Pratt & Whitney is betting on geared turbofan engine technology and wants to be involved in the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China's (Comac) C919 programme, while Rolls-Royce is testing open rotor technology for later generations of aircraft.
"We are talking to the Chinese about powering their single-aisle aircraft," P&W vice-president commercial engines for China, Thomas Nakano, told delegates at the Asian Aerospace Congress. "Our preference is to go through International Aero Engines."
But he revealed to Flight Daily News that P&W's geared turbofan technology can power the C919 and P&W has talked to Comac about using P&W's GTF engine.
P&W aims to have the GTF enter service in 2013, three years before Comac's C919 service-entry goal.
Bombardier has already selected P&W's GTF engine for the CSeries and Mitsubishi has chosen it for the MRJ regional jet.
While P&W favours GTF technology, R-R is backing open rotors. Vice-president customer business north and central Asia, James Barry, told the conference it has a demonstrator called Rig 145 and that it completed low-speed testing in the Netherlands at the end of last year.
These were for take-off and landings to address noise, a major issue for open-rotor engines, he adds.
Engineers looked at the optimal speed, spacing and profile, he says, adding that "we got promising results and met the noise challenge".
In the next few weeks R-R will start high-speed testing in the UK, says Barry.
The engine-maker plans to have a flying demonstrator in 2013, says Barry, adding that a tentative timeframe for service entry would be around 2020.
The next generation of Airbus and Boeing narrowbodies could be a strong possibility for R-R open-rotor engines, confirms Barry.