Posts Tagged ‘Rolls-Royce Trent’

Rolls Royce profits down 76% as Trent 900 costs start to kick in

February 10, 2011

BBC reports:

Manufacturing giant Rolls-Royce has said the mid-air failure of one of its Trent 900 engines on a Qantas superjumbo had led to costs of £56m. The explosion in the engine forced an emergency landing of the A380 in November last year. The one-off cost contributed to annual pre-tax profits dropping 76% to £702m in 2010 from £2.96bn. Foreign exchange costs and interest rate and fuel hedging contracts also contributed to the profit fall.

But the Derby-based company said that underlying pre-tax profits – which strip out one-off costs – were up by 4% to £955m in 2010 and were a better indication of its performance.

Rolls Royce say that the may face further “modest costs” but this seems to be far too optimistic considering that all the engine servicing costs have yet to show up and all the various compensation claims from Qantas, Airbus, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airline will take some time to work their way through. Once all the claims are presented there is an even chance that some will need arbitration before settlement which will take some time.

Jorn Madslien also writes:

Investors will be scrutinising Rolls-Royce’s financial figures to try to find out how the recent engine failure that led to the grounding of six Qantas Airbus A380 aircraft affected the company. ……..

….. The long-term effects of the engine failure, for instance a potential fall in new orders over the months and years ahead, cannot be measured at this stage. Consequently, the final impact on the company’s bottom line is not yet known.

It does not seem as if Rolls Royce have made any provision for further costs which is a little worrying and I stay with my estimate of around $300 million as the total hit that Rolls will have to swallow for the Trent 900 for the A380 in addition to any impact on engine sales.

Judging from the delays the development cost of the Trent 1000 for the Dreamliner is also likely to be significantly more than budgeted or expected.

It will be at least 2012 before the full financial impact is known though some residual impacts will continue for many years.

The wrecked engine after QF32 landed in Singapore in Nov. 2010:Photo: AFP


Dreamliner delayed again and Qantas dramatics continue – now with B747 engines

January 19, 2011

Boeing has delayed the Dreamliner again — for the seventh time!

The Telegraph reports:

Boeing told investors on Tuesday that the 787 will now be delivered to launch customer All Nippon Airways in the third quarter of the year, rather than the first, after a fire on one of the test planes in November. All test flights were suspended for six weeks after the fire.

The 787, which seats 210 to 250 passengers and has a list price of $202m, promises to be the company’s greenest and most efficient airliner yet and uses advanced composite materials to achieve these savings. However, technical problems have pushed the aircraft behind schedule and it is now into its third year of delays. Boeing is under pressure to deliver the 787, which has become the company’s fastest-selling airliner.

Shinichiro Ito, the president of All Nippon, said last week the airline is having a “hard time” dealing with the delay. Boeing has secured 847 orders for the 787, which took its maiden flight in December 2009. Boeing insisted the latest setback will not have a “material impact” on its results, something investors appeared to agree with.

Meanwhile Qantas experiences further problems with its Rolls Royce engines . AFP reports on two Boeing 747 Qantas flights with engine problems:

A Qantas passenger jet bound for New York made an unscheduled stop in Fiji after it developed a problem with one of its engines, the Australian airline said Wednesday.

Qantas said flight QF107, a Boeing 747, carrying 375 passengers from Sydney to New York via Los Angeles, touched down in Nadi on Tuesday for repairs to a fuel valve supplying one of its engines…..

…… The hitch comes just days after another Qantas Boeing 747, QF11 to Los Angeles, experienced a contained engine failure on the runway of Sydney airport due to a turbine blade defect.

Media reports on that incident said that passengers heard “a loud bang” and saw black smoke pour from the affected engine, with the captain reportedly telling those on board that the engine had “cooked itself” over the plane’s intercom.

The “contained”  engine failure is the more serious issue. The Boeing 747 long-reach aircraft flown by Qantas uses  Rolls-Royce RB211-524G-T engines. The “T” at the end signifies that it includes some of the Trent modifications. The Trent 900 engines are used on the Airbus A380s while the Trent 1000 is  planned for the Boeing Dreamliner.

