The New Zealand Transport Accident Investigation Commission has launched an investigation into two cases of “abnormal indications” involving Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 turbofans that forced two Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9s to abort scheduled long-haul flights on Tuesday and Wednesday. In the latest incident, the airplane was in its climb phase when the cockpit indications of a fault in one of the engines prompted the crew to reverse thrust and turn back to Auckland. The airplane landed safely and no one suffered injuries. However, Air New Zealand has confirmed that it has had to cancel several flights until it receives spare engines from Rolls-Royce.
Contacted by AIN for comment, Rolls-Royce declined to specify the suspected reason for the aborted flights, citing international regulations against commenting on an ongoing investigation. However, a design deficiency involving intermediate turbine pressure blades has affected between 400 and 500 Trent 1000s since the middle of last year, when Japan’s All Nippon Airways first reported the problem. In response, Rolls-Royce marshaled extraordinary MRO resources to accommodate customers flying Trent 1000 Package B and C iterations. Unfortunately, both the parts supply and Rolls-Royce’s capacity to replace the engines proved insufficient to avoid service disruptions.
In fact, Virgin Atlantic said on Thursday it planned to lease four Airbus A330s for at least a year to compensate for a shortage of Trent engines to power its 787-9s.
"We sincerely regret any disruption caused by our engine that our customer is experiencing and we are working together to minimize this impact and restore full flight operations as soon as possible,” said Rolls-Royce in a written response to AIN’s request for a statement. “It's not uncommon for long-term engine programs to experience technical issues during their life and we manage them through proactive maintenance. We have a clear service management plan in place with all operators to undertake this work and minimize disruption. This is the continuation of work [that] started last year to upgrade Trent 1000 engines to the latest standard. We are in constant dialogue with our industry regulators and they support the proactive service management plan we have created with our customers.”
A Rolls spokesman added that the Trent 1000 has operated in service for more than six years and has clocked 3.5 million flying hours.