Will Airbus Ever Offer The A330neo With An Alternative Engine?

Engine manufacturer General Electric is reportedly in talks with Airbus to supply an engine option for the popular A330neo widebody. The news comes as GE’s other large customer, Boeing, still battles headwinds on the 737 MAX project.

Could the A330neo have another engine option? Photo: Getty

Airbus in talks with GE

General Electric (GE) is reported by the Wall Street Journal to be in discussion with Airbus regarding introducing its technology on one of Airbus’ most popular aircraft models. The Airbus A330neo line of aircraft are currently powered by the Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, a variant of the Trent 1000 hat is extensively used on the Dreamliner.

As an engine manufacturer, GE supplies a number of powerplants for both Airbus and Boeing, and estimates that it has some 33,000 engines in service today. It is the exclusive provider of engines for the Boeing 737 MAX, and as such has been hurt by Boeing’s decision to halt the manufacture of the aircraft temporarily.

Trent 7000
The Trent 7000 is the only engine option on the A330neo. Photo: Rolls-Royce

Currently, every variant of the A330neo is powered by Rolls-Royce exclusively. There is no alternative engine option, unlike with Airbus’ narrowbody A320neo where buyers can select either the LEAP or the Pratt & Whitney PW1000G for their powerplants. For the A330neo, there is only one engine.

Would Airbus ever offer the A330neo with another engine?

As is always the case with these kinds of things, what happens behind closed doors stays behind closed doors. Although talking to other engine manufacturers is pretty much the norm for any OEM (to foster a sense of competition if nothing else) that doesn’t always mean anything is going to happen.

Simple Flying did ask Airbus to confirm whether it was talking to GE about the engines on the neo. Airbus told us,

“We have a good and solid offering with Rolls-Royce to power our A330neo aircraft. There is no such thing as an A330neo powered by GE engines. As a leading aircraft manufacturer we are always in talks with all our engine-makers about new technologies and always looking into advancing our aircraft / offerings to the benefit of our customers, keeping them on the leading edge of technology, enhancing value.”

Airbus is happy with the Trent 7000 and its partnership with Rolls-Royce. Photo: Getty

While that really neither confirms nor denies Airbus’ negotiations with GE, it does suggest that Airbus is very happy with their choice of Rolls-Royce as engine supplier, and that this is unlikely to change anytime soon.

Would a GE engine even work for the A330neo?

Analysts at Citi took the idea that Airbus was talking to GE about the A330neo and had a good think. Then they came up with some very good reasons why Airbus would be highly unlikely to move away from Rolls-Royce.

For a start, the A330neo only entered service around a year ago. As such, it’s much too early in the program to be thinking seriously about hanging engines. Citi also pointed out that, financially, it would be a very difficult situation to make work.

Trent 7000
The A330neo will likely be exclusively powered by Rolls-Royce for some time to come. Photo: Rolls-Royce

Their analysts believe that any program requires around 1,000 engines to make economic sense. Airbus is currently producing around 40 A330s a year, which requires 80 engines. With 337 A330neos on order (accounting for 674 engines) Rolls-Royce is already two-thirds of the way towards the 1,000 engine goal. If the supply was split, the A330neo would need to be in production until around 2050 to make sense for the two engine manufacturers.

Taking all this into account, we don’t think we’re likely to see any other engine option on the A330neo for some time to come.