Is Airbus Planning A New Narrowbody? Some Clues May Suggest So

A court opinion that surfaced into the public domain for a brief moment on Wednesday before being sealed has provided clues that Airbus could be planning a new jetliner. The document reportedly contained a proposal from GE for a new geared turbofan engine designed for a single-aisle aircraft.

Could Airbus be developing a new narrowbody jet
Clues from a court opinion suggest Airbus could be developing a new narrowbody aircraft. Photo: Airbus

Document containing proposal sealed

GE and Airbus are reportedly in talks over engine ideas for a new “next-generation” plane. According to Bloomberg, a court opinion related to a patent-dispute has revealed GE’s preliminary proposal for the European manufacturer. As potential new aircraft types always garner a great deal of interest, the court decision where the information could be found has since been sealed.

It was reportedly not possible to deduce from the proposal whether or not the engine would be intended for a new version of an already existing Airbus product or an entirely new aircraft. The document also did not disclose any potential time-line for the new project or even when the proposition was put forward.

The only thing that is clear is that the GE proposal is a preliminary outline for a geared turbofan engine meant to power a narrowbody airframe. The engine-maker itself was non-forthcoming with further information and said any details of discussions with airframers were confidential.

GE Airbus new narrowbody engine
It is unclear whether or not the new GE proposal is intended for a new model of something already in the Airbus catalog or an entirely new plane. Photo: Getty Images

Could the model be adapted to non-traditional fuel sources?

Airbus also chose not to provide any further information on the matter. A spokesperson for the planemaker told Bloomberg that,

“We are in constant dialog with our engine makers about the latest state-of-the-art technologies and ongoing innovations. There are many studies. Not all studies see the light of day.”

Previous reports have suggested that Airbus has been looking to develop a regional emissions-free aircraft for the 100-seat market for its next single-aisle project. However, discussions could potentially be over a model initially powered by traditional jet fuel but adapted to other fuel sources as they become available.

Titan Airways, A321LR, Airbus
Boeing still leads the narrowbody capacity race, despite the growing popularity of the A320 family.  Photo: Airbus

Previous hints at a potential launch before 2030

At the Dubai Air Show in 2019, Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury hinted that his company was on the verge of developing a new, technologically advanced narrowbody jet.

We are at a point of time where we see a number of major changes impacting aviation, and they will probably impact the single-aisle business first. I would consider the launch of a [single-aisle] programme in the second half of the next decade and entry into service in the early 2030s,” Mr Faury was quoted as saying at the time.

Airbus’ fuel-efficient New Engine Option narrowbody aircraft are selling well, and its move towards extra long-range single-aisle jets also looks to be a success, particularly given current circumstances. However, Boeing still leads the narrowbody capacity race due to the longstanding popularity of the 737 and 757. If Airbus is indeed on the verge of a new project, what could Boeing’s response be?

What do you make of Airbus soliciting GE for a proposal for a new narrowbody engine? Let us know your thoughts in the comments. 


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