Max Kingsley-Jones and Guy Norris/LONDON

Pratt & Whitney is targeting launch of its PW8000 geared turbofan for a new generation Airbus Industrie narrowbody family, believed to be in the early planning stages in Toulouse.

Sources at the US engine maker say the company believes that the step change its PW8000 offers in environmental and economic improvements will provide by 2005 the basis for a new generation narrowbody family.

P&W plans to build on its newly forged link with Airbus, established with the PW6000, which was launched at the Farnborough air show following, selection for the 100-seat A318. The PW6000 will provide the common core for the PW8000 geared turbofan, and will enter service in September 2002. The engine maker hopes to have the first PW8000 in service in 2005.

The US company plans to retain the International Aero Engines V2500 as its main engine offering for the current A320 family, but says that the PW8000 will "-compete with the CFMXX for the next generation", according to senior vice-president for programmes Bob Leduc.

The PW8000 will provide up to 10% improved fuel consumption, 30% reduced maintenance costs and as much as a 30dB reduction in noise compared with current engines, says the company.

Airbus is believed to be examining its long term strategy in the single-aisle market. The problem the consortium faces is how to re-engineer its hugely successful single-aisle family to provide a step change in operating economics.

Although John Leahy, Airbus Industrie senior vice-president commercial, says that the consortium sees no reason to revise the existing A320 family and introduce additional engine types, sources suggest that the manufacturer is in the early stages of considering a move similar to Boeing's with its switch to the Next Generation 737.

Such a move could see a new "A323" narrowbody family in the middle of the next decade, based on the existing models to provide commonality, but incorporating a new engine such as the PW8000 .

Other improvements to the aircraft could include an advanced laminar-flow wing, low-drag aerodynamic improvements and new cockpit displays.

The consortium is also examining ways of boosting the range of the largest A320 model, the 185-seat A321, and is studying a larger wing incorporating a wing root insert to increase span and wing area. This wing could be combined with the existing A321 fuselage to provide greater range, or be used to enable the fuselage to be stretched to boost capacity.

Source: Flight International