The UK’s Rolls-Royce (Booth B09) is confident that it can maintain what it claims to be its position as the engine-maker of choice for large-cabin, long-range business jets, despite its competitors introducing new products that compete with its BR700 powerplant family.
The 15,000-lb-class BR710 engine, produced by Rolls-Royce Germany in Dahlewitz, powers the Bombardier Global Express XRS and Global 5000 as well as the Gulfstream G500/G550, whereas the larger BR725 powers the Gulfstream G650/G650ER. These large-cabin aircraft still dominate the business aviation market in China and are also increasing in number in other parts of Asia.
The key for the future for Rolls-Royce is in both globalized customer service/support (Rolls-Royce CorporateCare has been adopted by the majority of its customers) and new technology. It has a very significant development effort, Advance 2, taking place to develop the next generation of engines and for inserting new, advanced technology in existing engine lines.
The company said, in a briefing to journalists at Dahlewitz last month, that it was confident the market for large-cabin business aircraft would continue to grow, partly because the number of billionaires and other high-net-worth individuals continues to grow, especially in China. “In 2007 China had zero billionaires, but by the early 2020s it will overtake the U.S.”
Meanwhile the main developments that will take the BR710 and BR715 into the next generation include an Advance core, advanced engine-health management, advanced materials and cooling, and a titanium “blisked” fan resulting in an overall pressure ratio of 50. Joe Hoelzl, chief engineer future programs, said Advance 2 was intended for new engines entering service in the 2020s offering, broadly, a 10 percent reduction in specific fuel consumption (sfc), 50 percent improvement in NOx margin, 99.995 percent reliability and a 20 percent increase in thrust-to-weight ratio. The scalable architecture being developed in the 10,000- to 20,000-lb-thrust range can then be fine-tuned when airframers define their needs. But initially, the technology can improve the current BR700 family and also provide a larger sibling, with a 52-inch fan.
“We have restructured our technical programs over the last year to get much more synergy across programs and get the benefits for the bizav products,” said Frank Moestra, product strategy executive. Advance 3 takes that to large, high-bypass engines for airliner applications, efforts that are designed to take the Trent line of engines forward. This is a huge development effort, so R-R’ business aviation engines will benefit from the R&D and development efforts there; with much of the effort taking place at Rolls-Royce Germany in Dahlewitz.
With the new blisked fan, said Hoelzl, “Multiple rig demos have been completed already, and the next step is to run this in a full engine. The new core’s pressure ratio is from 16 to 24 (+40 percent), and this has already been demonstrated.
Moestra said, “We are number one and want to stay number one, though we have lost some platforms as our competitors went in very aggressively.” He added that the requirements for business jet engines are different from those of airliners, and bizjets need to fly “fast and high.” This means the engines for aircraft below 100,000 lb maximum takeoff weight and with 7,000 nm of range tend to have a low bypass ratio. “So we have to work hard to improve sfc.”
He added that the BR725 engine is “in a class of its own” at the moment. “But we can’t stand still. We have to work hard to improve it and expand our market position again after losing a bit.” Developing scalable technology, however, will mean that when airframe manufacturers issue requests for proposals (RFPs), Rolls can bring an engine to market faster, concluded Moestra. “The nice thing is that we can provide the technology without picking an exact application—yet.” But at the moment its thinking is that it could center on the 12,000-lb, 15,000-lb and 18,000-lb thrust points.
The company is also looking into supersonic concepts and keeping an eye on research programs that are developing supersonic business aircraft so as not to miss out on what it believes could be a lucrative market. Dr. Dean Roberts, market analysis executive for business aviation, said, “We’re unique in that we have supersonic civil aircraft experience, and we can draw on our fighter experience as well.” He noted that until regulatory hurdles are overcome to allow supersonic flight over land, the “halfway house" would be a hybrid SSBJ.
The company has done detailed analysis, Robert said, which showed the hybrid approach is “quite an attractive proposition. Looking at the routes you could fly, there are very clear benefits.” On the economic side, R-R’s analysis suggests, “The farther you can go [in range] the more people will pay for speed. What we think is that if you radically increase speed, you will get an exponential—not a straight line—relationship so you can substantially increase the price, ”which would be needed to make such programs viable." Thus, “It will not destroy the subsonic world,” he said, as the number of units would be small. But with the increasing number of billionaires, the market dynamics for supersonic aircraft would change for the better.