Airbus Industrie says that it will give airlines a choice of two engines only for the 550- to 650-seat A3XX. Three are now being offered: the Rolls-Royce Trent 900, a Pratt &Whitney PW4000 derivative, and a new engine from General Electric Pratt &Whitney Engine Alliance.

"We are evaluating both offers from the USA," says Large Aircraft division vice-president Jurgen Thomas. He adds that Airbus received a "precise technical definition" of the Alliance's GP7200 engine in early May. P&W's offer of an engine derived from the PW4084 developed for the Boeing 777, runs in parallel and, according to Thomas, is "very similar in terms of performance". The PW4500 would offer a thrust of 307-347kN (69,000lb-78,000lb), using a 2.8m-diameter fan, with the potential for growth to 378kN.

A GE source says that the relationship between the two US companies on power for the A3XX "-comes down to what Airbus wants. If cost is the driver, they will look more towards the P&W engine, but, if they need performance, we will offer the GP7200 jointly." GE and P&W have yet to sign a memorandum of understanding on a joint programme, however. "That would be dependent on a firm requirement", the company says.

Airbus has also revealed that it is studying a reduced-capacity, 480-seat version of the A3XX, after potential customers, including Lufthansa, expressed interest. "There is a lot to be clarified," says Thomas, "particularly on things such as passenger evacuation and catering". He adds, however, that Airbus "-favours the idea of product continuity". If developed, the aircraft would join the initial 13,875km (7,500nm), 550-seat A3XX-100 and 15,900km -100R, along with the 656-seat -200.

Thomas says that only half of the 40% of risk-sharing work being offered to non-Airbus partners remains to be taken up, the recent flurry of agreements signed among European partners such as Belairbus, Finnavitec and Saab having together accounted for 20%. He is concerned however, that the remainder should include larger single stakes, to ease production organisation. Hopes rest with US companies such as Lockheed Martin, and with Far Eastern involvement. "Malaysia is very interested," he adds.

The need for freighter (-100E) and combi (-100C) versions of the A3XX has become "more urgent", says Thomas, with FedEx saying that it wants the aircraft "-earlier than intended". Airbus has established a working group to study the aircraft, which could be launched shortly after the passenger version, due to enter service in late 2003.

Source: Flight International