Airbus Industrie says that it needs a "significant" number of orders for the new A340-500/600 versions of the A340 before committing to full development and production.

Despite that, sales chief John Leahy is "optimistic" that sufficient airlines to justify the $2.5 billion development cost will commit to the aircraft by September or October, when full industrial launch is planned.

Rolls-Royce has been selected to develop its new Trent 500 to power the aircraft after a two-way fight with Pratt & Whitney, which had offered its PW4000 (Flight International, 18-24 June). Details of the deal with Airbus on the supply of the Trent 500 powerplant for the re-engined aircraft remain secret, although R-R denies claims that it has been forced into a loss-making arrangement.

Leahy says that the Trent 500 is "the best solution in terms of our economical and commercial requirements". He does not rule out P&W, but says that it will have to meet "specific criteria" if it is to become the second engine supplier. They are understood to include paying for all installation and other non-recurring costs.

Airbus may not have discounted the PW4000 engine, but remarks by P&W president Karl Krapek effectively appear to rule it out.

"Even with exclusivity, we would be well into a 23-year payback and would be $1.5 billion out of pocket. We decided to give Rolls-Royce exclusivity. We won technically, we had a lighter weight, lower fuel burn and a year's advantage on service entry," he says.

Sources close to the talks say that P&W's negotiations assumed an exclusive deal for the first 500 aircraft - a sales figures most market analyses agree will never be reached. The deal the US company has been negotiating was based on a sales price of $2 million per engine for the first 50 aircraft and $3.7 million for the remainder.

R-R claims that the Trent 500 will provide a specific-fuel-consumption improvement of 8% over the engines powering the Boeing 747-400, with maintenance costs 25% lower and noise levels less than those of the current A340-300. The stretched -500/600 will sell for "around $150 million flyaway cost", says Leahy, offering airlines 15% lower trip costs than those of the 747-400, and 60% more cargo capacity.

Changes include an entirely new Messier-Dowty steerable centre landing-gear, and modified main and nose gears with revised geometry, a larger horizontal stabiliser, revised rudder geometry and fuselage stretches of 3.3m ( for the -500) and 10.8m (on the-600), along with a 20% larger wing.

Service entry is planned for early 2002, says Leahy.

Source: Flight International