A French newspaper claims that Airbus is seeking out risk-sharing partners to help bear the engineering cost and risk of its proposed re-engining for the A320 Family, adding to speculation that the program may be shelved in favour of other priorities.
According to Les Echoes, sources at Airbus claim that it is seeking an industrial partner to take on some of the development and financial risk of the new engine option (NEO) program, which would mate the existing A320 aircraft to the new CFM International LEAP-X and/or Pratt & Whitney’s PW1000G geared turbofan to deliver major reductions in fuel burn and extend range. The report also claims that the new, heavier engines would require the A320’s wing box, central fuselage and landing gear to be modified, requiring a minimum five years of development work.
Airbus’s board is expected to decide by the end of the year on whether to formally launch the A320 NEO, which has been promoted strongly by the company’s chief operating officer – customers John Leahy. However, Airbus CEO Tom Enders has recently noted that the project could be abandoned due to the stretched engineering resources at the European manufacturer, which is busy with work on the A350 and A400M programs, as well as refining the production processes of the costly A380 program.
Rival Boeing is also understood to be examining options to fit either the LEAP-X or PW1000G to the 737, but recent indications are that the company would prefer to focus on delivering more enhancements to the current 737NG ahead of launching a new narrowbody in the early 2020s.