Boeing is expected to set out its engine strategy for its upgraded 777X in the first quarter of next year.

The US airframer issued a request for proposals in late 2011 to engine manufacturers Pratt & Whitney, Rolls-Royce and General Electric to offer powerplants for the next generation of the hugely successful widebody. GE is the incumbent supplier on the current iteration of the 777.

While early models of the long-haul twinjet were available with engines from all three manufacturers, all in-production aircraft - the 777-200LR and -300ER passenger jets alongside the 777 freighter - are exclusively powered by General Electric GE90-110B and -115B engines.

Boeing will decide by the end of this year whether to continue a single-source engine policy or offer customers more choice, says Rich Oldfield, director of technology at GKN Aerospace.

The UK company is Rolls-Royce's partner for the development and production of composite fan blades and a composite fan case for the RB3025 engine it has proposed to Boeing.

Oldfield says that if Boeing decides to offer the 777X with engines from two manufacturers, it is "95% certain" that the R-R powerplant would be one of the options.

The airframer will decide in the first quarter 2013 which engine manufacturer will supply the powerplants for the 777X, he adds,

Rival Airbus has opted for a sole-source policy on the A350 XWB family, which will compete against the 777, with R-R suppling its Trent XWB for all three models in the range.

In the worst-case scenario for Rolls-Royce and GKN, Boeing will decide to launch the 777X with just on engine supplier, in all likelihood favouring GE. But Oldfield says that the composite fan technology, which is currently being developed at GKN's facility in Cowes, on the Isle of Wight, could be employed on other engines.

The composite fan blade and case technology would be suitable for engines in the medium- to high-thrust classes, he says.

Boeing anticipates entry-into-service of the re-engined and likely rewinged twinjet in the 2020 timeframe.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news