A Trent 1000 experienced an uncontained failure on the test-bed last year while the Trent 900 has had an uncontained failure and a number of other difficulties on the A380.

Related:

https://ktwop.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/rolls-royce-trent-1000-fix-is-defined/

https://ktwop.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/in-flight-failure-of-rb-211-524-engine/

https://ktwop.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/qantas-a-380-suffers-in-flight-rr-trent-900-engine-failure/

https://ktwop.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/trent-900-vs-gp7200-competitive-pressures-getting-too-hot/

https://ktwop.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/further-boeing-dreamliner-delays-and-rolls-royce-shares-feeling-the-heat/

Trent 900: European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) relaxed earlier directive and reduced inspection frequency

November 13, 2010

Now that it seems that the main cause of the uncontained failure of the Trent 900 on Qantas Airbus QF32 has been diagnosed, and that a remedy is being implemented, attention is turning to the Regulators.

In September the FAA issued an Airworthiness Directive (AD) for the Trent 900 based on an AD issued in August by the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). Since the incident EASA has now issued an Emergency AD regarding the inspection of wear within the Trent 900.

Yesterday  Joerg Handwerg, a spokesman for the pilots’ union for Lufthansa said that minor problems are routine for any jet engine, but it is possible that the issues were an indication that regulators did not adequately check the engine before approving it for commercial use. “When you see we have a problem with not just one of these engines but several then it points towards that we have a problem in the certification process,” Handwerg said.

Today Business Week (carrying an AP report) writes that “Air agency issued engine warning then eased checks”

Three months before a superjumbo jet engine blew apart and forced an emergency landing, European safety regulators had relaxed their inspection order for the same section of the engine implicated in the dangerous mishap. In January, the European Aviation Safety Agency required airlines to inspect for wear on the shaft that holds one of the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engine’s turbine discs. The more wear they found, the sooner future inspections would be required.

In August, after Rolls-Royce had inspected several engines, EASA revised its directive. Previously, airlines had to calculate how worn out the part was based on the worst spot. Under the revised directive they calculate the average wear over the entire part. And previously they had to assume the part was wearing out at a worst-case rate. The new rule allows them to calculate the wear rate on each engine. That meant less frequent inspections, which the revised directive said were “sufficient to prevent unacceptable wear.”

The implication here is that the airlines (or Rolls Royce) were finding the inspection regime onerous and EASA responded by rationalising the change to base the frequency of future inspections on “average” wear rather than the “worst case wear” observed. Inspections of course require skilled resources, cost money and increase the down-time of aircraft. It becomes essentially an issue of operational cost. EASA – like all regulators – has to walk the tightrope balancing between public safety interests and the airlines’ need to keep costs reasonable.

Business Week continues that EASA apparently avoided the use of the word “uncontained” in its AD whereas the FAA Directive was more sharply worded:

The European directives warned of the potential for “in-flight shut down, oil migration and oil fire.” The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration went further in adopting a version of the European directive in September, warning of an “uncontained failure of the engine, and damage to the airplane.” Some of the parts inside jet engines rotate faster than the speed of sound. Engines are designed so that even if part of one shatters, pieces of metal aren’t sent rocketing away from the engine. An “uncontained engine failure” with shrapnel-like engine pieces that can damage other parts of the plane is both rare and extremely dangerous.

That’s what happened Nov. 4. Investigators have said that leaking oil caused a fire in the engine of a Qantas A380 that heated metal parts and made the motor disintegrate over Indonesia last week before the jetliner returned safely to Singapore. Experts say the mishap damaged vital systems on the plane, which had been bound for Sydney.

