When it comes to engines, much like plane manufacturers, there are a few players leading the market. GE, Rolls Royce, and Pratt & Whitney are likely the names you hear the most when looking at the industry (or looking out the window). But which of these three giants is the leader? And what planes do they power?
The engine is an essential part of the aircraft, providing the power and thrust required to operate an aircraft and keep it in the air. Engines also determine aircraft efficiency, a key factor in reducing emissions and fuel burn.
When purchasing planes, airlines are faced with the option of which engines to put on their planes. Safety isn’t usually an issue with most engines, although a few have seen recurring issues, which means airlines usually make the decision on price alone. So, what choices do airlines have for engines? That depends on your plane and aircraft type.
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Take the A380 for instance. When purchasing the aircraft, airlines had to choose between the Trent 900 (Rolly Royce’s offering) and the GP7000 (GE and P&W’s offering). Since the aircraft required four engines each, the contract for the engines ran into the hundreds of millions.
The engine market is competitive, with companies pushing to make the most powerful and efficient engines. As expected, widebody aircraft have more powerful engines, with the most powerful engines being on the 777 and A350 today. For narrowbodies, manufacturers are constantly pushing to make powerful engines while still being small enough for the planes. The A321neo and 737 MAX are examples of these engines.
GE remains the undisputed leader of the aircraft engine market. Based on power, orders, and range of available engines, the US-based conglomerate rules the market. GE, with its joint ventures, holds around 55% of the engine market, well ahead of its competitors, according to Statista.
However, GE does not only manufacture engines under its own umbrella, instead it partners with others. GE’s most successful partnership has been with Safran, creating the CFM International brand (CFM holds 39% market share, while GE holds 16% alone).
CFM manufactures the CFM56 and LEAP 1 engine, which can be found extensively on the A320 and 737 aircraft. GE has also partnered with P&W to form the Engine Alliance, which makes the GP7000 engine for the A380.
GE’s engines can be found on every popular commercial jet to date, barring the A350 (for now). This means GE engines can be found on the 777, 747, 787, 737, A320, A330, A340, and A380 (use joint-venture engines). If you’re flying on a narrowbody, especially the 737, odds are there’s a GE engine under the wing.
Pratt & Whitney
Coming in at number two is Pratt & Whitney, holding a 26% share of the engine market. P&W engines can be found on the A220, the A320 family, A330, 747-400s, 767, and Embraer E-jets. In recent years, the manufacturer has seen its narrowbody aircraft engines do well and has been focusing on those.
As mentioned, P&W previously partnered with GE for the GP7000, with a majority of Emirates’ A380 engines coming from them. The manufacture has also partnered with the Japanese Aero Engine Corporation and MTU Aero Engines, to form International Aero Engines. The group has produced the IAE V2500, which can be found on earlier A320 and the recently retired McDonnell Douglas MD-90.
Pratt & Whitney’s most recent engine has been for the A220 family, being the exclusive providers for the aircraft. The manufacturer has run into some trouble in recent years, with its popular PW1000G (found on the A320 and A220) seeing engine failure issues. This has forced the manufacturer to replace many of the engines, causing heavy losses.
Nonetheless, P&W remains a dominant player in the engine market, especially with the future focus on narrowbody jets.
British-based Rolls-Royce comes in third in this list, holding around 18% of the engine market share. A popular brand, the manufacturer makes engines exclusively for widebody aircraft, with the A330, A340, A350, A380, 777, and 787 featuring RR engines.
While it may not lead the market, Rolls-Royce does have strong brand appeal, popularized by the car business. Rolls-Royce makes powerful engines, with the A350 exclusively featuring its Trent XWB engines. Its focus on the widebody market, which separates it from others on the list.
Rolls-Royce engines use the name Trent for each engine, with the Trent XWB powering the A350 and Trent 1000 powering the 787. However, Rolls-Royce, too, has found itself mired in issues over some of its engine types. The Trent 1000 has seen multiple issues over the years, requiring replacements and grounding aircraft across the globe.
Rolls-Royce is expected to take a major hit this year, as the market for widebodies shrinks and more engines require replacements.
The market for aircraft engines is marked by intense competition, with manufacturers always looking to innovate and provide better options at lower prices. With many aircraft having multiple engine options, the job of making newer engines has become more difficult over the years.
GE, P&W, and Rolls-Royce (along with their joint-ventures) hold nearly a 100% market share over the commercial aircraft. Even while others try to make newer planes, such as the COMAC C919, GE will continue to provide engines for the type, ensuring the dominance of the current three engine markers.
Aircraft development is unlikely to slow down any time soon, which means manufacturers have to work doubly hard to provide airlines with the best options for their aircraft and win contracts worth billions. All of this while ensuring safety, setting up quite the task for engine makers.
Do you have an engine preference while flying? Which manufacturer is your favorite and why? Let us know in the comments!