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The second in a two-part series on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the business of building commercial aircraft engines.

You can only blame so much on a pandemic. Like a pre-existing condition that can make a case of COVID-19 deadly versus asymptomatic, the business model governing engine makers and their relationship to aircraft manufacturers made them exceptionally vulnerable. The collapse of global commercial aviation merely revealed the fundamental weakness baked into the relationship.

Related: Coronavirus shred the engine maker business model

The hope, strategically, was that the aircraft industry moved at a pace slow enough where the collision between Airbus, Boeing and General Electric, Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney could be averted. Yet the pandemic has accelerated the reality that the incentives that govern both sides of that coin are inherently unsustainable. The mismatch in the relationship comes at a time when they need to be getting closer, not farther apart.

A CFM56-7B engine on Boeing's 737 final assembly line in Renton, Wash.

Today airplane manufacturers are scrambling to keep afloat, maintain a semblance of liquidity and promote deliveries of new aircraft — principally for replacement of older less-efficient aircraft. For engine makers, this solves only half of the equation with new production and exacerbates a problem with the other, far more important, half.

Because of the very nature of the model — an existential reliance on the aftermarket parts and services for engines that fly for decades built on the back of selling new engines at a loss — some of the leading proposals to kickstart an industrial recovery may end up kneecapping the engine manufacturers.

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Jon Ostrower is Editor-in-chief of The Air Current. Prior to launching TAC in June 2018, Ostrower served as Aviation Editor for CNN Worldwide, guiding the network's global coverage of the business and operations of flying. Ostrower joined CNN in 2016 following four and half years at the Wall Street Journal. Based first in Chicago and then in Washington, D.C. he covered Boeing, aviation safety and the business of global aerospace. Before that, Ostrower was editor of the award-winning FlightBlogger for Flightglobal and Flight International Magazine covering the development of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and other new aircraft programs from 2007 to 2012. Ostrower, a Boston native, graduated from The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs with a bachelor's degree in Political Communication. He is based in Seattle.

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