Posts Tagged ‘Rolls Royce’

What did Rolls Royce know and when?

November 20, 2010

Rolls Royce have been conspicuously silent but it is now emerging from the airlines that Rolls Royce knew something was amiss with the older versions of the Trent 900 long before the engine failure on QF32 on November 4th. The indications are that they had serious doubts about the unmodified engines by May this year – and perhaps even earlier.

I posted my assessments about this on November 14th and 15th.

Did Rolls Royce know about the risk for a Trent 900 failure before the Qantas accident?

Problem with Trent 900 was known before accident and raises ethical questions

From an AP report via Yahoo Finance

Rolls-Royce modified a problematic section on new models of its engine for the world’s largest jetliner months before one caught fire and blew apart over Indonesia, a Lufthansa spokesman said Thursday.

The chief executive of Qantas, meanwhile, said Rolls-Royce had made modifications to the Trent 900 engine without telling the airline or Airbus, which makes the A380 superjumbo.

The officials’ remarks were the strongest indication yet that Rolls-Royce had addressed a defect in new models of the engine while allowing Airbus A380 superjumbos to continue flying with unmodified older models.

Lufthansa’s first A380, delivered by Airbus on May 19, had three newer versions of the Trent 900 engine and one older version, airline spokesman Thomas Jachnow said.

“When we got our first aircraft it was curious that one was from an older one and three were totally new from the production line,” Jachnow said. “I think this is more or less the cusp where the old to new happened.”

The Daily Telegraph carries a similar story:

The two airlines said Rolls had not informed them about the changes to the Trent 900, although sources close to the industry played down the modifications as “continuous improvements” and said reports that the changes related to the part that caused the oil leak on the Qantas A380 were “plain wrong”.

Rolls shares fell 11½, or 2pc, to 592p.

Investors are wary that the incident could cost Rolls customers. It is understood there are 22 A380s – bought by Qatar Airways, Kingfisher, Etihad and Air Austral – which are yet to decide whether to use the Trent 900 or a rival made by GE and Pratt & Whitney.

According to Alan Joyce, Qantas chief executive, up to 40 engines could be replaced. Mr Joyce also claimed that Rolls had already been changing the engine. “Rolls-Royce have gone and modified certain parts of this engine,” he stated. “If this was significant and was known to be significant, we would have liked to have known about that. We and Airbus weren’t aware of it. But it depends on what the purpose of modifications were for. It doesn’t look like it’s a significant modification, but it is a modification that has an impact on how the engines are performing.”

A Lufthansa spokesman said it had noticed differences in newer versions of the Trent 900 it had been sent.

In addition to all their technical and logistic issues, Rolls Royce now need to urgently address their loss of credibility and provide detailed answers to:

What did Rolls Royce know and when did they know it?

Rolls Royce will face costs of over 300 million $ to fix the Trent 900 problems

November 19, 2010

Rolls Royce now faces direct costs for replacement of 40 Trent 900 engines, compensation claims from Airbus and from the airlines involved and lost opportunity costs as the Trent 900 inevitably loses market share to the General Electric / Pratt & Whitney Alliance GP 7200 engine. These could add up to around 300 million $ for fixing the Trent 900 problems and that is a best case scenario which assumes that they have not been negligent in knowingly supplying unfit engines. The cost of the consequent loss of market share cannot be easily quantified.

Airbus has already signalled that it is preparing its compensation claims for the additional costs incurred by diverting new engines from the Airbus production line to the replacement of faulty engines for Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa. Any consequent delays to the aircraft under production at Airbus will no doubt lead to further penalties for Rolls Royce. The airlines are also, I am sure, preparing their compensation claims. Qantas is said to be losing one million dollars for every day without its A380’s. The fleet has been grounded for 15 days so far and it seems likely that this may last another 2 or 3 weeks and maybe for the rest of the 2010 calendar year. Qantas has already prepared its summer schedules based on no A380’s being available. Singapore Airlines has restarted its A380 flights.

In most supply contracts the consequential business losses at the airlines would not normally accrue to Rolls Royce but if it can be shown that the faulty engines delivered by Rolls Royce were “not fit for service” or – even more damagingly – that Rolls Royce were aware of the faults when the engines were delivered then Rolls Royce could be liable for massive damages and even for criminal negligence. In fact it would be comparable to issuing a cheque with no money in a bank account which could be construed as criminal negligence and fraud. Certainly it seems that Rolls Royce has known for some time that some of the engines delivered were “not fit for service” and it is highly unlikely that they could completely escape paying some compensation to the airlines. If the method of operation or maintenance by Qantas could be shown to be a contributory factor then Rolls Royce would have had some possibility of resisting the claim and of mitigating the penalties. But if the engines were “unfit for service” to begin with, then it even becomes possible for Airbus and the airlines to make claims for “loss of reputation” in addition to claims for loss of business. There is no viable defence at all if Rolls Royce knowingly supplied unfit engines.

