Airbus is playing down the likelihood that its flight trials of Pratt & Whitney's geared turbofan later this year could lead to a GTF-powered A320 variant, but says it will examine the business case for such a development.

The GTF demostrator trial will be undertaken on Airbus's A340-600 development aircraft in the fourth quarter and is believed to be the first time that the airframer will have flight-tested an engine that does not have a firm application on one of its future programmes.

 A320 GTF
© Flight International/Tim Bicheno-Brown
A Flight International artist's impression of how a GTF-powered A320 might look

There has been long-running speculation that Airbus could adopt the GTF for an A320 family programme refresh, as an interim development ahead of launching an all-new single-aisle programme. Barry Eccleston, president and chief executive for Airbus Americas, said earlier this year that the airframer could use new engine technology like the GTF on the A320 in the 2014 timeframe, but was unconvinced that it would deliver a sufficient amount of operating cost improvements.

Speaking to Flight International about the forthcoming GTF tests on the A340, Airbus director of strategic marketing Philippe Jarry concurred about the likely need for a bigger step than a simple GTF-powered A320 variant would offer, although he confirmed that the engine will be studied for the twinjet: "There will be a technical study and business case to make [about an interim GTF-powered A320 variant], but there is no time to waste when you have the emergence of a new generation of airplanes on the horizon," he says, referring to Boeing's intent to develop an all-new 737 replacement within a decade.

Although the first production GTF is set to begin flight-testing on P&W's Boeing 747SP in 2010, both Jarry and P&W say that there is currently no agreement between them for this year's tests to be followed up by further Airbus flight trials.


Source: Flight International