UPDATE 3-Airbus to accelerate revamp of A320 jet

* Airbus to launch A320neo jet in October 2015

* Says 6-month earlier availability due to market demand

* Gives lead test role to hot-selling Pratt & Whitney engine

* Cancellations almost outweigh plane sales in first quarter

(Adds Pratt & Whitney comments, shares)

By James Regan and Scott Malone

PARIS/BOSTON, April 6 (Reuters) – Airbus (EAD.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) plans to
bring forward by six months the entry into service of its
revamped A320 jetliner, seen as key to battling Boeing (BA.N: Quote, Profile, Research)
and fending off emerging rivals in the largest aircraft segment.

The fuel-saving model of Airbus’s best selling aircraft will
now be available in October 2015, Airbus said in a statement,
citing more than 300 provisional commitments or orders for the
plane since plans for the A320neo were announced on Dec. 1.

The A320neo is an upgraded version of the best-selling
150-seat Airbus jet and promises airlines 12-15 percent in fuel
savings thanks to the arrival of more efficient engines.

Airbus is doing its best to keep up momentum for the
aircraft while its rival Boeing mulls a bolder new version of
its 737 narrow body jet, but many analysts say airlines will
wait to see what Boeing decides before choosing which to buy.

Airbus noted strong sales of a Pratt & Whitney engine, the
PW1100G geared turbofan, and named it as “lead development
engine” in factory testing for the A320neo.

“We’ll be ready,” Pratt & Whitney spokeswoman Katy Padgett
said of the accelerated launch date.

The A320 and 737 compete in the largest segment of the
aircraft market worth an estimated $1.7 trillion over 20 years.

The CSeries being built by Canada’s Bombardier (BBDb.TO: Quote, Profile, Research)
leads a field of newcomers also aiming to grab a slice of that
market, which also includes China’s C919.

Behind the choice of aircraft, it is a sudden leap forward
in fuel-saving technology of their engines that is driving the
next big wave of industry decisions as oil prices remaining
above $100 a barrel threaten the viability of many airlines.

The fuel-efficient engine developed by Pratt & Whitney has
so far outsold a competing engine designed by General Electric
(GE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) and Safran (SAF.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) joint venture CFM International.

ENGINE GROWTH

Pratt & Whitney received another boost when Airbus sales
chief John Leahy was quoted as saying the European planemaker
would consider putting a version of the new geared turbofan
(GTF) engine on its much larger A350 plane. [ID:nLDE7342CW]

Asked about the comments published on a specialist website,
Padgett said the company was looking into the idea.

“We have been initiating studies to grow the GTF or
PurePower engine up to 100,000 pounds of thrust,” Padgett said,
citing the amount of power needed on an aircraft the size of the
A350, which will be able to seat up to 350 people. That is about
three times as much thrust as the Airbus’ A320neo.

Increasing the size of the engine would put Pratt & Whitney
in competition with Rolls-Royce (RR.L: Quote, Profile, Research), which provides the only
A350 engine, and GE for the wide-body airliner market using the
world’s biggest engines, but entail considerable cost and risk.

“There would have to be sufficient business return to
justify the investment. For now we are focused on our current
offering,” Padgett said.

Shares in Pratt & Whitney parent United Technologies (UTX.N: Quote, Profile, Research)
rose 0.2 percent, in line with the U.S. market.

With many airlines uncertain over fuel prices and the
economy, cancellations for the current model of A320 weighed on
the Airbus order tally for the first three months of the year.

Kuwaiti low-cost carrier Jazeera Airways (JAZK.KW: Quote, Profile, Research) scrapped
orders for 25 A320s last month, after Dubai Aerospace
Enterprise’s DAE Capital leasing unit cancelled orders for 18
A320 jets and 12 A350-900 wide-body aircraft in February.

Gross orders in the first quarter reached 69 jets, with 68
cancellations taking the net order tally to just one aircraft,
according to figures published on Wednesday. Airbus delivered
119 aircraft in the quarter, including four A380 superjumbos.

Shares in Airbus parent EADS (EAD.PA: Quote, Profile, Research) fell 0.8 percent.

In the latest available comparable figures, Boeing sold 135
planes between Jan. 1 and Mar. 29 and took 88 net orders after
adjusting for cancellations.

Airbus is targeting 520-530 commercial aircraft deliveries
this year, with gross orders expected to outpace that amount.

(Additional reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Elaine
Hardcastle)

UPDATE 3-Airbus to accelerate revamp of A320 jet