GE’s preliminary proposal, disclosed in a court opinion, reveals previously unreported talks between the engine maker and Airbus for a “next-generation” plane. The court decision was later sealed, indicating the high level of interest in what’s next for Airbus. PARIS: Airbus SE has solicited engine ideas for a narrow-body jetliner in development, drawing a proposal for a new geared design from General Electric (GE) Co. GE’s preliminary proposal, disclosed in a court opinion, reveals previously unreported talks between the engine maker and Airbus for a “next-generation” plane. The court decision was later sealed, indicating the high level of interest in what’s next for Airbus. It’s unclear whether the mooted aircraft would be a new model or an upgrade to one already in the company’s catalog, such as the A320neo or A220 single-aisle jets. The court decision doesn’t say when GE proposed the new engine, whether the plane might come to market, or how far along any talks are. Airbus chief executive office Guillaume Faury has indicated that the firm’s next narrow-body will be a carbon-free design, with work underway on developing hydrogen-powered aircraft, though aviation watchers have also wondered whether a new conventionally fuelled plane might be in the offing.Agency Partners analyst Nick Cunningham said discussions may concern a model initially powered by jet fuel but adaptable to using other propellants. “A new narrow-body would start with a kerosene-powered geared turbofan, but with scope to use new propulsion technologies as they appear, ” he said. Such technology for a full-size airliner is unlikely to be ready before 2030, though a smaller regional aircraft could fly before then, he said. Airbus shares traded 1% higher in Paris, paring their decline this year to 29%. US rival Boeing Co has declined 33%. Airbus is building an extra-long range version of its A321neo that will allow airlines to fly further with smaller, more efficient aircraft. The A320neo family offers either LEAP 1A engines from a GE joint venture, or Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100G geared turbofan as options. The Neo, which stands for new engine option, is a more fuel-efficient version of the A320. “GE Aviation continually reviews opportunities with airframers, including Airbus and Boeing, about engine technologies for the next generation of aircraft. The details of these discussions are confidential, ” the US company said by email. Airbus similarly didn’t disclose the nature of any discussions. “We are in constant dialogue with our engine makers about the latest state-of-the-art technologies and ongoing innovations, ” it said by email. “There are many studies. Not all studies see the light of day.” Cunningham said talks may be a “feint” by Airbus to pressure Boeing into moving early on a new narrow-body plane before technologies are really ready. That could allow the European company to come in a few years later with a superior plane. The US company’s single-aisle strategy was thrown into disarray by the grounding of its 737 Max, which rivals the A320neo, after two fatal crashes. — Bloomberg
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