* Pratt & Whitney says making progress on supply chain
* Fan-blade manufacturing pressure adds to delays - sources
* Some Airbus jets also affected by new delay -sources
By Tim Hepher and Allison Lampert
PARIS/MONTREAL, Sept 6 Further delays in
deliveries of the latest jet engine from Pratt & Whitney
underline the challenges of speeding up manufacturing for
multiple planemakers as well as pressure on an already taut
supply chain, industry sources said.
Canada's Bombardier said it was cutting forecasts
for CSeries jet deliveries because of delays in getting engines
from Pratt & Whitney, one of a handful of engine makers whose
efficient new designs have triggered a boom in aircraft sales.
Pratt & Whitney did not say what had caused the delays, but
suggested it was grappling with problems at its own suppliers.
"In terms of production, we've made significant headway in
the supply chain, but there is some pressure on new engine
deliveries for this year," a spokeswoman said in a statement.
Three industry sources said the U.S. engine maker also faces
challenges in bedding down the manufacturing techniques for the
engines' novel "hybrid-metallic" fan blades, the world's first
to be made mainly from aluminium alloy.
While the sources said there is nothing technically wrong
with the lightweight blades, one said the problem was linked to
perfecting advanced new industrial methods, leading to some
quality problems and slowing down deliveries.
"The process is not yet automated enough; it remains too
much of an artisan process," the source said.
The reported fan-blade manufacturing problem is at least
partly responsible for delays that prompted Bombardier to more
than halve its forecast for deliveries, two of the sources said.
It has also contributed to delays in some deliveries from
Pratt to Airbus, though those are dwarfed by other technical
issues now being resolved, a person close to the matter said.
Airbus declined comment.
Pratt & Whitney declined to add to its earlier statement.
Similar engines are being developed for planemakers in
Brazil, Japan and Russia. Brazil's Embrarer said its
E-Jets E2 programme was not affected.
The new Geared Turbofan engine relies on a larger fan than
previous comparable models to help burn less fuel.
Pratt & Whitney is ramping up output of the fan blades and
other parts quickly to meet demand, and earlier this year opened
a secondary manufacturing facility in Singapore.
In 2014, Pratt & Whitney signed a 10-year, $1.1 billion deal
with Alcoa for parts including forgings for aluminium fan
blades. The blades are manufactured using a process that has not
been disclosed. Alcoa was not immediately available for comment.
Shares in Pratt & Whitney parent United Technologies
fell 0.8 percent.
Analysts said the delays added to pressure on Pratt &
Whitney to ramp up production but did not drastically alter the
balance of risks involved in record jetliner production.
"It is a question of time and money, not a question of if,"
said a specialist who closely follows aerospace manufacturing.
(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)