Air Transport World

Trails-on-Trent. (British Airways is dropping the Rolls-Royce Trent engine for the GE Aircraft Engines GE90 engine)

Boeing 777s that it has ordered rather than Rolls' Trent. The deal was worth $680 million to the U.S. engine manufacturer but the prestige involved-and the impact on other potential airline purchasers around the world-was worth an incalculable amount more.

Within the U.K., it was a highly controversial decision by a carrier that had been a consistent Rolls customer and it produced a furious reaction from many sectors of the British aerospace industry, which stood to lose jobs and subcontracts as a result of BA's decision.

But no such reaction from Rolls, whose senior people take the view that a public slinging match with an airline that remains one of its best customers has no merit. On the same day that the GE/777 order was announced, BA signed for Rolls to supply a further $850 million worth of RB211-524H engines for its Boeing 747-400 fleet.

Behind the scenes, however, is considerable disappointment at the loss of the 777 engine order, with which Rolls was looking to launch the Trent on the new Boeing airliner. The Trent was launched at the 1988 Farnborough air show as the RB211524L. The Trent title came later, reviving for the big-engine fine a Rolls policy of naming its engines after British rivers.

Rolls Chairman Lord Tombs would go no further in answer to ATW than to say: "The BA decision was a great disappointment to us. We have supplied them with our engines in recent years. BA is British and we are a traditional supplier. It was a commercially driven, rather than a technically driven decision and one that they were entitled to make. We have a very competitive engine in the Trent and I see no reason why we should not perform well on the 777.

"We do not see any demands from the airlines that the Trent cannot meet. I do not want to speculate on why BA made its decision. We put a very competitive price to them and went as far as we were prepared to go. And so, we have to assume that GE put in a lower price. We don't know what the GE price was; they are closed tenders."

Salt was rubbed into Rolls-Royce by the further news that BA preferred GE's bid to that from the British engine company for its engine overhaul plant at Treforest, Wales. …

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