Rolls-Royce managed to further reduce the average original equipment loss per large engine sold to £1.3 million ($1.58 million), though the UK engine manufacturer continues to struggle to overcome the premature blade deterioration on Trent 1000s that power a part of the Boeing 787 fleet.
“We are pleased with the progress we are making on managing and fixing all of these issues, but reality is that we still have got a lot of hard work to do before it is out of the way,” said Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East. Speaking during the company’s first-half results presentation with analysts on Tuesday, East conceded the Trent 1000 blade issue continues to cause “a number of our customers significant disruption.” The good news, he added, is that the disruption has lessened considerably in the past 12 months, and the number of aircraft on ground (AOGs) today equates to about half the total of a year ago.
While Rolls considers the reduction of AOGs encouraging, the decline hasn’t kept pace with Rolls-Royce’s original plans, mainly owing to the reduced life expectancy of blades in the high-pressure turbine (HPT) of the Trent 1000 TEN, the latest variant of the engine. The issue came to light in April and prompted EASA to issue an airworthiness directive mandating an engine inspection regime. Inspections to date have shown faster HPT blade deterioration than the manufacturer expected, and some blades need replacement a couple of hundred cycles before reaching the reduced life limit of 1,000 cycles. “Let’s be clear, [even] a life limit of 1,000 cycles is completely unacceptable for a typical customer,” East acknowledged. The company anticipates that the problem has affected about a third of the TEN engines, and it expects that the projected number of resulting AOGs will prove “much smaller” than those caused by the intermediate-pressure compressor (IPC) blade deterioration of Trent 1000 Package B/C disruption.
However, the HPT blade replacement has added to the workload of Roll-Royce’s repair and overhaul facilities—which it expanded to deal with the Package C and B blade issue—and that might affect the pace of the overall AOG recovery on the Trent 1000. “It may take a bit longer for the Package C and B fleets to return to a single-digit AOG,” East warned. “It is possible we get there by the end of the year, but it is also very possible that the polluting effect of the TEN will cause a longer delay.”
The engine OEM said tests with a re-designed HTP blade for the Trent 1000 TEN are progressing.
It has been installing the new modified and certified IPC blade designs in the overhaul of all Package C engines since early this year, and a redesign for the Trent 1000 TEN and Pack B IPC blades has begun. East said he expects that the new IPC blade for the Trent 1000 TEN to become available for installation before the end of the year. The Pack B blade will follow “soon after that.”
Rolls-Royce delivered 257 large engines—239 installed and 18 spares—in the first half of the year and shipped a further 14 engines to airframers, up from a total 259 shipped units in the first six months of last year and 209 in the first half of 2017. It continued to make progress reducing large original equipment (OE) engine average unit losses, down by £200,000 year-on-year to £1.3 million. Original equipment engine losses in the first half of 2017 averaged £1.7 million. The Trent XWB mainly drove the average loss reduction, though cost-reduction activities across Rolls-Royce’s four big engine programs contributed to the improvement. The company also scaled back the launch discounts on the Trent XWB that powers the Airbus A350, East noted. More than 280 XWB-powered Airbus A350s operate with 27 airlines around the world, representing 11 percent of Rolls-Royce’s in-service fleet. East anticipates the program will break even by the end of 2020.
Regarding the Trent 7000, East confirmed that shipments are now running smoothly after some hiccups late last year and questions arose about at which rates it would manage to deliver the sole powerplant for the Airbus A330neo. “Rates improved in the first quarter and sustained in the second quarter,” he insisted.
The company delivered and invoiced 54 Trent 7000s in the first half, whereas deliveries of the Trent 700 fell to seven units, down from 41 engines in the first half of 2018. “This is a very nice and successful transition from the Trent 700, which is at the end of its OE life, to the new Trent 7000,” CFO Stephen Daintith commented.
The in-service large engine fleet grew by 7 percent year-over-year to 4,897 engines, and widebody engine flying hours increased 8 percent. The group maintained its target to deliver more than 500 large engines this year.