The General Electric-Pratt & Whitney Engine Alliance GP7000 engine is expected to be formally launched on the Airbus A3XX, following its apparent selection by General Electric Capital (GECAS) for 10 aircraft.

Although GECAS declines to confirm or deny the Airbus deal, it is believed to include passenger and freighter versions and "is very close to being finalised", say industry sources. The move, if confirmed, represents the first formal selection of an engine type for the A3XX, despite the recent ambiguous announcement from Rolls-Royce which implied that its Trent 900 had been selected for a International Lease Finance order.

News of the GECAS deal comes as the Engine Alliance and Rolls-Royce consider changes to their A3XX engine designs to meet more aggressive noise targets outlined at the last Airbus airline advisory group meeting. This recommended aiming departure noise levels at London Heathrow known as QC2, with a combination of airframe and engine treatments.QC2 is a noise rating which would put the A3XX in the same bracket as the Boeing 767-300.

Rolls-Royce plans to equip the Trent 900 with a 2.79m (9ft 2in) diameter fan, but has still not frozen the design and is now thought to be considering increasing the fan diameter by up to 130mm. The Engine Alliance says its GP7270 engine's 2.79m diameter fan is "staying the same as of now", but Flight International understands the joint venture is also studying increases up to 2.98m.

Detailed design of the GP7270 is expected to start in August 2001, with the first engine to test in October 2002. Engine certification at 75,000lb-thrust (335kN) is planned for February 2004, with first flight on the A3XX (assuming launch this year) around July 2004.

The engine companies say their joint development schedule "supports entry into service on the A3XX around September 2005". Rolls-Royce, which has completed preliminary design, plans to certify the Trent 900 at 80,000lb thrust, but will offer it for service derated to between 68,000lb and 75,000lb.

The Engine Alliance also confirms plans to increase the fan diameter of the GP7170/72 for the Boeing 747X and 767-400ERX by 50mm to 2.61m. The move, which will bring it within 20mm of the fan diameter of the competing Trent 600, was "by mutual agreement with Boeing, and is basically an engine performance issue", says Pratt & Whitney, which is responsible for the GP7000 fan. "It gives us more room for future thrust growth, and helps the noise profile," says the manufacturer.

Boeing is thought to have pushed for the move to help improve the engine's noise margin and to ensure both engines fit on a common pylon and mount.

Detailed design of the GP7170/72 has been brought forward six months, to begin in March 2001, because of the 767-400ERX, which is due to enter service in April 2004, over a year before the A3XX or 747X.

Source: Flight International