Julian Moxon/PARIS

GENERAL ELECTRIC Aircraft Engines says that Snecma will "-definitely be invited" to join development of a power plant for the Airbus A340-600, if Airbus Industrie accepts the US company's proposal to supply an engine for the aircraft.

Under a six-month exclusivity deal signed between GE and Airbus in March, the US engine builder is studying ways of powering the aircraft with either a derivative or a new engine.

Snecma, its 50% partner in the CFM International consortium, which builds the CFM56, was left out of the study after previous president Bernard Dufour insisted that the French company take the lead in development of what it called the CFM-XX. Relations with Snecma are "much improved" since Dufour was ousted by the French Government and replaced by Jean-Paul Bechat in June, says GE. "We understand that Snecma still wants to be a major player in the engine - but that obviously depends on whether Airbus chooses our solution," the company adds. GE says, that its answer to Airbus' needs will be either a derivative engine based around the existing CF6-50, modified with technology taken from the GE90 Boeing 777 engine, or a brand-new power plant.

The latter is considered a highly expensive solution, and sources say that the derivative is the most likely path.

"The market for the stretched Airbus at present seems insufficient to support development of a brand-new power plant," one industry source says. Airbus has already told GE that the thrust requirement for the engine has increased from the original 227kN (51,000lb) to around 250kN, to accommodate growth in the weight of the stretched aircraft.

This has been driven by airline demand for more range and cargo-carrying capacity. The engine will also be a candidate to power the proposed revamped A310.

Meanwhile, Snecma says that negotiations with Pratt & Whitney Canada on a new regional turbofan are "continuing", although it declines to reveal details, and says that no presentations of a joint engine are planned at Farnborough. Originally, the deal, brokered by Dufour, was based around Snecma taking the core of the new engine, with P&WC being responsible for the less technically demanding cold section.

Source: Flight International