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Rolls Readies For Dual Debuts At Paris But Misses Out On A330neo

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Aviation Week & Space Technology

Rolls Readies For Dual Debuts At Paris But Misses Out On A330neo

Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 787-10 show debuts boost Rolls, but Airbus A330neo delay highlights strategy risks
Jun 9, 2017 Guy Norris | Aviation Week & Space Technology
 

Rolls-Royce’s strategy of focusing resources on large commercial aircraft engines is aimed at powering not one but two new widebody aircraft making their debuts at this year’s Paris Air Show. And it could have been three.

The sight of the Trent XWB-97-powered Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing’s Trent 1000 TEN-equipped 787-10 in the skies over Le Bourget will give Rolls cause for cheer, after reporting its biggest-ever loss in February. And but for holdups on the Trent 7000, the engine in development for the reengined Airbus A330neo, Rolls would have had a chance at a memorable Paris hat trick.

The success of the A350-1000 and 787-10 contrasted with delays to the A330neo sums up a year of ups and downs for the engine-maker. Hit badly by the decline of the British pound after the UK’s vote last summer to leave the EU, Rolls recorded a £4.6 billion ($5.7 billion) loss for 2016. The figures also included the £671 million in bribery and corruption settlements with authorities in Brazil, the UK and the U.S. About £4.4 billion of the losses resulted from a write-down on the value of financial hedges that Rolls uses to protect itself against currency fluctuations.

Trent Development

Both Trent XWB-97 powered Airbus A350-1000 and Trent 1000 TEN-powered Boeing 787-10 making first appearance at Paris Air Show

Trent 1000 TEN issues led to delays to Trent 7000-powered AirbusA330neo

Trent XWB-84-powered AirbusA350-900 became 2,000th Rolls-powered widebody airliner to be delivered on June 2

The A330neo’s absence from the show underlines how the UK engine-maker’s double-development strategy for Airbus and Boeing was also double-edged with risk. This is because the Trent 7000 is based on the Trent 1000 TEN, which is itself based on a hybrid of the original Trent 1000 developed for the 787 and the XWB created for the A350. By leveraging one program against the other, Rolls extended its exclusivity with Airbus to include the A330neo, while simultaneously gaining a boost in its fight with General Electric for greater market share on the 787.

However, this close dependency inevitably meant that trouble with one program potentially exposed the other. The hybrid engine was launched for the stretched 787-10 in 2012, while the spinoff Trent 7000 was selected for the A330neo in 2014. The timing appeared to dovetail with the new 787 engine originally due to be certified by the end of 2015 and enter service in late 2016, while the Airbus engine was to certify in early 2017 and make its service debut by the end of this year.

So when development problems hit the Trent 1000 TEN in 2015, Airbus sat up and took notice. Durability issues with a feature of the engine called the banded stator led to a redesign, and pushed back initial engine certification to mid-2016. This appears to have had an inevitable knock-on impact on the A330neo timetable. Rolls rallied extra resources around the Trent 1000 TEN effort, which resulted in the engine being able to support the on-time first flight of the 787-10 in March 2017, but the situation was different at Airbus, where the engine-maker was already pushed to the limit supporting the A350-900/1000 programs.

Although details are scant, TAP Portugal, launch customer for the A330neo, announced in December 2016 that it was delaying acceptance of the first aircraft from late 2017 to March 2018, a date subsequently extended to around the middle of next year. Airbus, meanwhile, announced that first flight of the A330neo, originally targeted for early 2017, would be pushed back until later in the year, citing engine delays as the main cause. “We see the engine delay as tied to challenges Rolls had with the Trent 1000 TEN engine,” says financial analyst Bernstein, noting that A330neo orders remain weak.

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Saab Upbeat About New Sales For Gripen, GlobalEye And SwordfishYet despite the gloom, analysts also see a glimmer of hope on the horizon as the prospect of cash generation finally begins to emerge. After more than a decade of intensive new-engine development, Trent delivery volume is on the rise at Airbus and Boeing, while the Trent XWB and 1000 TEN appear to be performing well in flight tests. The first variant of the XWB family, the XWB-84, is flying on more than 80 aircraft with 12 operators, and production has now reached the rate of five engines per week on the new product build line in Derby, England. An XWB-84-powered A350-900 delivered to Cathay Pacific on June 2 also became the 2,000th widebody to be powered by Rolls.

 

The XWB-97 powered the A350-1000 for its first flight on Nov. 24, 2016, and has amassed more than 200 flights on the three aircraft now in the Airbus flight-test program. As of May 2017, development testing still included three ground-test units, two of which involved cyclic maturity and cross-wind evaluation engines at Rolls-Royce’s NASA Stennis facility in Mississippi, and a third devoted to systems testing at Derby. 

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