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Sources: Airbus inks agreement with CFM and P&W; to lay groundwork for A320 re-engining

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Airbus has moved closer to launching a revamped A320 family after signing agreements with CFM International and Pratt & Whitney which will lay the groundwork for re-engining the twinjet, FlightBlogger has learned.

While the scope of the agreement - which was signed within the past week - remains unclear, multiple industry sources say that this step is more technical in nature. The agreements are aimed at formally establishing specifications, performance and fuel burn requirements for such an engine, rather than any new A320 version's commercial viability. Additionally, the sources add that the agreement is a clear signal of the seriousness by Airbus to re-engine the A320.

Airbus chief operating officer of customers John Leahy said at the Dubai air show in November that "The more you convince yourself it is 2024 for the next-generation single-aisle, the more you realise you must do something with the existing aircraft."

Although Airbus did not explicitly confirm or deny such a formalized agreement exists between itself and CFM and P&W, the airframer says it "is constantly in technical dialogue with all the major engine suppliers".

P&W declined to address the existence of such an agreement, saying that "We are in discussions with all aircraft makers about the benefits offered by the [PW1000G] with its geared turbofan technology."

The engine maker adds: "Our preferred channel to market for the next generation or re-engined Airbus and Boeing single-aisle aircraft is through our successful partnership International Aero Engines (IAE). We will continue to work with our existing technology partners to bring this engine to market for our customers."

IAE says that it "continues to discuss all potential future engine developments to enhance the aircraft's performance". P&W and Rolls-Royce are major partners in the IAE consortium that offers the V2500 engine on current A320 models. CFM engines power both A320 Family and Boeing Next Generation 737s.

During the 2009 Paris air show the head of IAE partner MTU Aero Engines Egon Behle told Air Transport Intelligence that as IAE crafts its strategy for an engine to power A320 and Boeing Next Generation 737 replacements, "There are certainly some obstacles to remove." Behle noted Rolls-Royce and Pratt "do have different proposals" to narrowbody development.

The PW1000G geared turbofan engine has been selected by Bombardier to power the 100-149-seat CSeries family, as well as the 150-240-seat Irkut MS-21 and Mitsubishi's 70-96-seat MRJ.

Airbus says of its future relationship with IAE on the A320 that "our aim, as we have clearly stated previously, is that any such offering(s) should come to market via the established CFM and IAE partnerships respectively".

Airbus and P&W partnered in 2008 to test a PW1000G demonstrator under the wing of an A340-600 at the airframer's Toulouse base. While the move ignited speculation about the future application of the engine, both parties were quick to say it was not a sign of a formal plan.

While CFM denies there is a legal agreement signed between itself and Airbus, the joint venture between General Electric and Snecma says that it is in "constant negotiation" with Airbus and continues to supply the European airfamer with data for potential "study engines" for the A320.

Any offering by CFM for the A320 is almost certainly to come in the form of the LEAP-X engine, the successor to the CFM56.

The LEAP-X1C was selected in December by Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) to power the C919 aircraft, a direct future competitor to Airbus and Boeing in the 150-to 200-seat narrowbody market expected to enter service in 2016.

A December 2009 report by AirInsight concluded that "Airbus will decide to re-engine the A320, and make that announcement and engine selection early in 2010." Adding that, "We expect both LEAP-X and the P&W GTF, the latter offered through IAE, will be selected as the candidate engines."

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