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Farnborough Airshow: Re-engining trend gains momentum

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With all-new Boeing and Airbus aircraft at least a decade away, expect more re-enginings.

It may be hard to believe in retrospect, but it’s worth remembering that both Airbus and Boeing thought long and hard—and hesitated—before re-engining the A320 and 737, respectively. The A320neo and 737 MAX have been such smashing sales successes that it seems the decisions to launch them were easy no-brainers, but they were anything but. Back in 2010, there was considerable internal debate at both manufacturers about moving forward with the neo and the MAX.

Now Airbus has moved forward with an A330 re-engining and, as my colleague Guy Norris details, is even considering a potential A380 re-engining.

The 2014 Farnborough Airshow has made clear that re-engining is a growing trend that will likely expand to more aircraft programs. Airbus and Boeing appear content with their current product portfolios for some time—there appear to be no all-new aircraft on the horizon for at least a decade and perhaps longer. So the move may increasingly be toward strapping a new, much more fuel efficient engine on existing aircraft types.

Rolls-Royce president-civil large engines Eric Schulz, a couple of days after winning the sole-source powerplant on the A330neo, was asked a about the re-engining trend at a Wednesday morning briefing at Farnborough. “The re-engine has become an important element of the future [airline] business,” he said. “At some point, you get to the end of a paradigm and need a new generation aircraft. But you may see several re-enginings before that happens.”

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