Air France said yesterday that it was decided to equip its first batch of new twin-engine A310 Airbus aircraft with General Electric engines.
The announcement ends what was being called the "jet engine duel of the century" in Europe, pitting Pratt & Whitney, the world's largest supplier of jet aircraft engines, against General Electric and its partner, Snecma, France's state-owned aircraft-engine manufacturer.
The value of the initial Air France order, for GE CF6-80 engines to power five A310 aircraft -- the first to be in service in 1983 -- is "well over $30 million," GE said yesterday. But engines for the 10 additional planes Air France has on option could bring GE's order to a value of $75 million, Air France sources reported.
Pratt & Whitney, a subsidiary of United Telephone Corp., was considered a front-runner for the order six months ago. Although state-owned, Air France had told the French government it wanted to purchase the Pratt & Whitney engines for the A310 rather than the GE engines that would be manufactured with the French-owned Snecma.
Sources say Pratt & Whitney initially quoted a lower price, and threw into the deal the offer to overhaul at virtually no cost, existing Pratt & Whitney engines on 16 of Air France's Boeing 747 aircraft. Last week, however, France's transport minister, Joel Le Theule, announced that GE-Snecma had made a new offer in the engine competition that had reduced the spread between them.
Le Theule also indicated the possibility of renovating the Pratt & Whitney 747 engines in Western Europe, eliminating that major financial consideration, one source here in Washington said yesterday.