The safety order wasn’t addressing the exact same problem that caused the Qantas engine to disintegrate, but is very similar and involved a turbine next to the one that broke apart, said Chuck Eastlake, a former professor of aerospace engineering at Embry-Riddle University in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The decision to relax the EASA order was likely based on inspections that gave engineers confidence that the wear on parts that could cause an oil leak was predictable enough to allow more time to elapse, Eastlake said. In hindsight that appears not to have been the case, he said.

“That kind of stuff is always a judgment call based on experience,” Eastlake said. “It’s hard to specifically justify a decision like that because it isn’t a matter of plugging numbers into a calculator and out comes an answer.”

John Cox, an aviation safety consultant and former airline pilot, said it’s a question of balancing “what is reasonable to ask the airlines to do against safety. The problem is we had a catastrophic failure. It turned out that apparently at least one engine had substantial wear that inspections didn’t pick up,” he said in a telephone interview from London.

No one from EASA was available to talk about the directive late Friday.

The different communications strategies used by the players involved have varied greatly. Rolls Royce have said remarkably little and even their latest statement was baked into a Trading Report for investors. In such a report the objective is to reassure the audience so that share price holds up and doesn’t crash. The conclusions – in consequence – have to be tailored to these objectives.  In this case the focus was on showing that while there will be some costs, profits for the year will not be hit too hard. Investors – and not passengers – were clearly the audience for this Rolls Royce communication and that is of some concern.

The other players – the airlines, Airbus and the Regulators – have all issued communications according to their interests. In fact, the most detailed information about the accident has come from Airbus sources and not from Qantas or from Rolls Royce. But that is coincidental, since clearly Airbus is greatly concerned that the aircraft not be “unfairly” blamed.  Other manufacturers of parts for the Trent 900 have also been quick to point out that “they are not at fault”. Yesterday SKF and Volvo Aero who are both sub-suppliers to Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines rushed to point out that the components they supply were not involved.

But of course the relationship between the airlines and the manufacturers is a symbiotic one. Business Week goes on:

Qantas spokesman Tom Woodward said Qantas has complied with all safety orders. Rolls-Royce Group PLC said in an update to investors Friday that the Qantas engine incident last week was due to failure in a specific component that caused an engine fire and “the release of the intermediate pressure turbine disc.” The company will be replacing the relevant part “according to an agreed program” as inspections on the engine continue in association with aviation regulators, it said. The company did not provide details. The disc, a plate that holds the turbine blades that move air through the motor, broke apart in last week’s mishap. Lufthansa spokesman Thomas Jachnow said the German airline has been told “that Rolls-Royce will gradually replace a modular part of the engine on all Trent 900 engines.” He added that the “exact parts to be replaced haven’t been finalized yet.”

Airbus Chief Operating Officer John Leahy told reporters in Sydney that new versions of the Trent 900 engine that powers the Airbus A380 superjumbo will not suffer from the oil leaks that appear to have caused the fire on the Qantas flight. He said Rolls-Royce was equipping Trent 900s with software that would shut down a motor with leaking oil before it was put at risk of disintegration. Airbus said it planned to take newer versions of the Trent engine off its A380 production line and ship them to Qantas so that the airline could change the engines on some of its superjumbos.

“We think the engines on the production line will be fine,” The Age newspaper of Melbourne, Australia, quoted Leahy as saying. “The new engines should not have that issue … in terms of this one part that seems to have had a problem with leaking oil.”

The Herald Sun of Melbourne reported that Leahy said Rolls-Royce had made changes to some versions of engine to prevent such problems before the Nov. 4 mishap, but Airbus spokesman Justin Dubon denied the report. He said Leahy was referring to changes to the engines being made in light of the mishap.

Leahy, when asked whether he was suggesting that Rolls-Royce knew about problems with the engines before the Qantas incident, said, “Absolutely not,” according to Dubon. Dubon would not comment on whether changes had been made before the Qantas engine disintegrated, or whether the software Leahy described would be installed on engines already in service, referring those questions to Rolls-Royce. Rolls-Royce and the EASA declined repeated requests to comment about Leahy’s remarks.

