IATA: Emirates urges Airbus to move on ‘A380neo’

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Emirates is pushing Airbus to firm up plans for a re-engined “A380neo”, with Rolls-Royce “ready to go” on a new engine, says the airline’s president Tim Clark. However he does not believe Engine Alliance is keen to invest in a new-technology powerplant.

“There’s a distinct possibility that the A380neo, if built, would give us an improvement in economics of up to 10-12% so that is definitely worth having. And I’m hoping to move on that fairly soon,” says Clark.

“Rolls can do a better engine. We can get more weight out of the aircraft. We can improve the aerodynamics,” he adds.

Clark says he is trying to “pick this up and get it going” with Airbus, which is “still arguing the toss internally”. He adds that he believes that R-R is “ready to go”.

Dubai-based Emirates, which operates a fleet of 47 A380s and has 93 more on backlog, placed its most recent order at last year’s Dubai air show, for 50 aircraft. Clark is keen to take advantage of new engine technology being developed for other new programmes and has competed the engine selection on the new batch between its incumbent supplier Engine Alliance and Rolls-Royce.

“The first 25 [from the new order] are being delivered in 2016-17 on the old spec, so to speak. The second 25 are targeted for a Neo, post 2020. If they don’t produce the Neo we will still take that 25 under the old version,” Clark says.

Clark indicates that if Airbus launches the re-engined A380, that the upgraded aircraft would have a sole-source engine supplier, with R-R the most likely partner because Engine Alliance doesn’t see a strong business case.

“I’m not sure if Engine Alliance has an appetite. GE is caught up on the 777X programme and they could probably get half a percent if they put their minds to it, but they’re not minded to spend the money you need to,” says Clark.

“Rolls, I think, does [see a good business case] because they have developed an engine for the 777X programme which they didn’t get on, but they think there is a possibility on others – could be A350-1000, I don’t know.

“So Rolls thinks that with sufficient orders, from us, then it would be a possibility.”

R-R’s proposed 777X engine, dubbed the RB3025, was a 100,000lb (445kN) thrust class design with a bypass ratio of 12:1. The engine manufacturer has subsequently unveiled plans for a new big-fan engine dubbed Advance developed from the Trent with a bypass ratio of 11:1.

The engine selection on Emirates A380s is outstanding on only the most recently ordered batch of 50. With the choice so closely aligned to what Airbus decides to do about the A380neo and a likely switch to R-R if it goes ahead, Clark says that the airline has “an arrangement with Engine Alliance where we’ve got an overlap” on the engines for the final batch.