Expected order will bring Engine Alliance powerplant neck and neck with rival Rolls-Royce Trent 900 on order numbers

The long-awaited confirmation that FedEx Express has selected the General Electric/Pratt & Whitney Engine Alliance GP7277 powerplant for its planned new fleet of Airbus A380-800 freighters is expected on 23 July at the Farnborough air show. The deal puts the GP7200 engine neck-and- neck with the rival Rolls-Royce Trent 900 in terms of orders.

The engine deal comes after FedEx last week firmed up its memorandum of understanding (MoU) for 10 A380-800Fs, plus options on another 10 freighters. The first three aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2008, followed by three more in both 2009 and 2010 and the final aircraft in 2011. Airbus now has 95 orders in hand from eight carriers and another 57 options, with just the MoU for two firm orders plus two options from Qatar Airways remaining to be firmed up from the original group of launch customers.

Of the carriers that have so far selected an engine, R-R has a marginal lead with 43 Trent 900-powered aircraft ordered by Lufthansa, Qantas Airways, Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. Engine Alliance has orders in hand for 42 GP7200-powered A380s from Air France, Emirates and FedEx. Neither Qatar nor International Lease Finance (ILFC), which has ordered 10 aircraft, have officially selected an engine.

The higher gross weight A380-800F will be powered by the GP7277, a 76,500lb-thrust (340kN) increased thrust version of the baseline engine. The aircraft will be able to carry a freight load of 150t (330,000lb), occupying 1,250m3 (44,000ft3), over a distance of nearly 11,100km (6,000nm). The first A380-800F is to enter service in June 2008. FedEx is the second carrier to order the GP7277-powered freighter version after Emirates, which has two -800F orders as part of its deal for 22 A380s. ILFC also has five freighters on order.

French President Jacques Chirac inaugurated the site of the A380 final assembly facility in Toulouse at a ceremony last week. The new 50Ha (120 acre) facility will house the A380's final assembly and static test halls, and is part of the 220Ha Aeroconstellation industrial complex, which will be linked to Blagnac airport by two new taxiways. Work will be completed by the end of 2003.

Source: Flight International