Airbus explores narrow-body aircraft design with GE.

Airbus has requested engine ideas for a narrow-bodied aircraft under development, and has received a proposal for a new design from General Electric.

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GE’s preliminary draft, revealed in a court opinion, reveals uninformed preliminary discussions between the engine manufacturer and Airbus for a “next generation” aircraft. The court’s decision was later sealed, indicating the high level of interest in the next step by Airbus, Bloomberg said.

It is unclear whether the aircraft under consideration would be a new model or an upgrade from one already in the company’s catalog, such as the A320neo or A220 single-aisle aircraft. The court’s decision does not say when GE proposed the new engine, whether the plane would be released to the market or what stage the talks are at.

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Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury has previously indicated that the firm’s next narrow-body aircraft will be a carbon-free design, and has indicated work on developing hydrogen-powered aircraft, although aviation experts have also questioned whether a new aircraft with conventional fuel could be in sight.

Agency Partners’ analyst Nick Cunningham said the talks could focus on a model initially powered by jet fuel but adaptable to the use of other engines.

“A new narrow-bodied plane would start with a kerosene-powered turbofan, but with possibilities for using new propulsion technologies as they emerge,” he said. It is unlikely that such technology for a full-size plane will be ready before 2030, although a smaller regional plane could fly sooner, he said.

Airbus is developing an extra-long-range version of the A321neo that will allow airlines to fly farther with smaller, more efficient aircraft. The A320neo family currently offers options of LEAP 1A engines from a GE joint venture or the PW1100G turboprop from Pratt & Whitney. The Neo, which refers to “new engine option” in English, is itself a more fuel-efficient version of the A320.

“GE Aviation is continually reviewing opportunities with aircraft manufacturers, including Airbus and Boeing, on engine technologies for the next generation of aircraft. The details of these conversations are confidential,” the U.S. company said in an e-mail.

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