Questions Arise About Practicality of 787 Standard Engine Interface

 - June 11, 2010, 8:14 AM
GEnx-1B turbofans power the fifth 787 prototype. Boeing has advertised a standard engine interface on the type, allowing for efficient interchangeability between the GEnx and Rolls-Royce Trent 1000. At least one of the two engine makers has questioned the feature's practicality, however. (Copyright Boeing)

It seems Boeing hasn’t convinced everyone of the value of its standard engine interface feature on the 787 Dreamliner, which the company says allows quick and cost-effective changeability between the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000s and GE GEnx-1B turbofans chosen to power the airplane. During an interview with AIN last week, GE Aircraft Engines’ GEnx program manager, Tom Brisken, expressed some serious reservations about the feature.

“Anything’s possible, but everything below the wing is different,” said Brisken. “I’m not going to disagree with Boeing, but I’ll state it as a question: Is it really practical? Because when you talk about a pylon, a strut, a nacelle, a thrust reverser inlet and all the configuration hardware in there, that’s a lot of hardware and lots of millions of dollars. If you want to switch, you'd better bring your wallet.”

Boeing promoted the feature as a means to allow an operator or buyer of a second-hand 787 to fit the airplane with either manufacturer’s engines at any time. Such capability could conceivably help maintain residual values because lessors, for example, could offer any used 787–GE or Rolls-Royce-powered–to operators who want either engine type. 

Asked if he thought anyone would make use of the so-called standard interface, Brisken didn't mince words. “I don't think it will ever happen,” he said.

As of June 1 GE claimed to control 62 percent of the market for 787 engines, having collected orders for 868–or enough for 434 airplanes–in total. All Nippon Airways expects to take delivery of the first Rolls-Royce Trent 1000-powered 787 by the end of this year, and Royal Air Maroc has signed for the first GEnx-powered Dreamliners, scheduled for delivery “late this year or early next year.”