Airbus Industrie has struck a non-exclusive deal with Rolls-Royce for the supply of its Trent 500 engines.

The agreement ends Airbus's search for a powerplant supplier for the A340-500 and -600 ultra long-range/stretch versions of the A340.

It is believed that Airbus continues to keep the door open to Pratt &Whitney, which offered a development of the PW4000, although the financial case for offering a second engine on what is likely to be a limited market is doubtful.

Both engine makers were previously insisting on an exclusive deal with Airbus, something the airframe builder had been reluctant to concede. The decision ends a tortuous series of negotiations for Airbus, which started in 1996 with an exclusive deal with General Electric on a brand-new engine for the aircraft.

Airbus will now begin marketing the two versions of the A340 to airlines as competitors to planned improvements to the Boeing 777, and as a "thin-route" alternative to the Boeing 747-400. According to A330/A340 product manager Alan Pardoe, 14 airlines have already been contacted.

"The programme is now in very high gear," he says .

Service entry of both versions has been scheduled for late 2001.

The Trent 500 is a 250kN (56,000lb)-thrust derivative of the Trent 700 (Airbus A330) and 800 (Boeing 777) engines with reduced fan diameter and a new, low-pressure turbine. Fuel consumption is claimed to be 7.7% lower than that of the Trent 700, with growth potential to 275kN.

Range of the 313-seat A340-500 is 15,355km (8,300nm), while that of the 378-seat A340-600 is 13,500km.

An Airbus source says that the R-R option provided "the best global package for our customers in terms of price and performance". The consortium claims that direct operating costs per seat of the A340-600 will be 10% lower than those of the A340-300, and around 3% below those of the Boeing 777-300X.

Source: Flight International