A mechanic who works for an airline that uses the engine told The Associated Press, however, that Rolls-Royce made modifications to the oil lubrication system on Trent 900s delivered starting in the second half of 2009. The mechanic spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the media. The Qantas flight whose engine blew apart came into service in 2007.

Before last week’s disintegration there were four malfunctions involving Trent 900 engines dating to 2008, three of which centered on the turbines or oil system. All the planes landed safely.

Two of the malfunctions led to EASA warnings, including the directive issued in January and revised in August.

There are three turbines in the Trent 900 engine. The EASA order said wear had been found on parts in the intermediate turbine that could cause an oil leak. The order warned that oil leaking from the intermediate turbine could cause a fire under the adjacent lower turbine, causing the disc in that turbine to fail. Instead, there was an oil fire in the Qantas plane, but it was the intermediate turbine disc that failed. The two turbines are just a few inches apart, said Eastlake, the former aerospace engineering professor.

London-based Rolls-Royce said in an update to investors Friday that the incident will cause full year profit growth “to be slightly lower than previously guided,” but it also said that the company’s other operations will help to offset any losses.

Shares in the company rose after the update — a signal that investors are happy to see a definitive statement after days of silence from the world’s second-biggest engine maker behind General Electric.

There is clearly a need for looking again at the role of Regulators and how they create the balance between “public concern” and the interests of the industry they regulate. This is not unlike the balance in the financial world that regulators and auditors have spectacularly failed to achieve in recent years. This failure has been perhaps the primary cause of the financial crisis.

I cannot help thinking also that when the number of players is limited (as with aircraft suppliers or engine manufacturers) that there is a point beyond which competitive pressure can become counter-productive.


Qantas preparing for summer schedules without their A 380 fleet?

November 11, 2010

It seems that Qantas are preparing their summer schedules allowing for a potentially long non-availability of their A380s.

SMH (Business Day) reports that signs have emerged (that) Qantas’ flagship A380 aircraft may be out of service over the summer holidays, with its new schedule for international flights in coming weeks not including the A380.

Fairfax media says the airline’s A330 aircraft have replaced Boeing 747s on several Asian routes, freeing up the Boeing 747s to fly on the long-haul routes to Los Angeles and London. Fairfax quoted aviation insiders as saying that the Qantas A380 fleet was likely to remain grounded for weeks with the engine problem likely to be taking quite some time.

Qantas says it still hopes the A380s will be cleared within days, but at this stage it can provide no update and it won’t return the A380s to service until it can guarantee absolute safety.

Aviation Week reveals that all the changes and inspections of the engines on the A380s are straining the operations of Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.

The decisions by Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Lufthansa to replace Trent 900 engines on parts of their Airbus A380 fleets indicates continued uncertainty over what prompted the uncontained engine failure on a Qantas Airways A380 and is highlighting the operational strains when one of the mega-transports is not available.

But the upheaval in A380 operations – the first significant disruptions for the Airbus flagship since it entered service in 2007 – also is highlighting the challenges airlines face when having to replace an A380 in day-to-day operations. To mitigate the effects, Lufthansa, for instance, is rushing to make its engine change so it will not have to miss another flight.

One issue for Lufthansa is that the latest engine change will consume its last available spare Trent 900.

With three of its 12 A380s grounded for engine changes, an SIA spokesman acknowledges that there will be flight disruptions to passengers. All three aircraft are displaced from the airline’s home base, with one located in London and the other two at Sydney.

The Age also reports that Airlines are frustrated with Roll-Royce’s reluctance to communicate publicly. Even Emirates – which uses different engines on its A380 – said it was worried that passengers might be frightened off.

“We really don’t want this aircraft tarnished with a reputation for failures in certain areas,” said Emirates’ president Tim Clark. ”One thing we will not allow is a contagion effect.”

Emergency Airworthiness Directive issued for Trent 900

November 11, 2010

The European Aviation Safety Agency have released Emergency Airworthiness Directive (EAD) 2010-0236-E requiring operators of Trent 900 engines to perform inspections of their engines.

