Pratt & Whitney is in discussion with Airbus Industrie to offer the PW8160 geared fan engine on the A340-500/600 as early as 2003, in a direct challenge to Rolls-Royce's sole position on the aircraft and Boeing's selection of General Electric as its exclusive 777X engine supplier.

R-R and P&W have been trying to play down the significance of Boeing's decision to give the GE90-115B exclusivity on the 777-200X and -300X growth derivative, pointing to a market for only 500 aircraft over the next 20 years. The US manufacturer, however, would appear to have the most the lose, given the $5 billion of business the R-R Trent 500 already has on the rival A340-500/600.

Airbus is believed to be considering sooner than expected a second engine application on the A340, based on a scaled-up version of the PW8000 geared fan study. The Trent 500 is the only engine offered on the ultra-long-haul A340-500 and stretched -600, under an agreement that is not due to expire until 2006.

Informed sources, however, claim that the deal allows for the entry of another powerplant in return for a "nominal fee."

P&W is planning for a 48-month development timetable for the 60,000lb-thrust (267kN) PW8160 including flight testing, which could conceivably see an engine ready to enter service by late 2003, within 18 months of the first scheduled delivery of a Trent 500-powered jet. It is claimed that the engine will give the aircraft an additional 555km (300nm) of range and put the A340-500 and -600 on par, or better, than its Boeing rivals.

According to airline sources, P&W is also stepping up efforts to market the new 98,000lb-thrust PW4098 on the 777-200ER as a shorter-range alternative to the 777X. P&W claims that the aircraft could cover 95% of the 777X's potential new city pairs.

Korean Air is to take delivery of the first PW4098-powered aircraft next month.

Source: Flight International