Normally when making a purchase decision, one would always look at the best, or at least one of the best, market options available. The same logic applies in the aviation industry when aircraft’s airframe builders are looking for the right engine or powerplant assembly for their aircraft.
However, one of the notable differences between aviation and other industries is the variance in the fine details that define what engine is ‘best’ for a given aircraft.
Considering that the engine is the primary source of power and thrust for an aircraft, its optimal performance is highly desirable. Equally, the efficiency of an aircraft relies on its engine characteristics.
From one aircraft manufacturer to the next, the performance requirements for aircraft types and models differ, hence the difference in engine requirements.
However, despite these variances, most aviation stakeholders agree that there are more notable, ‘superior’ players than others in the business of aircraft engine manufacturing and they include Pratt & Whitney, General Electric, Rolls-Royce, and CFM International.
AeroTime takes a closer look at some of the world’s largest commercial aircraft engine manufacturers, and answers the question: who is the largest?
Pratt & Whitney
Pratt & Whitney, commonly referred to as P&W or PW, is an American aviation company with headquarters in East Hartford, Connecticut, United States. Having been founded in 1925, P&W is one of the big three commercial aviation engine manufacturers, competing with General Electric and Rolls-Royce in gas turbine engine manufacture.
Today, at least 13,000 large commercial engines have installed P&W engines. Even more, P&W engines power over 25% of the passenger fleet globally. Some of the notable commercial aircraft powered by these engines include the A220, A320, A330, Embraer E-jet family, Boeing 767, De Havilland Canada (DHC-8) Classics, and Q400 series among others.
One of the company’s popular models is the GFT engine, which is the industry’s only commercially available modern geared propulsion system today. The GFT engine is lightweight compared to other similar engines, it has various technological and aerodynamic advancements. Some of the other major engine models include the V2500, GP7200, JT8D, JT9D, PW2000, PW6000, and PW4000 families.
Over the years, P&W has partnered with other multinational companies forming two main joint ventures namely the Engine Alliance and International Aero Engines. The Engine Alliance incorporates P&W and General Electric in manufacturing the GP7200 engines. On the other hand, International Aero Engines is a joint venture between P&W, MTU Aero Engines, and Japanese Aero Engine Corporation, manufacturing the V2500 engines.
General Electric, commonly known as GE, is another of the world’s largest commercial engine manufacturers. Its headquarters is in Cincinnati, Ohio, United States, and the company was founded in 1892.
GE supplies engines to the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers, including Airbus, Boeing, De Havilland Canada, Embraer, and COMAC. Some of the aircraft types powered by GE engines include the Boeing 737, 777, 747, 787, A320, A330, and A340, plus all the aircraft powered by engines from joint ventures of the company. For example, the previously mentioned joint venture between GE and P&W, the Engine Alliance, manufactures the GP7200 engines.
Another successful partnership, CFM International, was forged between GE and French engine manufacturer Safran.
Some of the popular GE engine models include the GENX, GE90, GE9X, HF-120, PASSPORT, and CFM56. When considered independently, GE services about 16% of the market. However, when considered jointly with CFM, the company’s market share is about 55%, which is the world’s largest.
CFM International is a joint venture between GE and Safran. Founded in 1974, and with its headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio, the United States, the main purpose of this partnership was to support and build the CFM56 engine, a high-bypass turbofan engine. This was a combined project between Safran’s, formerly Snecma, M56, and GE’s CF6 engines.
To a large extent, the engine powers the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 families. CFM International also manufactures LEAP engines, which make use of newer technologies that result in innovative, cost-effective, and fuel-efficient engines. Similar to the CFM56, LEAP engines extensively power the A320 and 737 aircraft families.
As previously mentioned, CFM and GE control the largest market share of commercial aircraft engine manufacturers at 55%. Of this, CFM accounts for about 39%, which makes it the largest commercial aircraft engine manufacturer in the world.
Rolls-Royce is one of the most successful engineering companies globally. Founded in 1906, the company has its headquarters in London, England, United Kingdom. Its first successful production of an aircraft engine was in 1914 when it made a piston engine, known as the Eagle, primarily used to power many aircraft during the Second World War.
Today, Rolls-Royce is one of the world’s largest commercial aircraft engine manufacturers and is popularly known for the Trent XWB, 7000, 1000, 900,800, and 500 engines. The Trent engine family has been used to power a wide range of aircraft including the Boeing 777, 787, Airbus A330, A340, A350, and A380 among others.
Further, the company’s Trent engine family has recorded at least 100 million flying hours with more than 13,000 engines in service. Rolls-Royce controls about 18% of the engine market share globally.
Undoubtedly, when considered together with their joint ventures, General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, and Rolls-Royce control the largest share of the world’s aircraft engine market at a combined percentage of around 98%. This means that the three big players enjoy economies of scale such as holding the highest bargaining power of the suppliers of aircraft engines to the market. This leaves just 2% of the market share to the other market players.
However, the data should not deter newer market entrants since the aviation industry still encourages innovations that enhance reliability, efficiency, and sustainability.