Airbus Industrie (AI) has announced the commercial launch of the four-engined A340-600 and -500 versions - and has chosen the Rolls-Royce Trent 500 as the engine.

However, the deal - announced at the show yesterday - does not rule out other engine manufacturers in the long term.

Production launch is expected in September and entry into service will be in late 2001 or very early 2002. Development cost is put at $2.5billion.

The engine choice allows AI to start making commercial offers to customers. "Rolls-Royce have been selected on comparison of the commercial offer and a decisive factor which is that it is not on exclusive terms," says Jean Pierson, managing director of AI.

The disappointed engine manufacturer is Pratt & Whitney. Talks between AI and General Electric broke down earlier this year.

The A340-600, which features a modified wing incorporating increased chord, will carry 382 passengers over 13,500km (7,300nm). The smaller, ultra-long-range -500 will carry 310 passengers over 15,360km.

Other modifications will include revised undercarriage and empannage.

Pierson adds that the A340-600 could replace early model Boeing 747 aircraft.

The -500 will have more range than any other airliner, allowing non-stop flights between London and Perth and Los-Angeles-Mumbai for the first time.

Source: Flight Daily News