Rolls Resolves To Win Place on A380

 - February 8, 2014, 2:00 AM
Rolls-Royce hopes improvements to its Trent 900 for the Airbus A380 will convince Emirates Airline to change its allegiance from Engine Alliance. (Photo: Rolls-Royce)

Rolls-Royce is “competing hard” with its Trent 900 offering to power the latest batch of 50 Airbus A380s selected by Gulf operator Emirates Airline, according to Trent fleet programs customer marketing head Peter Johnston. To date, the carrier has chosen only GP7200 engines from the General Electric/Pratt & Whitney Engine Alliance joint venture for its previously ordered 90 aircraft.

Emirates president Tim Clark said last December that he wanted to open the new contract to competition. “We’re not going after cheaper engines, we’re after technological crossover that manifests itself in lower weight and lower fuel consumption,” he told a recent air transport conference in London. Hinting that GP7200s hold a very small fuel-burn advantage over Trent 900s, Clark expects that – having already boosted engine reliability – Rolls-Royce might now reduce fuel consumption.

Late last year Rolls completed engine tests aimed at receiving European Aviation Safety Agency approval for the new T900 Enhanced Performance 2 variant, scheduled to become the build standard before April. The UK company believes the upgrade could permit increased payloads, for example, on Qantas A380s flying between Sydney and Los Angeles and add range to aircraft operating at current maximum takeoff weights.

Johnston said he expects Trent 900s to remain in production for a long time. “As new technologies become available, we will develop the engine, but we are very much in the hands of Airbus and the airlines,” he noted, adding that Rolls holds “continuous discussion” with Airbus on A380 development, which could include the stretch variant proposed in the original A380 series.

Meanwhile, North Asian airlines operating short-range widebody services stand as prime targets for Rolls’s new Trent 700 Regional engine. While “pushing hard” in the region, the manufacturer remains intent on addressing China’s “high market share,” as well as other demand in India and Southeast Asia.

Rolls claims the powerplant exactly meets the propulsion needs of the Airbus A330 Regional, although it plans to “optimize” thrust to reduce engine maintenance cost. High commonality makes the new engine interchangeable with standard 72,000-pound-thrust T700s, and Airbus will make the new variant available to operators not flying the A330 Regional, according to Rolls-Royce.