Rolls-Royce continues to report “good progress” on fixing durability problems with the Trent 1000 engine, adding that it has achieved the target of single-digit numbers of aircraft grounded by the end of the second quarter.
Soon after issuing the report during a July 9 trading update for the first half of the year, the company revealed that “ we have now reached a position where there are zero Boeing 787 aircraft on the ground (AOG) due to Trent 1000 durability-related issues.”
The effort to improve Trent 1000 support has centered on a number of measures, the UK-based engine manufacturer said. They include technical solutions as well as increasing the availability of spare engines at the operator level, so airlines can more quickly swap engines when a problem arises and maintain flight schedules.
Rolls-Royce said it has introduced the solutions on a “fast-track basis” to improve the Trent 1000’s in-service durability. More than 99 percent of the flying fleet has received the improved intermediate pressure turbine blade. Engineers are fitting Trent 1000 TEN and Package C engines with redesigned intermediate pressure compressor blades, which the company expects will be available for the Package B engines in the fourth quarter. Rolls also reported that it should complete the Trent 1000 TEN and Package C blade roll program by the end of next year. For the Package B and C engines, it has upgraded more than 50 percent of the fleet to the new enhanced high-pressure turbine blades.
Rolls continues endurance testing a final durability issue with the Trent 1000 TEN's high-pressure turbine blades, identified during a “rigorous root cause investigation and design process,” according to the company. “We are now over three-quarters of the way through this test and remain on track for its incorporation into the fleet by the end of H1 2021,” it reported.
During the coronavirus pandemic, Rolls-Royce has trained airline technicians to conduct certain Trent 1000 inspections using Librestream’s digital visualization technology. The program eliminates the need for Rolls-Royce to send an inspector to the airline or the airline to send technicians to Rolls-Royce’s Derby facility for training. “The ability to continue performing these inspections allowed a number of our customers to avoid AOGs and is changing the way we support our customers,” Rolls-Royce said. Eventually, the company hopes to use Librestream to teach customer technicians how to conduct other engine inspections, which should give the airlines more operational flexibility.
“We have been intensely focused on addressing the Trent 1000 issues that have caused unacceptable disruption to our customers,” said Chris Cholerton, Rolls-Royce's president of Civil Aerospace. “We deeply appreciate the understanding and cooperation of our customers who have been impacted by this situation for a long time. Reaching zero AOGs is an important milestone for us and our focus will be sustained to help our customers return aircraft to regular service as they recover from the impact of Covid-19, and to complete the fitment of upgrades throughout the fleet. This will deliver the performance that we and our customers expect.”
Meanwhile, in its trading update, Rolls-Royce said it expects a gradual recovery of its end markets as travel restrictions ease in the coming months, but it acknowledged an “elevated” level of uncertainty in the industry outlook. It now forecasts widebody engine flying hours to decline by about 55 percent this year, as more long-haul routes open in the fourth quarter. The company continues to plan for about 250 widebody engine deliveries in 2020, based on announced build rates from its airframer customers.
The company also reported anticipating a reduction in cash burn resulting from “cash mitigation actions” including supply chain management and a one-third cut in its civil aerospace workforce. Last month Rolls opened voluntary severance in the UK, including an “enhanced” early retirement scheme. The company said it has received more than 3,000 expressions of interest for voluntary severance in the UK and that it expected about two-thirds of those employees to leave by the end of August.
Meanwhile, an anticipated full-year free cash outflow of some £4 billion reflects an “unwind” of inventory in the second half, a gradual improvement in engine flying hours, and an acceleration of cash savings.
During the first half, the business saw a severe decline in demand due to a drop in widebody engine flying hours by some 50 percent, including a 75 percent decline in the second quarter, due to Covid-19 effects. Since the low point in April, when flying hours had fallen 80 percent compared with April 2019, the company has seen a marginal improvement in May and June led by an increase in flights in China, Asia-Pacific, and the Middle East. Business jet and regional flight activity has begun to recover more quickly due to lower exposure to cross-border routes, said the company.
MRO activity in the first half remained broadly stable compared with the same period in 2019 but lower than the pre-Covid-19 first-half schedule.
In terms of production, output of new widebody engines proved consistent with the company’s revised guidance of 250 engines for the full year, as it shipped 130 engines in the first half.