GEnx variant may yet power A350

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GE holds talks with Gallois as customer pressure mounts for alternative powerplant to Rolls-Royce Trent XWB

Airbus chief executive Louis Gallois has held talks with senior General Electric management over finalising the possible go-ahead of a new variant of the GEnx engine for the A350 XWB following increased pressure from customers on the two manufacturers to come up with a solution by June.

Gallois, who was visiting the USA to attend a commemorative event for recently deceased and former GE president Brian Rowe, extended his stay to meet senior GE officials late last week, say airline sources. GE could not confirm the talks, but says: "We have a team over in Toulouse full time that is doing a technical evaluation of the aircraft and we're trying to reach a business agreement. We know there are customers who would like to see a GE engine available."

Airbus says the baseline A350-800 requires a 75,000lb-thrust (334kN) engine, the -900 needs 87,000lb and the -1000 requires 95,000lb thrust. Talks are believed to be focused on the possible go-ahead of a new version, provisionally dubbed the GEnx-3A87, covering the 86,000-87,000lb thrust range. The agreement, should it be reached, still does not encompass the larger A350-1000 version that GE has adamantly resisted for fear of cannibalising long-term sales of the Boeing 777-200LR/300ER, for which it has exclusivity with the GE90-115B.

Should Airbus and GE agree on the new engine it will join a fast-growing stable of GEnx family members including the -1B54/64 and -1B70 for the 787-3/8 and -9 versions, and the -2B67 for the 747-8. The -1B engine is defined with a 2.82m (111in) fan, as was the now abandoned GEnx-1A72 variant originally proposed by GE for the initial A350, and the newest variant is almost certain to feature a larger diameter inlet.

R-R's 75,000-95,000lb-thrust Trent XWB will be available for A350 deliveries from mid-2013 and will be certificated at 95,000lb thrust from entry into service. Final engine configuration is scheduled to be completed by mid-2008 with ground testing set for 2010 and first flight on a flying testbed in 2011. First flight on the A350 XWB is due in 2012.

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