PARIS: Engine Alliance could speed uprated A380 powerplant

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Engine Alliance is aiming to certificate a higher-thrust version of its GP7200 engine for the A380 in 2015, but could bring the schedule forward if necessary.

The manufacturer says the 72,000lb (320kN) variant, designated the GP7272, is intended to provide additional capability for particular requirements such as hot-and-high operations.

It will also close a gap on rival A380 engine supplier Rolls-Royce.

Engine Alliance president Dean Athans says the upgrade will be achieved through a software change, and that there is no need to modify the hardware.

He says the company has yet to secure a customer for the engine but executive vice-president Kim Sullivan says that the certification schedule could be accelerated if necessary.

"We could hurry it up if we had to," she says. Engine Alliance's baseline GP7200 is certificated at 70,000lb.

Rival Rolls-Royce already offers a 72,000lb version of its Trent 900, as a result of demand from particular customers, and the Engine Alliance powerplant would eliminate an obvious disparity.

The GP7200 fleet has logged nearly 1.7 million hours, with 47 aircraft operated by three customers: Emirates, Air France and Korean Air.

Athans says the powerplant has undergone continuous improvement since its introduction, with over 320 service bulletins, and adds: "We're always looking at things to do to make things better."

The engine's average shipset weight has dipped about 100lb (45kg) below the specification figure of 14,281lb as a result of improvements, particularly the introduction of a new turbine exhaust case.

Athans says the manufacturer is working on enhancements including better sealing and optimised blade clearances by 2014.

"We're really focused on maturing the product," he says. "We want this relatively young engine to perform better than the mature fleet [regarding] reliability and durability. That's our prime focus this year."