Engine Alliance, in combination with Airbus, is adding a 72,000 lb. thrust rating to the GP7200 engine to the A380 catalogue to offer additional takeoff weight performance on short runways.

The software upgrade to the full authority digital engage control system is due to undergo flight testing in the coming months, with the goal to certify the thrust rating next year, says Mary-Ellen Jones, president of the General Electric, Pratt & Whitney joint venture. It either allows 7.5 metric tons more of payload on a 2,500 meter runway or 240 naut. mi. more range.

The option could aid long-range operations out of Los Angeles and also support Airbus’s move to offer a 575 metric ton high gross weight version of the A380 starting in 2013.

The GP7200 already has certified thrust ratings of 70,000 lb. and 76,500 lb. – the latter developed for the A380 freighter that has since been shelved.

Meanwhile, the Engine Alliance is working on additional weight savings to the engine, which now weighs about 200 lb. less than initial production turbofans. The latest change came with the introduction of a new turbine exhaust, developed by Volvo Aero, which cut weight by 54 lb. Other enhancements are in the works, but likely not with a single one offering quite such a large saving.

The company also is working on increasing its installed base. Currently, 27 A380s with GP7200s are in service – 17 with Emirates, six with Air France, and four with Korean Air; that should grow to 31 aircraft by year end, with Emirates taking three more aircraft and Korean Air getting a fifth.

Engine Alliance, along with rival Rolls-Royce, also are awaiting Qatar Airways’s A380 engine decision, which is due soon.