Airbus has announced that it will offer a higher-weight version of the A380 to its customers early next year.
The maximum take-off weight for the A380 will increase to 575t, which is a 6t increase on the current heaviest variant. Airbus stated that it will stretch the range of the A380 double-deck aircraft by some 150nm, increasing its capability to around 15,500km (8,350nm) at current payloads. The higher-weight version A380 will include a 3t increase in maximum zero-fuel weight and maximum landing weight, resulting in a 3t increase in payload.
Engine Alliance, a company dedicated to designing and producing the most technically advanced and compatible engine for the Airbus A380, will supply a higher-thrust version of its GP7200 powerplant to support the A380 higher-weight version. Airbus said that they selected this engine, known as GP7272, for its power. Rated at 72,000lbs (320kN), the engine provides 2,000lb of extra thrust compared with the current GP7200. The GP7272 will be ready for service in early 2013.
Although Engine Alliance is offering the GP7272 to its Airbus A380 customers, no one has selected it yet. The powerplant manufacturer confirmed that Qatar Airways, a Middle Eastern operator, has chosen the GP7200 for its ten A380s. Engine Alliance stated that it has about 600 orders for the GP7200, and holds nearly 60% market share of total engine orders for the A380. Other airline operations that have purchased GP7200 from Engine Alliance include Air France, Korean Air, Emirates, Air Austral and Etihad Airways.
In the mean time, Rolls-Royce, a key competitor in this market, pointed out that it is already well positioned for a higher-weight A380 as its Trent 900 has been operating at 72,000lb thrust for four years. Qantas, Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines and China Southern are the four airlines that currently operate the Rolls-Royce Trent 900.