McDonnell Douglas Drops $100 Million Prop-Fan Jet Engine
LONG BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ McDonnell Douglas Corp. is discontinuing development of a revolutionary prop-fan jet engine because customers have shown no interest in the $100 million design.
Instead of extending research on the innovative exposed propeller engine, the aircraft builder will focus on a new generation of fuel-efficient aircraft, the MD-90 series, which it previewed Tuesday.
″After a number of years of research, this is what the customers are telling us they want,″ said Walter Orlowski, McDonnell’s MD-90 program general manager.
McDonnell Douglas introduced the experimental prop-fan engine in February 1988. It resembles a standard jet engine housing fitted with external blades similar to aircraft propellers, but with 16 curved blades.
The novelty and designers’ claims about increased fuel efficiency failed to excite customers in the airline industry, officials said.
Despite projections that the engine could reduce fuel consumption by 40 percent, McDonnell Douglas failed to get a single order for the engine type, company vice president John Wolf said.
″Our customers indicated they were not interested in buying it,″ Wolf said.
The gamble to develop the prop-fan engine was based on the belief that the price of jet fuel would increase in the 1980s, but prices have held steady.
The MD-90 models, which come in two sizes, are designed to be more fuel- efficient than the MD-80 models from which the new series was derived. A 114-seat version is expected to be 13 percent more fuel-efficient, and a 153- seat version will save 17 percent, company officials predicted.
The company declined to say how much it planned to invest in the new planes, but industry analysts estimate the development cost at between $300 million and $400 million.
The MD-90 series will be powered by a V2500 engine produced by the consortium International Aero Engines. The consortium included the American manufacturer Pratt & Whitney and the British firm Rolls-Royce, and West German, Italian and Japanese companies.
Wolf would not say how many orders the company needs before it can begin production of MD-90s but it has already begun its pitch to airlines. McDonnell Douglas hopes to begin making deliveries as early as the fourth quarter of 1994.