Airbus A380 Engine Maker Seeks to Add Thrust to Expand Network

Engine Alliance, the partnership that makes engines for the Airbus A380 superjumbo, aims to boost thrust on the engine to add range and gain access to airports with shorter runways, the joint venture’s president said.

The GP7200, built by General Electric Co. and Pratt & Whitney, now develops 70,000 pounds of thrust at takeoff, and Engine Alliance is working on a software upgrade that would take the thrust to 72,000 pounds, President Mary Ellen Jones said at a media briefing at the Dubai Air show today. Certification should be completed by next year, she said.

“It’s an easy change, but we want to be able to offer it to customers,” Jones said.

Engine Alliance competes with Rolls-Royce Group Plc’s Trent 900 as the powerplant of choice on the world’s largest passenger aircraft. Emirates, which has ordered 90 A380s, is an Engine Alliance customer, and the next contest is on Qatar Airways Ltd’s purchase of the double-decker jet, likely to be announced at the show. Engine Alliance is “quite active” in pursuing the order, and Jones said she’s confident she’ll win the race.

The additional thrust will give Emirates better access to routes including Dubai to Los Angeles, where the runway is shorter, Jones said. The A380 will likely pick up momentum in markets including Asia and Europe, she said. By the end of the year, there will be 31 aircraft in service using Engine Alliance powerplants, as Emirates puts its 20th A380 into service.

“We absolutely see activity out there,” Jones said. “We’d love to see a U.S. airline operating the aircraft.”

Engine Alliance has continuously worked to improve the performance of the GP7200 engine while reducing its weight in order to make it more efficient. The joint venture would be able to add more thrust should Airbus decide to go ahead with a stretched variant or a freighter version, which was originally planned and then put on ice, Jones said.

“This engine has plenty of growth and plenty of room,” Jones said. “As the airplane grows, as it may well in the future, we will be well-equipped to accommodate it.”

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