A Trent 900 engine has a price of about 30 million $ and a complete A380 sells for about 320 million $. The direct cost for the engine rectifications for 40 engines is likely to be around 100 million dollars and this could easily increase to 300 or 400 million dollars with the compensation claims mainly from Airbus and Qantas. The Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa claims for compensation will not be small but will be significantly lower than the claims from Qantas. But if Rolls Royce has been negligent- whether criminally or not – then all bets are off and I think costs could escalate to be of the order of one billion dollars.

While the direct costs and compensation – once settled – can be quantified, the effects of loss of market share is potentially even more damaging but much more difficult to quantify. Since there are only 2 engine suppliers I would estimate that Rolls Royce will lose at least 5% market share to its rival as a consequence of this incident.

From my previous knowledge of the costs of fixing problems with land based gas turbines (more than 1 billion $ each for General Electric with their F-class Frame 7 and Frame 9 machines and for Alstom  and Siemens with their versions of F-class machines), I would be looking for Rolls Royce to provide – as a matter of prudence – for at least 200 million £ (300 million $) during this quarter. Rolls Royce will need to sell around 100 new engines just to recover this cost.

From an investor perspective I find the lack of communication from Rolls Royce inexplicable and suggestive that there has in fact been some negligence.

Rolls Royce kept Airbus and Qantas in the dark about two key engine modifications

November 18, 2010

The CEO of Qantas has revealed that when the Trent 900 engine failed on QF32, shrapnel from the exploding engine narrowly missed the wing fuel tank which could have caused the plane to explode. The Sydney Morning Herald:

SHRAPNEL from the engine explosion on Qantas QF32 severed a fuel pipe and narrowly missed the wing’s fuel tank, according to official preliminary reports. The chief executive, Alan Joyce, also confirmed yesterday that as many as 40 Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines fitted to A380 superjumbos worldwide might have to be replaced.

The reports, seen by the Herald, of the damage incurred on November 4 reveal the extent to which metal components tore through the wing. The debris severed wiring looms, chopping a main fuel pipe, puncturing structural spars and ribs and punching through wing surface panels.

Qantas was ”very, very lucky” that thousands of litres of highly flammable jet fuel in the wings did not ignite from the ruptured fuel pipe or from a spark from severed wiring, said Adrian Mouritz, the head of aerospace and aviation engineering at RMIT University. ”If that fuel ignited, that aircraft would have exploded,” he said.

Qantas and Rolls-Royce are still ”days away” from identifying which engines might have to be replaced. The engine maker had kept the airline and Airbus in the dark about two series of production changes to the engine’s internals.

”What Rolls-Royce have done is that they have modified certain parts of this engine. We and Airbus were not aware of it,” Mr Joyce said.

Further extracts from the official reports and pictures of the damage from

damage 01

Damage to the wing of QF32


The questions for Rolls Royce are multiplying and their lack of communications is astounding. Not only, it seems, did Rolls Royce know about the risks of engine failure before the Trent 900 exploded on QF32, but they have also modified the engine and quietly started introducing the modifications without Qantas and Airbus being aware of the significance or the risks with the unmodified engines!!!!!

Rolls Royce must replace 40 of 80 Trent 900 engines deployed

November 18, 2010

I posted a few days ago that Rolls Royce would need to change out about 40 of the Trent 900 engines on the A380’s in operation with Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa.

Now -via Qantas and The Press Association – this number has been confirmed by Rolls Royce:

Up to half of the Rolls-Royce engines of the type which disintegrated on an Airbus superjumbo this month may need to be replaced by the three carriers in Australia, Singapore and Germany, Qantas’s chief executive has said.

Australia’s Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Germany’s Lufthansa fly A380s powered by four giant Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, with a total of 80 engines on 20 planes.

Qantas chief Alan Joyce said that Rolls-Royce had indicated that up to 40 of them may need to be replaced.

“Rolls-Royce are still working through the criteria for which engines need to be changed,” he said on the sidelines of an event in Sydney unrelated to the A380 incident. He said that 14 of the 24 engines on Qantas planes may have to be replaced.

Whether Rolls Royce knew about the engine fault and the consequent risk prior to the accident on QF32 remains unanswered and whether the European Regulator (EASA) relaxed its inspection frequency Directive in response to Rolls Royce representations also remains unanswered.

Rolls-Royce cancels Zhuhai Air Show press conference

November 17, 2010

Rolls-Royce, beset by criticism over its public handling of the uncontained failures of its Trent 900 and 1000 engines, has canceled its planned Airshow China show briefing.

