Shane Eddy, President of Pratt & Whitney explains the long-term strategy for the company.
What are the most important new developments in existing engines?
This is a very exciting time for Pratt & Whitney and the entire industry. We are embarking on the most disruptive period of commercial aviation yet, with our shared focus on achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
As a leading developer of aircraft propulsion systems, we recognize that our technologies have a significant role in making net zero a reality, both through our drive to continually improve engine efficiency—for example, with hybrid-electric systems—and through our work to enable the use of non-fossil, alternative fuels, such as sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) and hydrogen.
Pratt & Whitney has been at the forefront of aircraft engine efficiency, most recently with the GTF, which increased fuel efficiency 16% to 20% over prior generation engines. Since the GTF entered service in 2016, it has helped single-aisle aircraft operators save
700 million gallons of fuel and avoid 7 million metric tons of CO2 emissions.
And the GTF is getting even better. Last year, we introduced the GTF Advantage engine, which will provide greater thrust for operators and an additional 1% in fuel and CO2 savings. We are advancing exciting technologies to take this even further, such as with hybrid-electric systems and advanced materials like ceramic matrix composites.
How long will engines be reliant on fossil fuel (at least as a blend) and what can be done to speed up the adoption of SAF?
SAF are a critical component in a net-zero future for aviation. Pratt & Whitney was an early supporter of SAF and helped develop the standards that today allow SAF to be used on a “drop-in” basis across all engines at a blend of up to 50% with traditional jet A kerosene.
But the challenge is to rapidly scale up supply from the paltry 0.01% of global fuel demand in 2019. The development of affordable, reliable, and ubiquitous SAF will rely on public-private partnership, and we’re delighted to see the momentum from government initiatives like the White House’s SAF Grand Challenge, along with airlines making major SAF purchasing commitments. We think a blenders tax credit, rather than additional taxes on Jet A, is the best path forward to accelerate adoption by airlines, especially as our airline customers are recovering from the pandemic.
We will continue to invest in the development of engines that will fly for the next several decades
Scaling up SAF production will take time as well as strong global government support, but our products have long service lives, and we need to make sure they are ready for the future. That’s why we committed to make our next generation GTF Advantage engine compatible with 100% SAF, and we demonstrated its readiness with successful tests earlier this year.
The challenge of transitioning away from fossil fuel use cannot be underestimated, but it further reinforces our focus on continually improving engine efficiency across our portfolio. On average, we improve fuel efficiency 1% per year, and we will continue to invest in the development of engines that will fly for the next several decades.
What is the best prospect for a new energy source for aircraft?
There is no single solution to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.
Hybrid-electric systems hold real potential to drive greater fuel efficiency across a range of applications, from new urban air mobility platforms to larger single-aisle aircraft. We’re already developing a regional aircraft-scale, hybrid-electric flight demonstrator in collaboration with our Raytheon Technologies sister company, Collins Aerospace.
Hydrogen is promising as without a carbon molecule there is no carbon footprint, but we have to optimize our propulsion technology to take full advantage of the opportunities of hydrogen, such as adapting design to accommodate it in its super-cooled liquified state. Hydrogen produced from green sources is a powerful energy, with many applications that aviation will compete with, but it is very promising.
SAF will bridge us to potentially new energy sources in the coming decades.
How has your manufacturing process changed and what new technologies will help the monitoring and maintenance of engines?
The biggest change in our advanced manufacturing is the advent of Industry 4.0, the fourth industrial revolution. Industry 4.0 includes digitization, automation, data, and connectivity and is changing the nature of industrial manufacturing while making it cleaner, greener, smarter, and safer.
We are also deploying Customer Oriented Results and Excellence (CORE)—the Raytheon Technologies operating system—across our company, including our manufacturing and aftermarket facilities. Our advanced turbine airfoil coating system capacity was an area of expansion necessary to keep up with the anticipated volume ramp; and our team initially estimated investments of some $200m to keep pace with volume.
To maximize our existing capacity, we utilized our CORE Operating System Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE) methodology to eliminate lost production time and increase the maximum capacity of our existing equipment install base.
