KOREAN AIR'S (KAL) selection of an engine for its fleet of Boeing 777s was due before 1 May, with future growth potential and commonality likely to be the major deciding factors.

KAL has ordered eight 777s for delivery between February 1997 and June 2000 and has taken options on a further eight aircraft. The decision will mark another key battle in the fight for big-fan orders. Engines on offer are the General Electric GE90, Pratt & Whitney PW4000 and Rolls-Royce Trent 800.

The airline's initial requirement is for a 400kN (90,000lb)-thrust engine to power its first four 777 B-Market aircraft. KAL has the option of converting its remaining order to the higher- gross-weight 777 Stretch and is asking manufacturers for a 423kN engine.

In addition to its requirement for a different thrust rating, KAL is keen to maximise commonality between the two engines. The first delivery of the airline's final four 777s is scheduled for June 1999.

Boeing has been pressing KAL to finalise its engine choice, but agreed to extend the cut-off date, from February to 1 May. KAL is understood to have wanted time to consider the P&W-proposed 435kN derivative of the PW4090.

P&W has traditionally supplied the bulk of KAL's engines, including the PW4056 for its Boeing 747-400 fleet, and is considered by many to be the front runner for the 777 order. P&W is proposing a derated version of the PW4098, with a different data plug for the electronic engine control.

The company faces strong competition from R-R, which is pushing hard for a Korean sale, after losing the Japan Airlines 777 engine competition to the PW4084 in 1994. GE is also keen to make a new sale, following its recent setback with the cancellation of Gulf Air's order for six GE90-powered 777s.

Both companies are offering higher-growth engines with minimal modifications. The Trent 800 has already been certificated at 400kN, while GE is developing a 410kN version of its GE90, recently certificated at 377kN.

KAL is also required to decide shortly on an engine for its seven Airbus A330s, the first of which will enter service in February 1997. The A330 engine selection is being treated separately from that of the 777 and will not be made at the same time, according to KAL.

Competing for the A330 order are GE, offering its CF6-80E1; P&W, with its PW4168; and R-R, offering the Trent 700. Dividing the A330 and 777 engine order between two different manufacturers is being considered for "political reasons", says an industry source.

Source: Flight International