The engine-maker offered no explanation for the cancellation, leaving media attending the show only to speculate on its sudden change of plans.

Did Rolls Royce know about the risk for a Trent 900 failure before the Qantas accident?

November 14, 2010

Another new twist to the Rolls Royce Trent story.

First it appears that the regulators (EASA) relaxed their original inspection requirements in their Directive of August. It is not clear if this relaxation was in response to the airlines or to the engine maker requesting a change.

Now it seems that Rolls Royce may well have known (perhaps a year ago) that a number of their engines on “older” A 380s were susceptible to oil leaks and therefore to the potentially catastrophic consequences of a fire. About 40 engines on the Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa A 380s have to be changed out.  The newer engines have undergone two modifications compared to the older engines. It seems that Rolls Royce started modifying oil systems on some engines almost a year ago.

If Rolls Royce knew about the risk to the Trent 900 before the flight of Qantas QF32 on November 4th, there is an ethical dimension which needs to be considered.

According to the Herald Sun,

Fourteen of the 24 Trent 900 engines fitted to the six A380s Qantas has grounded are suspected of having an oil leak problem. Another 24 “faulty” engines are on Singapore Airlines jets. The airline has grounded three A380s. Two have been found by the German carrier, which has suffered two Trent incidents.

Revised versions of the engine are being rushed to Qantas.

Sir John Rose, chairman of the British engine maker, issued a statement late on Friday in which he admitted a “specific component in the turbine area of the engine caused an oil fire”, which led to a turbine disc hurtling out. He offered “regret” for causing “disruption”. But he failed to reveal when Rolls-Royce discovered the turbines of the Trent 900 were being exposed to the dangerous oil leaks and the dates of the two upgrades.

Qantas, Singapore Airlines and German carrier Lufthansa installed the original-spec engines on some of their jets. It is understood Qantas has begun record checks to see whether Rolls kept its engineers informed of the design changes to the $25 million engines.

An aircraft mechanic with one of the three airlines claimed Rolls-Royce began modifying the oil lubrication system on the Trent 900 engine in the second half of last year.

Rolls Royce to announce “solution” to Trent 900 problem later today

November 12, 2010

Rolls Royce are due to make a Trading Report today. They have informed their customer airlines and Airbus that they will announce that they have found the cause of the Trent 900 engine failure on the Qantas A 380 and have a planned solution. But Airbus expects that implementing the solution will take some time and will not be a quick fix.

Qantas Airbus A380 after making emergency landing at Singapore's Changi airport

Uncontained failure of the QF 32 RR Trent 900

Sydney Morning Herald:

British jet engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce will announce this afternoon that it has found a solution to the engine failure that caused a Qantas A380 to make an emergency landing in Singapore last week. Rolls-Royce is due to release a statement at 6pm AEST revealing that it has identified the problem with the Trent 900 engines and will make changes to their software.

This is aimed at enabling the engines to be shut down before they reach a stage at which they are about to disintegrate. Airbus’s chief operating officer, John Leahy, said in Sydney today that he had been informed that Rolls-Royce would issue a statement late today stating that they had found the cause of the engine explosion last week.

“They know they have found a solution to what caused the problem. They know how to fix that now but it will take some time,” he said.

Mr Leahy said he did not know how long it would take to make the changes.

Rolls-Royce’s investigation into the midair incident involving QF32 on November 4 had focused on an oil fire which had caused the failure of the number two engine’s intermediate turbine disc.

Rolls Royce investors will be watching closely:

RR one month share price

Rolls Royce faces 3 different engine issues as Singapore Airlines changes engines on 3 A 380s

November 10, 2010

It seems that Rolls Royce are facing  issues with three different engines; the Trent 900 for the A380s, the RB211-524s having Trent features and the Trent 1000.

Singapore Airlines are grounding three of their A380s for engine change-outs as a precautionary measure.


Singapore Airlines (SIA) said Wednesday it had grounded three Airbus A380 planes to carry out “precautionary” engine changes following a mid-air engine failure on a Qantas-operated superjumbo. “Based on further analysis of inspection findings as the investigation into last week’s incident involving another operator’s Airbus A380 is progressing, Singapore Airlines will be carrying out precautionary engine changes on three A380s,” the carrier said in a statement.

An SIA spokeswoman told AFP that Rolls Royce had advised the carrier to change the engines after tests showed oil stains on them. “We were advised by Rolls-Royce in particular that these three engines had signs of oil stains,” she said, stressing the issue was different from the problem that affected the Qantas A380 plane last week.

The three planes are now in London, Sydney and Melbourne pending the engine changes, and SIA could not confirm the duration of their grounding nor the cost of replacing the engines.

