Airbus has signed a memorandum of understanding with Rolls to develop its latest version of the Trent engine to power the new aircraft.
The Trent 900, which will have a take-off thrust of 80,000 lbs, has been specifically designed for the next generation of super-jumbos.
The four-engined A3XX is initially planned to appear in two versions - a 555-seat aircraft with a range of 8,500 nautical miles and a bigger version capable of flying 656 passengers. A consortium made up of the two US engine makers, General Electric and Pratt and Whitney, is expected to sign a similar memorandum in the next fortnight.
The agreement with Rolls will pave the way for Airbus to make more detailed offers on the performance of the A3XX to prospective airline customers. It is working on the design and specification of the aircraft with a handful of carriers who are keen to start flying much bigger aircraft, including British Airways and Singapore Airlines.
The four Airbus partners have stipulated that the A3XX should have 15- 20 per cent lower operating costs than the current Boeing 747. Key to this efficiency target will be the performance of the engines.
Charles Cuddington, director of the Trent 900 programme, said that the engine was even lighter than the Trent 800 on which it was based, giving a significant payload advantage for airlines.
Airbus is expected to take a decision on the launch of the aircraft next year. It estimates demand for 500-seat-plus airliners at 1,380 worth $280bn up to 2014.
News of the memorandum with Rolls came as Airbus announced that the Middle Eastern airline, Emirates, was to buy 16 wide-bodied A330s in a deal worth about $2bn. The airline has taken options on a further seven A330s.
This is the first order for the A330 from the Middle East and will make Emirates the biggest operator of the aircraft. Emirates will use the 243- seat aircraft on services from Dubai to Europe, South-east Asia and South Africa. Emirates has yet to make a choice of engine for its new fleet of A330s.Reuse content