Airbus will miss out on an order for its A350 XWB from one of its most important leasing customers - GE Commercial Aviation Services - if the current stand-off continues over the provision of a GE powerplant for the new aircraft. Meanwhile, the airframer has revealed that it would not rule out a GE solution even if it initially excludes the largest A350 variant, the -1000, as long as it brings a technology step over the GEnx.
GECAS holds a two-year-old memorandum of understanding with Airbus for 10 of the original GEnx-powered A350s, which Airbus chief operating officer customers John Leahy concedes is "in limbo" pending a deal to offer a GE engine on the aircraft.
The revamped XWB is only available with Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines, and GECAS president Henry Hubschman says that when GECAS places "speculative orders for new aircraft", its general policy is to only buy ones with GE engines.
He says that the MoU for the A350 will not be renegotiated for the XWB variant as "we want the best engine on it and I don't believe it has that yet". He adds that he "doesn't want a repeat of the A340-600" referring to the fact that this quad-jet has a single engine supplier - again R-R - and has struggled to compete with the rival GE-powered 777-300ER.
Although GE has so far rejected any likelihood of it powering the largest A350 variant, the -1000, due to concerns about competing with the 777-300ER on which it is the sole engine supplier, it has offered a GEnx-based solution to power the A350-800 and -900, which Airbus has rejected.
Airbus chief executive Louis Gallois says that a deal to provide a second engine on the A350 has not been reached because Airbus wants "the right engine at the right cost".
Leahy points out that "when you spend �11 billion [$14.74 billion] and come out five years behind your competitor, you have to have a better product". He adds: "We don't want an engine on the A350 that is the same technology as the one on the 787, we want it to be a generation ahead."
While Airbus's aim is to have a single engine from GE for the A350 that like the Trent XWB is optimised to power the A350-900 with and then re-rated for the smaller and -800 and larger -1000, Leahy concedes that a narrower solution would be considered in the interim. "We would look at it if it was a better engine [than the GEnx], that was for the -800 and -900 now with the -1000's coming at a later date."
GE has given no indication so far of any intent to provide an engine beyond the GEnx solution offered for the A350-800/900, and industry sources believe any progress on a GE-powered A350 is unlikely before next year.
GECAS is one of Airbus's largest customers, with orders for around 290 A320 family and A330 aircraft.