GE doesn’t see business case for 2nd A350 engine launch

 - July 20, 2010, 11:05 AM

Manufacturers of airliners typically offer customers a choice of engines for their various models. The new Airbus A350 XWB is not one of them, however. It is powered only by the Rolls-Royce Trent turbofan, and one question often asked is, “Will GE offer an engine to power the Airbus A350 XWB?”

Here in Farnborough, David Joyce, the president and CEO of GE Aviation, made the company’s clearest statement yet as to its intentions. “We still do not see a business case to launch a competing engine,” he told AIN.

Good news for Rolls-Royce, which has already sold more than 1,000 Trent XWBs on all three versions of the new Airbus. Said Robert Nuttal, Rolls-Royce head of strategic marketing, “It’s the fastest ever selling Trent engine.” 

GE was an engine supplier for the original A350, with a version of its Boeing 787 GEnx engine. Then Airbus re-launched the A350 as the heavier, wider A350 XWB, leaving Rolls-Royce alone on the aircraft. Until recently GE had not given up on powering the two smaller versions of the new Airbus, the -800 and -900 with the GEnx. However, it was never able to offer anything for the -1000 variant because it competes directly with the Boeing 777-300ER for which GE is the exclusive engine supplier.

Now, the A350XWB-900 thrust requirement has grown to 83,000 pounds. “My engine isn’t big enough for that aircraft,” said Joyce of GE Aviation, “so I have to consider an all-new engine for all three versions of the A350, and I can’t make a business case for that.” He added that GE also has to recognize its obligations to Boeing on the 777-300ER. “We’re committed to not developing an engine for a competing aircraft,” he added.

Rolls-Royce’s Nuttal refuses to be complacent. “The fact that we’re still the only supplier on the A350 shows we made the right business decisions as to the size and attributes of the Trent XWB,” he said.

The first Trent XWB went to test in June, on schedule, and the rig test program, involving 50 component test rigs, is half way completed. Service entry of the A350XWB-900 and -800, both powered by 84,000-pound Trent XWBs, is set for 2013 and 2014, respectively, and of the larger A350XWB-1000, with 93,000-pound Trent engines, is 2015.