My simplistic view of what is certainly a very complicated picture is that there are certain operating conditions at which the Trent 900 is subject to oil leaks (possibly because some oil carrying pipes are susceptible to vibration based cracks). These operating conditions are probably when the Trent 900 is being “pushed” close to maximum thrust conditions and Qantas’ method of operation has these engines operating at these conditions for more of the time than other airlines. This mode of operation probably occurs more often at or soon after take-off.

Even though Rolls Royce has said that the issues with the Trent 1000 are entirely different and have been fixed, there remains the issue of whether the Trent based improvements when introduced into the RB211-524 engine also creates a “dangerous” operating zone.

It seems to me that Rolls Royce is wrestling with at least 3 different engine issues:

  1. with the Trent 900 for the A 380’s, especially at high-thrust conditions which Qantas uses more than other airlines,
  2. with the RB211-524 (xT) where the (T) represents the use of Trent features and used mainly in Boeing 747-400’s, and
  3. with the Trent 1000 for the Boeing Dreamliner where some issues have been fixed but where delays are still in the air.

I have no doubt that they are going to get fixed but the direct cost will be high and my guess is that Rolls Royce will have to bear the brunt of the cost with some costs incurred by Qantas for their own fleet. It will need the sale of many Trent 900s before Rolls Royce can amortise all the development and “teething” costs for this engine. It is of some small comfort that the number of engines to be “fixed in the field” is relatively small. The costs for Airbus will be mainly indirect for the loss of reputation and for some lost opportunities. But the A 380’s ability to land safely even after one wing was heavily damaged is not unimpressive.

Qantas A380 fleet to stay grounded for 3 more days as more engine issues are discovered

November 7, 2010

The 3 Trent 900 engines that Qantas had earlier been thought to have been investigating now seems to have grown to 4 engines – 2 in Sydney and 2 in Los Angeles. These engines were tested following a Rolls Royce recommended 8-hour test procedure but have now been taken off the wings of their aircrafts for further investigation.

These are in addition to the Trent 900 which exploded on the A 380 which returned to Singapore and the RB 211-524 on the Boeing 747-400 which also returned to Singapore when an engine failed.

The Herald Sun:

MORE Qantas A380 jet engines are out of service and undergoing further tests, the airline says. Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth said two of the Rolls-Royce built engines were in LA. “There are some engines being subject to further tests, but in line with normal procedure,” Ms Wirth told ABC radio today.

“In Los Angeles, there are two other engines that have been removed and we’ve been inspecting those. But this is, actually, common practice. It’s how you can make sure that you’re doing the right investigation.”

Fairfax newspapers today reported that Qantas had found issues with three more Rolls-Royce jet engines on its grounded Airbus A380 fleet. They also reported that two engines – one in Sydney and one in LA – had been taken off for closer inspection as a result of the eight-hour tests Rolls-Royce recommended.

“Deeper inspection could be for a number of things,” Ms Wirth said.

ABC reports:

Qantas says it has found problems with more of its A380 jet engines overnight, dashing hopes of an early return to service for the massive aircraft.

Steve Purvinis, the federal secretary of the Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association, says he is concerned about the “general safety culture” in the airline. But Qantas spokeswoman Olivia Wirth rejects any suggestions the airline is dropping its standards. “The reality is that for the last decade in fact … 80 to 85 per cent of maintenance is done onshore,” she said. “In fact, last year 92 per cent of all Qantas maintenance was done onshore in Australia, so it is simply untrue. In fact, the 747 which was involved in QF6 was maintained in Avalon in Melbourne.”

Ms Wirth says Qantas hopes to have its A380 aircraft back in action in the next three days.

Three more RR Trent 900 engines removed from Qantas A 380’s after testing

November 7, 2010

The Age reports that Qantas has removed three more Rolls Royce Trent 900 engines on A380’s parked in Sydney and Los Angeles after putting them through 8 hour tests recommended by Rolls Royce.


Engine trouble: An Airbus A380's Rolls-Royce engine.

Engine trouble: An Airbus A380's Rolls-Royce engine. Photo: Reuters via The Age


QANTAS has found issues with three more Rolls-Royce engines on its grounded Airbus A380 fleet that have required their removal from the wings, dashing the prospect of an early return to the skies.

Two of the engines taken off for closer inspection were on an A380 parked in Sydney and one is from a craft in Los Angeles. They were removed after the eight-hour tests Rolls-Royce recommended for each engine after the fleet was grounded.

The airline has one A380 in Singapore under investigation, one in Germany for servicing, one in Sydney and three in Los Angeles undergoing checks in the wake of the mid-air engine explosion last Thursday.

While Qantas will not say what the nature of the engine issues are, or whether the three engines are being examined for the same or different matters, the concern was sufficient to warrant their removal from the wings.
There is a disturbing silence from Rolls Royce and also from Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa who with Qantas use Trent 900’s on their A 380 aircraft.

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