The Directive is applicable to the following engine variants: RB211 Trent 900 series engines, variants RB211 Trent 970-84, RB211Trent 970B-84, RB211 Trent 972-84, RB211 Trent 972B-84, RB211 Trent977-84, RB211 Trent 977B-84 and RB211 Trent 980-84, all serialnumbers.These engines are known to be installed on, but not limited to, AirbusA380 series aeroplanes.

Reason: An uncontained engine failure has recently occurred on a Rolls-RoyceTrent 900 involving release of high energy debris and leading to damage to the aeroplane.Analysis of the preliminary elements from the incident investigation showsthat an oil fire in the HP/IP structure cavity may have caused the failure ofthe Intermediate Pressure Turbine (IPT) Disc.This condition, if not detected, could ultimately result in uncontained engine failure potentially leading to damage to the aeroplane and hazardsto persons or property on the ground.For the reasons described above and pending conclusion of the incidentinvestigation, this AD requires repetitive inspections of the Low PressureTurbine (LPT) stage 1 blades and case drain, HP/IP structure air buffercavity and oil service tubes in order to detect any abnormal oil leakage,and if any discrepancy is found, to prohibit further engine operation.The requirements of this AD are considered as interim action. If, as a result of the on-going incident investigation, a terminating action is later identified, further mandatory actions might be considered.

Required as indicated, unless accomplished previously:

(1) Within the compliance times indicated in Table 1 of this AD, accomplish the following actions in accordance with Rolls-RoyceNon Modification Service Bulletin (NMSB) 72-AG590, Par 3. Accomplishment Instructions, 3.A or 3.B as applicable to the engine configuration:

(1.1) Carry out an extended ground idle run.

(1.2) Inspect the Low Pressure Turbine (LPT) stage 1 blades andcase drain.(1.3) Inspect the HP/IP structure air buffer cavity and oil service tubes.

(2) If any discrepancy is found during the inspections required by paragraph (1) of this AD, any further engine operation is prohibited. Within one day after the accomplishment of the inspection, report the findings to Rolls-Royce.

(3) Inspections accomplished in accordance with the content of NMSB72-AG590 before the effective date of this AD, are acceptable to comply with the initial inspections required by this AD.

(4) After the effective date of this AD, do not operate an engine on an aeroplane unless it has been inspected in accordance with the requirements of this AD.

The Aviation Herald points out that:

An oil fire possibly similiar to the Qantas Trent 972 led to an uncontained engine failure of a Trent 772 engine on Edelweiss’ Airbus A330-200 registration HB-IQZ near Miami, see Final Report: Edelweiss A330 at Miami on Oct 5th 2003, uncontained engine failure during departure. In their safety recommendations released in December 2006 following the conclusion of the investigation the NTSB wrote:

“Disassembly of the No. 1 engine revealed evidence of heat damage and distress in the HP/IP turbine bearing chamber consistent with the presence of an oil fire. Microstructure examination of the fracture surfaces on the IP turbine disk drive arm revealed damage consistent with a localized fire that caused the drive arm to eventually fail and separate, allowing the IP turbine disk to overspeed. The overspeed condition resulted in the liberation of all IP turbine disk blades through the IP turbine case, with some blades striking the airplane. Because thermal damage within the HP/IP turbine bearing chamber and associated hardware prevented identifying the exact cause of the fire based solely on the physical evidence from the No. 1 engine, the No. 2 engine was examined to help establish possible causes or contributors to the bearing chamber fire in the No. 1 engine.

A borescope inspection of the No. 2 engine revealed that the HP/IP turbine bearing chamber internal vent tube was obstructed with a black substance. An airflow check of the vent tube revealed that the air passage was not completely blocked. A nondestructive three-dimensional neutron tomography analysis revealed that the substance was not solid and was characterized by nodules of carbon deposits (also known as coke) with areas of voids. Although coke formations within oil tubes are not uncommon, the morphology, amount, and location of the carbon deposits found in the vent tube of the No. 2 engine were unusual and inconsistent with coke formation seen on other Trent engines or from other service experiences.”

