Taiwan's China Airlines (CAL) has picked the General Electric CF6 engine to power 12 Airbus A330-300s and six Boeing 747-400s it has on order, following a drawn-out pitch in which political lobbying came into play. The deal, which includes spares, is worth $600-$800 million.

CAL took nearly a year to come to a decision and, according to Taiwan's ministry of foreign affairs, the US administration lobbied on behalf of GE and Pratt & Whitney while the UK government stepped in to support Rolls-Royce.

CAL says it chose GE because the US firm offered a good product at a competitive price, with strong after-sales support. The airline says P&W lost because it was more expensive and R-R was rejected because its "total care" maintenance package failed to meet the airline's needs.

As part of the deal, GE has agreed to transfer technology and provide training so the airline can gradually develop a maintenance base that performs overhaul work for clients throughout the region in addition to CAL and other Taiwanese carriers.

For the A330s, the airline has specified the new 68,100lb-thrust (303kN) -80E1A4 variant, which is yet to be certificated on the aircraft. GE will start delivering the engines to CAL in June 2004, with the last due in 2007, and is on track to complete airframe/engine combination certification to meet this target.

If GE fails to gain certification in time, CAL says it will provide the A2 variant in the meantime and give $5 million in compensation per aircraft. The new engine is mechanically identical to the production standard -80E1A2 that has been delivered since December 2001.

CAL already operates a mixed fleet of 747-400s, with P&W engines powering its existing passenger variants and GE engines powering the freighters. CAL had committed to taking four more 747-400Fs ordered late last year with the CF6-80C2.

Source: Flight International