Rolls-Royce is in “light discussions” with Airbus about developing more fuel-efficient engines for the A330 and A380, and is confident it can deliver new products if asked.
“Any solution they want to go for, we will have a solution for them,” says the UK engine manufacturer’s president civil large engines Eric Schulz.
Speaking via a transatlantic video link to journalists in Derby on 26 February, Schulz also said Rolls-Royce is keen to return to the single-aisle market and would “contemplate the opportunity” of working with Boeing on a successor to the 757. Rolls-Royce was the launch engine supplier on the original narrowbody with its RB211.
Schulz says Rolls-Royce’s “two big strategies” in commercial aviation for the next decade are protecting its 50% share in the widebody market by continuing to innovate in products and services, and “preparing to re-enter the mid-[narrowbody] market with conviction”.
While he says Rolls-Royce “stands by” its decision to leave the International Aero Engines consortium behind the V2500 powerplant for the Airbus A320 family, “going forward it is a segment in which we intend to continue to play”. He says technology being developed for large fans might be deployed into smaller engines. “When Airbus or Boeing launch a new product, we will be ready,” he says.
With no mainline airliner programmes in the offing beyond the Boeing 777X and fuel prices likely to stay high over the next decade, attention is focused on whether the big two airframers will opt to give an impetus to existing products by pushing the engine manufacturers to design more economical variants of their engines.
Airbus has said it will clarify its position this year on a possible re-engining of its A330 – which continues to sell strongly despite the imminent arrival on the market of the A350. Meanwhile, there is speculation that Emirates – the biggest operator of the A380 and a customer of Rolls-Royce’s rival on the programme, Engine Alliance – could demand performance improvements from the winner of an engine competition it is running for 50 superjumbos ordered at Dubai last year.