Engine Alliance to Explore Upgrade Options for Airbus A380 Engine

By Dow Jones Business News, 
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By Robert Wall

FARNBOROUGH, England--The General Electric Co. ( GE ) and Pratt & Whitney partnership has identified a range of options to upgrade the engine on the Airbus A380 super-jumbo as the plane's biggest user, Emirates Airline, pushes for a more fuel-efficient model.

Engineers for the Engine Alliance, as the joint venture is called, have devised small steps to yield 0.5% to 1% fuel burn improvements, a more extensive package of upgrades to gain 2% to 5% savings, and a redesign that would provide an even bigger leap, said Dean Athans, who heads the partnership.

The technical staff will now spend some time choosing between the individual technologies, Mr. Athans said. The Engine Alliance hasn't yet reviewed the business case for the different options that would be required before an investment decision is made.

Emirates Airline President Tim Clark, the largest buyer of A380 super-jumbos with 140 ordered, has been urging Airbus to upgrade the jet with new engines. The airline currently operates all its A380s with turbines from the Engine Alliance, but is running a competition for 50 more of the aircraft that it bought last year, involving Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC.

Mr. Clark said in April that a new engine from Rolls-Royce alone should reduce A380 fuel consumption by up to 9% with other aircraft enhancements leading to double-digit efficiency gains.

Fabrice Bregier, chief executive for the commercial plane unit at Airbus, said this week at the Farnborough air show that a decision on upgrading the A380 wouldn't be taken anytime soon.

The Engine Alliance is already making some upgrades to its engine to address concerns Mr. Clark raised about the equipment's reliability. A package of upgrades involving around 25 parts changes and changes to new engines should fix the shortfalls, Mr. Athans said.

The engine partnership also believes the upgrades will boost the time engines can fly without major repair by 75%.

Write to Robert Wall at robert.wall@wsj.com

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