Airbus could decide within the next six months whether to re-engine the A380 with Rolls-Royce powerplants, says Tim Clark, the president of Emirate Airlines, which has ordered more of the giant airplanes than any other customer.
Clark, speaking to a press gaggle on the sidelines of the World Routes conference Sunday in Chicago, said a RR engine would likely be based on elements of the Trent 1000 and Trent 7000 engines on the Boeing 787 and Airbus A330neo.
Clark has been urging Airbus for some time to improve fuel consumption on the A380 by 10%-12%. The only way this can be achieved is by re-engining the airplane, along with other improvements.
Clark has also been urging Airbus to build a stretched A380-900, but said this isn’t in the cards because Airbus is currently risk adverse when it comes to the A380.
Even a re-engining of the airplane presents a challenge for the business case, he said, despite his pledge to order 60 or more A380neos.
He said it is also possible the new engine might find its way on the A350-1000, providing some commonality between the A380 and the largest member of the A350.
Clark’s Emirates canceled its order for 50 A350-900s and 20 A350-1000s in June, but a short time later said that it will evaluate the A350 and 787-9/10 for a potential new order.
“I want to see the A350 and 787-9 in service first,” Clark told the press gaggle, in response to our question. Clark said he wants to see actual fuel performance of the airplanes in operation, not just from test flights.
For the first time publicly Clark also explained why the A350 order was canceled. The A350, and particularly the A350-1000, was not the same airplane contracted for when the order was originally placed in 2007.
Airbus revamped the -1000 specifications since then in an effort to improve performance. As part of this, Rolls-Royce modified the engine, reducing commonality between the -900 and -1000 engines. Emirates quickly complained that it had not been consulted in advance about the changes.
Clark appeared to pour some cold water on the prospect of ordering more Boeing 777-300ER, something Boeing has been urging as one aspect to filling its production gap between the -300ER and the 777X, due for delivery in 2020. Emirates has 170 -300ERs in service and on order and is a launch customer of the 777X.
Clark said that a new order for the -300ER wouldn’t see delivery until beginning in 2018, just two years in advance of the 777X. Such a timeline means additional -300ERs would be in service well beyond delivery of the more advanced successor, the 777-8 and 777-9. Clark clearly was unenthused about this prospect but didn’t definitively rule it out.