The NTSB had concluded in April 2006 the probable cause of the Trent 772’s failure was:
“the coking (carbon build-up) in a vent tube which led to a fire and the subsequent liberation of the IP turbine blades. Contributing to the cause of the uncontained engine failure was the absence of measures to adequately monitor the in-service performance of a new engine/oil combination.”

Rolls Royce honing in on problem: share price slide halted

November 8, 2010

It seems that Rolls Royce are honing in on the A380 problem which seems to be specific to the Trent 900 engine (and perhaps just the Qantas Trent 900 engines) and unconnected with the earlier test bed incident on a Trent 1000. The share sell-off which continued on Monday morning was halted and the share price had recovered somewhat by the end of the trading day in London.

StockMarketWire.com

Rolls-Royce is to carry out a series of checks on Airbuses powered by its Trent 900 engine following an engine failure on a Qantas flight last week.

 

RR share price on Monday November 8th: moneyam.com

 

Rolls-Royce said it had made progress on the cause of the failure and it was now clear the incident was specific to the Trent 900 engine.  It said: “As a result, a series of checks and inspections has been agreed with Airbus, with operators of the Trent 900 powered A380 and with the airworthiness authorities.
“These are being progressively completed which is allowing a resumption of operation of aircraft in full compliance with all safety standards. “We are working in close cooperation with Airbus, our customers and the authorities, and as always safety remains our highest priority.”
Rolls-Royce adds: “We can be certain that the separate Trent 1000 event which occurred in August 2010 on a test bed in Derby is unconnected.  This incident happened during a development programme with an engine operating outside normal parameters. We understand the cause and a solution has been implemented.”
It said the Trent 900 incident was the first of its kind to occur on a large civil Rolls-Royce engine since 1994. Since then Rolls-Royce has accumulated 142 million hours of flight on Trent and RB211 engines.

Further Boeing Dreamliner delays and Rolls Royce shares feeling the heat

November 7, 2010

Over 25 million shares were sold on Thursday and Friday as Rolls Royce shares plummetted from 654p to 591p as their problems with the Trent 900 engines for the Airbus A380 and with the RB211-524 engines for the Boeing 747 became apparent.

Further delays of the Boeing Dreamliner which is to use the RR Trent 1000 engines were reported causing speculation that some of these delays were due to delays with the engine.

Boeing Co.  has told several of its early customers that delivery of the 787 Dreamliner will be delayed by as long as 10 months, Aviation Week reported Friday, citing industry sources. Korean Air will receive its first 787 in August 2012, 10 months later than planned. Air India, previously slated to receive the plane in April 2011, will get it in September or October of that year.

Boeing has said it intends to make the first delivery of the plane to All Nippon Airways in the middle of the 2011’s first quarter, according to reports.

Aviation news website FlightGlobal.com reported Thursday that Japan Airlines Corp. had expected to receive its first 787 delivery in March 2011, will now get the plane in June 2011.

http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story_channel.jsp?channel=comm&id=news/awx/2010/11/05/awx_11_05_2010_p0-267220.xml&headline=Boeing%20Tells%20Carriers%20About%20More%20787%20Delays

Internecine litigation: Pratt & Whitney counter-sue Rolls Royce

November 5, 2010

Bloomberg reports:

United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney jet-engine unit filed patent-infringement complaints against Rolls-Royce Group Plc, a counterpunch in a dispute that may affect delivery of Boeing Co.’s Dreamliner airplanes.

Pratt & Whitney said it filed a complaint today at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington that claims the Trent 900 and Trent 1000 model engines made by London-based Rolls-Royce are infringing a patent for a swept-fan blade. A complaint making similar allegations was filed at the U.K. High Court in London, according to the company.

