Rolls-Royce Weighs Tweaking Engine to Give a Lift to Airbus A380

  • Previous changes reduced fuel consumption as much as 1.5%
  • Comment follows unveiled ‘plus’ version of superjumbo jet

Eric Schulz, president of civil aerospace at Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC, discusses the market for the company's engines and technological improvements planned for their products. He speaks with Bloomberg's Guy Johnson from the Paris Air Show on 'Bloomberg Markets.' (Source: Bloomberg)

Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc is seeking ways to upgrade its engines for Airbus SE’s A380 as the planemaker attempts to win orders for the slow-selling superjumbo jet, the company’s biggest.

“We are contemplating what we can do over and above with Airbus,” Eric Schulz, Rolls-Royce’s head of civil aviation, said in a Bloomberg TV interview. “As soon as we mature a new technology we have a tendency to go back and roll it back to the product. We have done quite a lot of this already on the Trent 900.”

Previous engine improvements have lifted fuel performance by as much as 1.5 percent with each package, Schulz said Monday at the Paris Air Show. He declined to predict further savings that a new upgrade might provide. In 2015, the London-based engine maker scooped up an order on 50 jets from the superjumbo’s biggest customer, Emirates, replacing a joint venture between General Electric Co. and the Pratt & Whitney unit of United Technologies Corp.

Airbus on Sunday announced plans to introduce a “plus” version of the A380 with aerodynamic changes, including the addition of winglets to improve fuel burn by 4 percent. The planemaker also is offering customers a reconfiguration that adds 80 passengers to the 550-seat aircraft.

“We have constant improvement on the engine, but now was the time to make an improvement through the aerodynamics,” Airbus Chief Executive Officer Tom Enders said in a separate interview. “There’s plenty of ideas, but that is something we discuss individually with the airlines.”

Airbus is in “ongoing discussion” with Emirates, Enders said. Bloomberg reported earlier this month that the carrier was in talks to purchase 20 more of the jet for its fleet. That would bring the Dubai carrier’s total orders for the four-engine behemoth to more than 160 aircraft.

The A380plus and upgrades being considered still fall well short of the so-called “neo” upgrade that Emirates has been demanding, but for which Airbus and Rolls-Royce say there isn’t a business justification.

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