If it were to happen, it would be the first production re-engining programme for a commercial jet airliner since the DC-8 70 series, which was itself the first production re-engining programme for a commercial jet airliner.
The most recent example would be the 524 H/T. RR put the Trent 700 hot section into the RB211 524 to upgrade it to a 524 H/T which I believe QF was a customer for on their 744s.
Exactly. I like your pov Zeke, but it imply you need to invest much more upfront in the FT installation design to make sure you build something you will want to certify (with as few as possible integration cost) rather than something that will just do a FT campaign (like when they installed Trent XWB under A380 wing) to certify the engine itself. Not its integration or its pylon. That's a vastly different exercice, I think.
That's not a risk issue, but a cost one
With ACUTE (Airbus Cockpit Universal Thrust Emulator) they had designed the A350/A380 to be setup for multiple engines from the outset, the aircraft references everything to a percentage of thrust rather than EPR or N1.
The test pylon setup would meet the standard certification load cases, granted this could be further optimised. But this would not be done by hand with a slide rule. The further investment would not be that significant, half the issue with a re-engine is working out the strength of the structure it is being attached to. They could recoup that investment through ongoing support for the airframes for another 15 years.
I think Airbus would actually earn more by doing and engine upgrade and supporting the airframe for another 15 years than building a new airframe and supporting that for 15 years. Their main investment would be in the pylon, cowl, and a software update. To physically upgrade an aircraft they probably could do that in a month compared to 18 months to produce a new airframe. I acknowledge they would need to do performance test flights as well, however they are well experienced at doing this over many types.
Ultrafan upgrades to the A350/A380 would be a strategy to squeeze the 77X pricing from below and above with minimum investment by Airbus. The are looking at doing the same strategy with the A320/A330 with the NMA.
It is not like the A380s in service would be considered as being high in cycles.
For accountants when the perform a NPV analysis of a 779 vs a A380 with Ultrafan, the A380 would on paper an attractive proposal (the list price of a 779 is near identical to an A380 around $440 million and change). The in service A380 airframes would largely be depreciated and the DOC on a per seat basis would favour the A380 with Ultrafan. I believe Boeing was claiming a 10% DOC advantage over the current A380 with the 779.
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