Manufacturer could be strategic partner as Airbus plans version of A380 tailored for Japanese market

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) is in discussions with Pratt & Whitney about taking a stake in the development of the Engine Alliance GP7200 powerplant as Airbus looks at offering a short-range, high-capacity version of the A380 ultra large aircraft tailored to meet the needs of the Japanese domestic airline market.

With P&W and joint venture partner General Electric to launch full preliminary design of the A380 engine early next month, the door has not yet closed on additional partners joining the programme. "We still have some room on the P&W side," says Robert Saia, P&W's GP7200 project general manager. "MHI is certainly a strategic partner for P&W and we're talking to MHI," he adds.

MHI's areas of design expertise include low-pressure turbines (LPT) and combustors. Development of the six-stage LPT for the GP7200 is already the responsibility of MTU Aero Engines as part of its 20% revenue sharing stake in the programme, but P&W has retained elements of the module which it could pass on to MHI. P&W's overall workshare also includes the engine's swept hollow titanium fan, five-stage low-pressure compressor and core gearbox.

Airbus is keen to sell the A380 to a Japanese carrier and is studying a version configured for the country's high-density but short-range trunk routes. Rival engine supplier Rolls-Royce has already signed up Marubeni as a 14.5% stake holder in the A380's Trent 900, while Airbus has been courting Japan's "heavy" industries.

Engine Alliance is planning initially to certificate two versions of the engine at 81,500lb-thrust (363kN) and 71,500lb-thrust and offer derated versions of both. A Japanese domestic version could be powered by a derated version of the GP7270 planned for the initial A380-800 passenger variant. "Today's [Boeing] 777 engines are derated up to 35-40%, and while this might not be optimum for fuel burn, you would get a ton of extra life out of the engine," says Saia.

Source: Flight International