More durability concerns centered on Rolls-Royce’s Trent 1000 turbofan have prompted the UK aero-engine maker to further reduce the life of intermediate pressure turbine blades in certain Package C engines to avoid premature failure. Company guidance to operators issued on Thursday will require removal of some 30 to 40 engines sooner than expected. The latest problem does not affect most of the population of Package C engines, however, because Rolls already has fitted a new standard of blade in them as part of an earlier effort to mitigate durability deficiencies.
In a statement to AIN, Rolls-Royce insisted it continues to make “good progress” redesigning and replacing affected parts. “The guidance issued today is part of our ongoing management of the intermediate pressure turbine blade issue and applies only to the minority of engines which have not yet had replacement turbine blades fitted,” the company said. “In a small number of cases this may cause additional short-term disruption for our customers, for which we apologize."
This latest snag involving the Trent 1000 comes less than three months after Rolls launched a “precautionary” redesign in the IPC in the Package B and Trent 1000 TEN engines, adding another dimension to a saga that began in mid-2016 with the well-publicized afflictions involving Package C engines in Boeing 787s operated by All Nippon Airways. Since the problems first came to light, some 15 airlines have felt some effect, most notably ANA, LATAM, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Norwegian, and Air New Zealand. Virgin Atlantic, for one, expects to lease four Airbus A330-200s for at least a year to compensate for a shortage of Trent engines to power its 787-9s.
In mid-April Rolls-Royce advised operators that its Trent 1000 Package C engine would need more inspections than previously planned to address the premature blade wear, and on April 19 EASA issued an airworthiness directive mandating the work. The company reported at the time that it had delivered 380 Package C engines, powering some 25 percent of all Boeing 787s in service. The majority passed inspection and therefore continued to fly, according to a Rolls-Royce spokesman who declined to enumerate “majority.”
Then, in late May, Rolls said that it would accelerate the development of the permanent fix to the IPC rotor issue on Package C engines. “We aim to have first parts available for engine overhaul in late 2018, rather than 2019 as originally planned,” Rolls-Royce civil aerospace president Chris Cholerton said at the time.