GE Doesn't Want To Compete With Itself Against Boeing's
Could Airbus be facing
yet another setback in the development of its A350 XWB? This time
around, however, the problem seems to lie not within the company...
but outside, regarding a supplier.
As ANN reported, Airbus' John
Leahy announced in June the planemaker was unlikely to select a
version of the GEnx turbofan -- which is offered as an option on
the Boeing 787, and is the exclusive powerplant for the upcoming
747-8 -- to power the A350 XWB. "GEnx engines don't work for us at
all," the outspoken (some would say bombastic) salesman
said at the time. "We have no intention of putting their GEnx
engine on the A350 at all. It has to be a generation beyond."
It appears now, however, there were whole bunches of sour grapes
in that statement. The Wall Street Journal reports this week it is
GE which appears reluctant to offer a version of its GEnx for
Airbus, for fear of competing with itself at the largest end of the
planned XWB family.
General Electric has offered a version of the GEnx to power the
two smaller version of the XWB... but Airbus intends the largest
model, the A350-1000 XWB, to compete with longer-range versions of
Boeing's 777, for which GE is the exclusive engine supplier.
Executives at GE have told Airbus it won't build an engine to
compete with the GE90 they supply for the 777... leaving Airbus
with but one engine offering, an XWB variant of the Rolls-Royce
Trent engine family, to power the A350.
"We have a family of airplanes with the A350, and we want to
keep the family concept," said Airbus CEO Louis Gallois recently,
in explaining why the planemaker wants a GEnx offering for all
three A350 XWB variants.
As the launch engine for the 787, the Trent 1000 has proven a
popular offering on the Boeing plane, and there's no reason to
think a Trent XWB won't deliver acceptable performance on the
A350... but airlines prefer to have a choice, and Airbus' singular
powerplant option is seen as a negative in the market.
Leahy has accused GE of playing favorites.
"The problem we have with GE is they go to Seattle and say,
'What kind of engine should we design for your airframe?'" said
Leahy. "Then they come to Toulouse and say, 'Here is the kind of
airframe you need to build to fit our engine.'"
GE Engine Division president Scott Donnelly disputes Leahy's
thinly-veiled accusations, noting his company offers its smaller
engines on Airbus' highly popular A320 Family. Instead, Donnelly
blames the matter on Airbus, for radically changing the design for
the proposed A350 in July 2006.
"We were the guys with Airbus" on the first A350 offering,
Donnelly says, noting those orders have now disappeared. Customers
are pressing GE to make peace with Airbus, Donnelly added... but he
isn't certain it would prove a profitable move for the
There are also concerns the dispute is a sign of a deepening
rift between the US and Europe. There's already the ongoing Boeing
vs. Airbus sales and deliveries battle; a similar conflict between
GE and Rolls-Royce could be brewing, as well. In addition to the
777, GE also is the exclusive engine supplier for Boeing's 737;
Rolls-Royce is the only producer of engines for the two largest
versions of Airbus' four-engine A340.
Executives on both sides played
down that possibility. "It's absolutely not the intent for us,
Boeing or Airbus" to chose sides, said Rolls-Royce CEO Sir John
Rose in a recent interview with the WSJ. GE's Donnelly echoed
As for Boeing? Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Scott Carson
appears happy to stand on the sidelines, watching the dispute play
"Airbus happened to build an aircraft that overlaps with the
777, where we have an exclusivity agreement with GE," said Carson.
"Are we going to give that up? Not on your life."