General Electric is hoping the Boeing 787 flight-test programme will help to break an impasse with Airbus over a second engine option for its A350 XWB.The US engine-maker sees an opportunity to "restructure discussions" with Airbus on the inclusion of a GEnx-derived engine for the A350, once two of Boeing's six 787 flight-test aircraft take part in the certification campaign and validate the performance of the powerplant.

The A350 is currently only offered with the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine, derived from the 787's Trent 1000 technology, but the airframer has always said a second engine is necessary for market reception.

GE says that if it reaches a deal to offer the current 787-optimised GEnx for the A350, it will only power the -800 and -900 variants. GE believes it can offer a product that outperforms the Trent 1000 and Trent XWB, but has been reluctant to support an airframe that competes directly with the GE90-115B-powered 777 variants.

Boeing 787 fuel test 
 © Boeing

GE's renewed confidence in offering its engine for the A350 stems from plans to reach its intended specific fuel consumption for the 787's GEnx-1B by revising the low-pressure turbine of the engine by adding blades, vanes and nozzles to better guide the air through the engine. The revised turbine will be available in time for the first GEnx-powered 787 to be delivered next year.

The engine manufactuer had initially removed many of the aerofoils for weight reduction, but found the lightweight design lacked the performance promised on the engine. GE says it has benefited from the delay in the 787 programme, using the time to improve durability of the engine combustor to offer a more mature engine at service entry.

GE plans to build similar improvements into the GEnx-2B that powers the 747-8.

It will amend the certification of the GEnx-1B after flight-testing the new low-pressure turbine and combustor on the company's 747-100 testbed.

GE is not shy about its goals for the 787 programme as it aims to improve on Trent 1000 specific fuel consumption by 2% by 2011 with additional improvements to the GEnx engine.

R-R recently acknowledged that its Trent 1000 engines would be within 1% of specification for 787 engines through an improvement expected to be introduced early in the 787's production run next year.

Source: Flight International