UK engine maker Rolls-Royce announced at Le Bourget yesterday that it had signed its largest-ever firm engine deal. The $5.6-billion contract is with Qatar Airways for its Trent XWB engines to power the airline’s new fleet of 80 Airbus A350 XWBs, and the deal includes a long-term service agreement.
A smaller – but no less significant - order from US Airways was also announced yesterday, this time worth $1.8-billion for yet more Trent XWBs to power the US airline’s 22 A350s. The relationship between R-R and US Airways goes back more 40 years and the airline currently operates a fleet of 43 Boeing 757s powered by the RB211-535.
There are now 113 Trent-powered Airbus XWBs on order and unless any other engine maker throws its cap into the ring, the Trent engine family is the only powerplant offered on Airbus’ competitor to the Boeing 787. However, GE has expressed an interest in offering a higher-thrust derivative its GEnx engine and has been talking to Airbus about powering the –800 and –900 versions of the A350.
But virtually as R-R’s Sir John Rose was inking the Derby-based company’s deal with Qatar Airways, Airbus’ COO John Leahy was telling customers that GE must come up with an entirely new engine if it wants to be on the A350XWB programme.
He said: “We have no intention of taking the GEnx engine that they have on the 787. Our new aircraft appears five years after their aircraft/engine combination. The A350 is a new generation aircraft and it has to be powered by a new generation engine. We are demanding a new engine.”
Leahy added that there are “an awful lot” of airliner programmes with one engine and they seem to be doing very well. He concluded: “It’s always better to have two engine choices - but I don’t think anybody ever lost a deal because there was no engine choice.”
Speaking to Flight Daily News just before Le Bourget began, GE Aviation’s president and CEO Scott Donnelly said he was keen to reach the necessary financial agreement with Airbus for the GEnx engine to be offered on the -800 and -900 versions of the A350 but not the -1000.
GE has a design team based in Toulouse and Donnelly says “Airbus definitely wants GE on the aircraft.” So it’s spanners at dawn, then?