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Airbus presses GE to power A370 with new GEnx to counter R-R Trent 1000 engine offer on revamped A350

By Max Kingsley-Jones in Toulouse

Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 series is only engine currently offerable to customers for revamped widebody twinjet family

Airbus is trying to convince General Electric to develop an engine that it can offer on the revamped A350 family, which is now being proposed to potential customers powered only by versions of the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine.

Airbus is declining to confirm details of its studies into the revised family ahead of next month’s Farnborough air show, at which time it hopes to “clear up the confusion” surrounding the status of the new twinjet, says the company’s chief operating officer customers John Leahy.

However, he tells Flight International that Airbus is “a little disappointed with GE’s response” to the manufacturer’s requirements for a more-powerful engine to power the proposed larger A350 family it is studying.

According to industry sources, the enlarged aircraft family – which is as yet unnamed, but has been unofficially dubbed “A370” – features a wider fuselage with a diameter slightly greater than the 787, as well as an all-new wing.

The increase in size means that the two smaller models – equivalent to the A350-800 and -900 – would need new, more-powerful engines than the 63,000-75,000lb-thrust (280-335kN) GE GEnx-1A and the R-R Trent 1700 in development for the existing A350. A third, larger A370 variant is being proposed that would be similar in size to the A340-600 and Boeing 777-300ER and would require a larger engine of greater power, probably rated at around 95,000lb-thrust.

Although R-R has agreed to develop versions of the Trent 1000 series to meet Airbus’s requirements, GE is currently baulking, partly due to concerns that the larger A370 could dilute the market for the 777-300ER on which it is the exclusive engine supplier, say sources.

Currently, first A370 deliveries are being proposed for the second half of 2012, with only the Trent-based offerings at thrust ratings between 75,000lb and 95,000lb. Sources say that airlines are concerned that the A370 will not be offered with a choice of engines, but Leahy says that Airbus is “working hard to make sure that doesn’t happen”.

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