Manufacturers are camped out in Singapore ahead of a decision by Singapore Airlines (SIA) between the Airbus Industrie A3XX and Boeing 747X aircraft, and Alliance GP7000 and Rolls-Royce Trent 600/900 engines in the first real head-to-head battle between airframe and powerplant suppliers for the ultra large aircraft market.

SIA is expected to decide on a new 550-seat aircraft, and possibly engine, by October. In May, the carrier registered its interest in up to 10 A3XXs plus six options, while Boeing has since proposed a similar number of 747Xs.

Its final selection will have a strong influence on SIA's A310 replacement. Both manufacturers have submitted proposals for that competition, but it has been superseded by Boeing and Airbus' moves to elicit airline launch support for the A3XX and 747X.

R-R and the Alliance are also engaged in a fight to secure a place on whichever airframe SIA opts for. The Pratt & Whitney and General Electric consortium is offering the GP7200 for the A3XX and the smaller GP7100 for the 747X in competition against R-R's Trent 900 and 600, respectively.

The Trent 900/600 and GP7000 families are competing to be the lead engines certified on the A3XX and 747X. SIA is likely to be among the first to take either aircraft.

A Singapore win is critical given that Emirates is understood to be third in line for the first A3XXs and is likely to opt for the Trent 900, while Air France is viewed as a probable GP7200 operator.

Of the other companies that have registered interest in the A3XX, International Lease Finance (ILFC) has become the first to declare an engine preference in a $910 million deal for a mix of Trent 700, 800 and 900 orders and options to power up to 37 A330s, 777s and A3XXs. The number of ILFC's five A3XXs covered by firm engine orders is unknown.

Industry sources indicate that ILFC's agreement is for a generic number of Trent shipsets rather than any one specific engine type. GE and P&W are believed to be discussing a similar type of arrangement with ILFC to cater for customer demand for leased GP7200-powered A3XXs.

Source: Flight International