Farnborough Air Show

A350 engine questions loom

 - November 27, 2006, 10:42 AM

Airbus’ confirmation that it is to go ahead with the A350 XWB, requiring much higher thrust engines than the original A350, has put the cat among the pigeons in the U.S. engine industry, with General Electric and Pratt & Whitney apparently poles apart on what they will offer.

The only manufacturer that appears to have its solution sewn up is Rolls-Royce, which will offer a “sixth generation” Trent spanning the 75,000- to 95,000-pound- thrust range required by the three-aircraft A350 XWB family.

Pratt & Whitney president Steve Finger said at the show that the preferred “route to market” for the A350 XWB was through the Engine Alliance, which powers the A380 with the GP7200, but is prohibited from competing on twins under the current agreement. Retiring commercial engines president Steve Heath added, “GE clearly has another option for the A350 XWB. It requires a lot of hugging to get into this kind of partnership.” He insisted, however, that the Engine Alliance GP7200 was “one of the best engine programs we’ve ever been involved in.”

GE says it will offer a new version of the GEnx Boeing 787 engine for the A350-800 and -900, but will not compete on the A350-1000 because it is a direct competitor to the Boeing 777-300ER, powered exclusively by its GE90. This would appear to leave Rolls-Royce as the exclusive supplier of engines for the A350-1000.

Rolls-Royce has already signed a preliminary agreement with Airbus to supply the A350 XWB engine, having abandoned development of the Trent 1700 that was to power the A350. The company insists, however, that the work carried out to date on the Trent 1700 is “entirely relevant” to the new engine and will incorporate the latest “Vision” technologies for a planned first run in three years.