This not only reduced the required investment 63% but also deferred the need for that investment by at least two years, enabling reallocation of that capital into strategic investments.
EngineWise® Data by ADEM™ (Advanced Diagnostics and Engine Monitoring) allows us to manage customers’ engine health and maintenance planning requirements, working to maximize each customer’s specific engine performance and engine time on-wing, while maintaining predictable MRO spend. Our system provides analysis for more than 9,500 in-service engines. Our expert data analysts help to reduce operational disruption through predictive and preventative maintenance.
Over the years, as the sophistication of engine controls has improved so has the amount of data generated by the engines. Our GTF series of engines generate about 40% more data than the V2500 family of engines. An average two-hour flight for a GTF engine generates about 4 million data points.
We’re bringing the power of digitization into our facilities as well, to reduce energy usage and facility emissions footprint. The facilities engineering team at Pratt & Whitney’s East Hartford and Middletown, Connecticut sites have been using advanced analytics for the past 18 months to pull HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) system data and review trends from the building management system. So far, the results are very promising.
What are your long-term plans for the company?
Pratt & Whitney will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2025, and it’s stunning to look back on our industry and see how much has changed, and how Pratt & Whitney helped shape today’s landscape.
The next 15-20 years will be the most disruptive of the industry’s history, all focused on the goal of net-zero carbon emissions for aviation by 2050. We are talking with airframers and airline customers to determine their needs and designing propulsion solutions for their missions. Customer focus has been central to our DNA as a company since the first air-cooled Wasp engine.
Long-term, our mission is to attract and retain the best engineering talent in the industry, to take what we’ve done with the revolutionary GTF architecture and apply the same spirit of innovation throughout our company. Our focus is on attracting and retaining the best talent throughout the company. We implemented one of the industry’s most innovative work-remote policies as our salaried staff found the flexibility of work-anywhere to be a great value. Today, about 80% of our headquarters staff are hybrid or remote, with the ability to access campus when necessary. This flexibility adds value to their experience as employees.
Is diversity an important part of your strategy?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion are fundamental to our strategy. We believe that inclusion is the engine of innovation, and we work hard at fostering an inclusive culture for our global employee population.
We do this through our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Taskforce, Employee Resource Groups and educational opportunities. It is important to foster a culture where employees can bring their whole and best selves to work.
In 2017, we signed on to the Paradigm for Parity initiative, a goal to have gender parity in leadership roles at Pratt & Whitney by 2030. We will achieve this by minimizing or eliminating unconscious bias, broadening the talent pool, and providing mentorship and sponsorship to women of potential. Today, 35% of our executives are women.
What are the biggest challenges ahead for aviation?
Pratt & Whitney will always put safety first. Every second of every day, aircraft powered by our engines take off. Air travel connects people, helps grow economies, and helps defend freedom around the world. Since our earliest days, our motto has been “Dependable Engines” for a reason, and we never stray from that.
A big challenge is ensuring that airlines can continue to fly their current fleets well into the future while simultaneously reducing their carbon footprint. But what’s good for the environment is also good for business—our business, our airline customers’ business, and the aviation ecosystem. That’s why we are advocating for public-private partnerships to significantly expand the availability of affordable drop-in SAF solutions, alongside our continual work to develop technologies that will make current and next generation propulsion systems more efficient.
And finally, the efficiencies that come with Industry 4.0 will require investments for us as well as our supply chain, and we have to be mindful in managing that change. We are fortunate that we can build our new Asheville facility from the ground-up but importing Industry 4.0 principles into our existing facilities and supply chain will take time and attention. It will be well worth the effort.
I’m excited about the possibilities. Not many people get the opportunity to drive this level of fundamental change in our industry. Every airline CEO and every OEM are facing the same direction on the core challenges, from sustainability to efficiency, to workplace culture. But from a personal perspective, I have the utmost confidence in the people of Pratt & Whitney to create the future we need.
Since entering service in early 2016, GTF engines have
- saved more than 700 million gallons of fuel
- avoided more than seven million metric tonnes of carbon emissions
- reduced the noise footprint 75%
- powered more than 1,200 aircraft, 62 airlines and three aircraft families
Shane Eddy, President, Pratt & Whitney