive of Pratt parent company RTX, in a Tuesday one-on-one interview with The Air Current. Hayes detailed the origins of this acute manufacturing issue, as well as the implications to Pratt’s business, which has already been struggling to boost the durability of its flagship engine. “Especially the first 200, this is going to put a damper on flight operations. Because it’s happening so quickly we’re going to have to work very closely with the airline customers to make sure that they have either rotables or spares in place to prevent the fleet from getting shut down.”

The unexpected revelation sent RTX shares down as much as 16% in trading on Tuesday, before rebounding slightly. It was the stock’s worst one-day performance since March 18, 2020 — the day of the incident in Vietnam — when aerospace companies were focused on absorbing the pandemic’s early economic body blow as global demand for air travel collapsed.

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