ROLLS-ROYCE could lose an expected $1 billion order for RB.211-524H turbofans from British Airways, following the UK Government's decision to impose some of the world's strictest noise regulations at London's airports.

The airline is poised to place an order worth around $4 billion for a large number of Boeing 747-400s, and the noise limitations have come at a critical time in the negotiations over engine selection.

BA claims that its fleet of RB.211-524G/H-powered 747-400s cannot meet the new limits without payload restrictions, and it faces annual fines of more than $1.24 million.

For its next 747-400 order, the carrier may switch to General Electric CF6-80C2s or Pratt & Whitney PW4056s, which it believes could reduce the number of departures which exceed the new limits.

The issue could become politically charged were BA to assert that the Government's actions had forced it to drop the UK's R-R for a US engine supplier for its 747s.

From 1 January, 1997, take-off noise limits at Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted airports are to be reduced by 3dBA between 07:00 and 23:00, and by 2dBA from 23:00 to 07:00, to 94dBA and 87dBA, respectively. The measuring point is 6.5km (3.5nm) from the start of the take-off roll. The new daytime limit effectively halves the amount of noise energy which may be emitted by an aircraft without penalty.

Most 747-400 departures can meet the previous 97dBA limit but, at high weights, will exceed the new limits by up to 3dBA. BA believes that switching to CF6-80C2s could save 1-2dBA, while PW4056s would make the aircraft over 2dBA quieter, based on operational and manufacturer's data.

BA claims that the Government has set limits which "-many 747 operators will be unable to meet". The UK Department of Transport, meanwhile, claims that "-only 12% of movements by Chapter 3 [compliant] 747s would infringe the limits".

Lord Goschen, minister for aviation, acknowledges that 747 operators are opposing the new limits, which he admits are "challenging for operators of heavy aircraft".

Source: Flight International