ARGUABLY, THE bloodiest competitions in the big-twin fight have come not from the airframe selection, but over the engine choice. Three engine manufacturers and a relative scarcity of orders was a sure recipe for a life-or-death struggle.

In the event, the first wave of competitions ends with Pratt & Whitney still a clear leader, but honours surprisingly even between Rolls-Royce and General Electric, although the balance has swung wildly with each new order.

The Singapore Airlines (SIA) decision produced a sudden change in fortune for Rolls-Royce. The airline's selection of the Trent 800 on its 28 Boeing 777s virtually doubled the R-R tally of orders overnight.

Although the UK engine maker had made a better showing with the Trent 700 on the A330, which is now close to being a two-horse race with P&W, its position on the 777 was looking highly precarious. Without the SIA order, it would have slipped almost out of sight.

Instead, it emerges with a respectable enough, market share. With South African Airways and the Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise, in which SIA has a 50% stake, still to select, there is a fair chance that R-R could make further progress.

The SIA order also underlines the collapse in the once tightly drawn loyalties of airlines to their engine suppliers. All but one aging freighter within the SIA fleet has been P&W-powered. The carrier's president, Dr C K Cheong is unrepentant. "We don't have a one-engine policy and the Trent was considered a better engine," he says.

R-R had already discovered the new pragmatism to its cost, when General Electric stole into British Airways with the GE90-powered 777.

Source: Flight International