General Electric, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce have submitted bids to Boeing covering the development of 115,000lb-thrust (510kN) engines to power the long-delayed, ultra-long range 777-200X and -300X derivatives.

Details remain confidential, but GE is pushing for exclusivity, while its rivals are thought to be offering business cases for multiple source solutions. GE is bidding an engine in the 110,000-115,000lb-thrust range, dubbed the GE90-11XB, P&W is offering an effectively new design, loosely dubbed the STF (study turbofan), while R-R is proposing a Trent 800 growth derivative, called the Trent 8115.

P&W's bid is the most surprising. It is offering a new-generation engine based on core technology developed for the smaller PW6000 under development for the Airbus A318. It had been widely circulated that P&W's experience with the delayed PW4098 for the 777-300 had forced it to reconsider the 777X market.

"I want to put all the misinformation straight, and confirm we are in the bidding for the 777X," says P&W executive vice president engine programmes, Bob Leduc.

Boeing is "driving for a conclusion sooner, not later" says Leduc. All three "have to pull the trigger" on their development programmes no later than the first quarter of next year to meet Boeing's proposed entry-into-service target date of September 2003. Boeing is optimistic that the programme could even be accelerated slightly to offer an earlier target date around April 2003, but the engine-makers believe this is unlikely.

The estimated market size for the -200X/300X is between 450 and 500 aircraft, leading GE to push for exclusivity. "We are not going to build an engine like this to be in another three-way race. We are going for a sole-source investment," it says. P&W's Leduc says "three engines [offered] on a wing does not make economic sense", but will not specify whether the company is bidding for exclusivity. Instead, he hints that P&W is taking the same approach as R-R. "With the A340-500/600 we had the same discussions. The guys who demanded exclusivity lost, and the ones that didn't [R-R] won exclusivity de facto".

R-R says it is "working off a strong market share" and feels comfortable not demanding exclusivity. "We are happy to compete on traditional terms," says the company, which adds that it would be "dangerous to set off on a near-term [exclusive] solution to suit one or two customers, and compromise the longer-term situation".

Boeing Commercial Airplanes president Alan Mulally says: "We'll continue to work with the engine companies and ask them: 'What do you want to do for a technical solution? And then, what do you want to do as far as a business arrangement?' Then we'll talk to the airlines and then we'll decide what to do". Mulally adds: "We're getting more demand for some more range on the 777-200 and 777-300."

Both aircraft have been refined with maximum take-off weights of 750,000lb (340,500kg), which requires thrust of at least 110,000lb. The drive for the higher thrust limit of 115,000lb is being predominantly driven by the need to reduce take-off field lengths to around 3,350m (11,000ft) at maximum take-off weight and in hot conditions. The target field performance is westerly take-offs from Los Angeles International. The -200X is defined with a range of 16,280km (8,800nm) and capacity for 301 passengers in a tri-class layout, while the -300X is configured for up to 359 passengers and a range of around 13,400km.

Source: Flight International