APUs Don’t Compete with the Big Boys, but They’re Important Nonetheless

by Carter Palmer, Power Systems Specialist, Forecast International.

Turbines come in all shapes and sizes, but the unsung heroes of modern aviation are the turbines that start the turbines, the auxiliary power units, or APUs. These small, robust, and comparatively small powerplants provide essential power to both military and civil aircraft. Despite the fairly wide range of applications of APUs, the market is occupied by surprisingly few players. The forecast for these powerplants is rather steady. Unless there is a minor setback in the next 15 years, production should average about 3,000 units per year.

APUs are essentially small power generators used for a variety of tasks. Although World War II-era aircraft were not the first to use these small powerplants, it was during that time that they came to be essential to a few platforms, including the Me-262 and B-29. These older types of APUs were internal combustion engines, whereas today’s APUs utilize turbine technology.

APUs provide power while on the ground or aloft in emergency situations. On large civilian aircraft, the primary functions of these small turbines include air-conditioning, lighting, and engine ignition while on the ground. Military aircraft use APUs for much the same purposes, to ignite the main engines and supply emergency power.

The market for APUs is limited to a few, yet sizable companies. Honeywell, Safran, and Pratt & Whitney have divisions that produce these small turbines. Honeywell’s APUs are in use aboard both the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 family of aircraft. Pratt & Whitney also supplies APUs to the A320 series, as well as to the Boeing 787 and 747-8. Safran’s turbines are employed on both the Legacy 650 and Falcon 5X.

Of the three aforementioned companies, Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney claim the majority of the market. In terms of unit production over the next 15 years, Honeywell is forecast to have a roughly 69 percent market share, while Pratt & Whitney comes in at 26 percent and Safran at 4 percent. An 11 percent drop in overall production is forecast for 2021 through 2023 due to a cyclical downturn in production of large business jets; however, the market should bounce back to previous levels of over 3,000 units per year and hold steady to 2030.

APUs, the smaller siblings in the turbine family, however important they may be, have a modest place in the overall turbine market commensurate with their size. The market from now to 2030 is forecast to be approximately $28 billion, which translates to 2.28 percent of the total turbine market (i.e., turbofans, turbojets, APUs, turboshafts, and turboprops). Nonetheless, despite their small impact on the big picture, they occupy a vital niche that secures their position for years to come.

Please feel free to use this content with Forecast International and analyst attributions, along with a link to the article. Contact Ray Peterson at +1 (203) 426-0800 or via email at ray.peterson@forecast1.com for additional analysis.

Forecast International produces two distinct Power Systems products. The Aviation Gas Turbine Forecast presents the 15-year outlook for aviation turbofan, turboprop and turboshaft engines and more. The Industrial & Marine Turbine Forecast covers the markets for gas and steam turbines, mechanical drive engines, and marine power, among others.

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