That the timing of the filing is unconnected and entirely coincidental with the current technical issues faced by Rolls Royce on their Trent 900 and 1000 engines is possible but unlikely. I am sure Pratt & Whitney’s lawyers are perfectly aware of the advantages of hitting an opponent when he is down.

 

File:Great Game cartoon from 1878.jpg

The Great Game: wikimedia

 

Bloomberg continues:

A ruling in favor of Pratt & Whitney by the ITC would mean Rolls-Royce would be blocked from shipping engines for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, now in the final stages of flight testing. The U.K. lawsuit may limit shipments for the Airbus SAS A380, now in use by international carriers including Qantas Airways Ltd., and the Airbus A350XWB model powered solely by another version of the Trent engine.

“Pratt & Whitney’s case is very strong and we were left with no choice but to take these actions in light of Rolls- Royce’s aggression,” said Katy Padgett, a spokeswoman for East Hartford, Connecticut-based Pratt & Whitney. “We regret that these actions are necessary, and we continue to be willing to discuss a mutually acceptable resolution to this dispute.”

The complaints escalate a legal battle that started when Rolls-Royce sued Pratt & Whitney in May, claiming the GP7200 Fan Stage infringed a patent for a design that gives the largest part of a jet engine greater resistance to damage by foreign objects, more stability and lower noise levels. It later added Pratt’s Geared TurboFan engines, as Airbus and Boeing consider getting more efficient engines on the bestselling A320 and 737 planes.

Patent infringements must no doubt be fought but an internecine battle of this kind among the few engine manufacturers left may lead to some immediate competitive advantages to one or the other, but in the long-term could damage the entire industry to the ultimate detriment of the the consumers. The dispute has the potential of delaying engines to a variety of aircraft and to a number of airlines.

Trent 900 vs. GP7200: Competitive pressures getting too hot?

November 5, 2010

There are only two engines suitable for the A 380 – Rolls Royce’s  Trent 900 and its rival the GP7200 manufactured by the General Electric/Pratt & Whitney Engine Alliance.

Nov. 2012- Image updated: from http://www.enginealliance.com/engine_features.html

Engine Alliance GP7200: image http://www.enginealliance.com/

It is highly unlikely that the aircraft industry would ever allow a situation to arise where there was only one supplier of engines. A monopoly is something to be avoided at all costs in any purchaser / supplier arrangement. It follows that for the airlines and the airplane manufacturers that the market (in this case the number of A 380s) be split between the two suppliers such that:

  1. neither supplier gains a dominant market position such that it can dictate the engine price,
  2. each supplier has a large enough market share and sufficient earnings such that their continuation in the market is not jeopardised (for the sake of spares, service, development of new engines and, above all, to avoid a monopoly situation arising by the exit of one supplier).

Trent 900 cut away: epower-propulsion.com

If either engine supplier has an uncompetitive product – whether for price or for performance – the monopoly becomes inevitable and immediately jeopardises the continuation of the market itself. So if only one engine supplier was available, the A 380 itself becomes non-viable.

In this restricted market place, it would seem, a win-win situation should not be impossible. Yet the competition between the protagonists is intense and the technology boundaries are under constant pressure as each supplier tries to gain a competitive edge over the other. Each engine manufacturer knows that he will not be permitted to gain a market-dominant position. But the costs of engine development are so high that every little gain in market share is hotly pursued.

For the airline industry, fuel cost is a dominating cost element and even minute gains in fuel efficiency are well worth pursuing. The intense competition between the two engines for the A 380, is centred around fuel efficiency. The GP7200 is generally thought to have a 1% advantage. It also seems to be the strategy for the U.S. engine makers to constantly maintain this performance gap over their competitor as each tries to improve performance. The Trent 900 has a slightly higher thrust(about 3%) and prices are, of course, a closely guarded secret.

For fuel efficiency therefore it seems that Rolls Royce is playing catch-up. To get a decisive advantage each new improvement must be sufficient to go past the competitor – who in turn will introduce improvements to regain his advantage. But fuel efficiency is not easily gained.

