Airbus 'A370' could hand Rolls-Royce big engine prize

Los Angeles
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By Guy Norris in Los Angeles

Rolls-Royce is close to signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Airbus to develop an 85,000-95,000lb thrust (380-420kN) class engine for the revised A350, provisionally designated the A370.

General Electric, which previously held a dominant position with the GEnx-1A72 (formerly GEnx-72A) on the A350-800/900, is understood to be far from convinced that it is able or willing to support A350/A370 growth as it may challenge the exclusively GE90-115B-powered Boeing 777-200LR/300ER models.

The emerging dilemma over the engine requirement for the revised Airbus twinjet is a reversal of the situation a year ago when GE surged ahead with orders for the GEnx-powered A350 and R-R had no MoU with Airbus. Airbus briefed General Electric and R-R in late May on the new thrust requirements for the aircraft, which go far beyond the 72,000lb baseline for the original A350-800/900. While the latter thrust range presents GE with a good opportunity to grow the CF6-replacement engine beyond the GEnx-1B70 for the 787 family and the GEnx-2B for the 747-8, the growth requirement for the proposed A370-1000 takes it into an arena currently dominated by its own GE90-94B/115B.

In addition to concerns over cannibalising its own market, GE is stretched financially, and in terms of engineering resources, by its commitment to the GEnx, a 787 engine development programme ramp-up and a design freeze on the 747-8 engine.

GE says it “continues to support the Airbus A350 power requirement”, while R-R says “discussions are ongoing with Airbus on a range of issues”. Airbus declines to comment on developments.

Talks between Airbus and GE on the revised A350 are also understood to have been complicated by commitments to existing A350 customers.