  • Higher temperatures can give improved efficiency but lead to the need for new materials to handle the higher stresses at the higher temperatures,
  • reduced clearances can reduce leakage losses and increase efficiency but require increased manufacturing accuracy and can increase the possibilities of wear
  • more complex designs are devised where component positions can be changed during operation to optimise efficiency at different operating conditions but which increase the possibility of unwanted contacts within the engine.

That this competitive pressure leads to innovation is – I think – beyond doubt. But the Trent 1000 has had an “uncontained” explosion on the test bed. The Trent 900 has had one in flight.

The question that comes to mind is whether the competitive pressure and the quest for fuel efficiency has led to “too much – too quickly” for the Trent ?

Rolls Royce Trent 1000 fix is in place

September 28, 2010

RR Trent 1000 cutaway

On August 2nd a  production standard ‘Package A’ Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine suffered an engine failure while on the test stand at the company’s Derby, UK facility. The ‘Package A’ engines do not incorporate upgrades planned for the ‘Package B’ engines, which will bring the specific fuel consumption target within 1% of planned spec. The failure – which has been described as an “uncontained failure” – of the Trent 1000 engine, which powers the Dreamliner, resulted in “limited debris being released into the test facility,”
At the time a Rolls-Royce spokesman rejected speculation that the unavailability of the engine that Boeing required was related to the incident earlier this month at one of its test facilities in Derby, England, saying the events were “unrelated,” though he declined to elaborate.

Aviation Week: Rolls-Royce says it is already testing an upgrade to the Trent 1000 engine to mitigate a component problem that caused a failure of one of the turbofans this month. The engine maker suffered a Trent 1000 engine failure this month on a test stand in Derby, England, with the powerplant in a sea-level testbed configuration at high power. The engine suffered an intermediate pressure turbine-related failure because of what is being called an “inappropriate operating regime.”

Rolls officials note that ground and flight trials have not been affected, nor is the miscue expected to affect the larger 787 schedule. Rolls supplies the Trent 1000 to Boeing 787 lead customer All Nippon Airways.

Although some elements of what transpired are understood, a Rolls-Royce official notes that “we are now investigating in detail and have made good progress in understanding the issue.” The company was aware of the issue, so later model Trent 1000 builds already have a fix in place, which is now also being installed on engines built to the earlier standard.

The grapevine as to what transpired on August 2nd points to an oil fire in the high pressure compressor drum leading to a failure of the intermediate pressure (IP) shaft. One industry source says once the IP shaft failed, the mounted IP turbine disk moved rearward, causing its blades to impact the low pressure (LP) turbine inlet guide vanes. The result was the separation of the IP turbine disk, which subsequently spun out of the casing and into the test stand.  The same source adds that the “non-adherence to test procedures” was the root cause of the failure, saying that the “stand crew ran more cold starts in close succession than allowed without purging of fuel and oil that accumulate within the engine in places these fluids are not supposed to be.”

Bloomberg reports today that Boeing delayed the 787’s first delivery last month for the sixth time, saying Rolls-Royce wasn’t going to be able to supply an engine needed to finish flight testing. A $17 million Trent 1000 blew up during testing on Aug. 2, forcing Rolls-Royce to close the plant for repairs to the Derby, England, site used to test engines for the 787 and the Airbus SAS A350.

Dreamliner with RR Trent 1000 engines

Boeing Co. said Rolls-Royce Group Plc has a remedy for the August blowout of a jet engine for the 787 Dreamliner aircraft and the two companies will discuss it in meetings in Seattle this week.

A Rolls-Royce team will brief Boeing on a plan that supports the latest target for delivering the delayed Dreamliner at the beginning of next year, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Jim Albaugh said. Boeing parked one of its five Dreamliner test jets earlier this month to replace one of its two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines that had experienced a power surge before takeoff. Albaugh said a fix is already in place to address the issue, which Boeing has said was unrelated to the engine blowout.


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