Rolls-Royce has found additional costly technical problems with its Trent 1000 engines mere months after a separate durability issue was uncovered. The new pressure compressor problem, according to the manufacturer, has affected a “small number” of the Package B Trent 1000 engines in addition to the previous issues with the Package C Trent 1000s, which were revealed in March.
“We have therefore agreed with Boeing and the relevant regulatory authorities to carry out a one-off inspection of our Trent 1000 Package B fleet, to further inform our understanding [of the issue],” Rolls-Royce said in a statement. “The Package B standard has been in service since 2012 and consists of 166 engines.”
“We are working closely with our customers to minimise any operational impact of these inspections and we deeply appreciate their continued co-operation. We remain absolutely committed to eliminating this issue from the Trent 1000 fleet,” said Chris Cholerton, Rolls-Royce President of Civil Aerospace.
The report came just hours after Rolls-Royce, which is listed in the UK, refused to either confirm or deny rumors that it plans to cut 4,000 jobs. It will not affect Rolls-Royce’s full-year free cash flow target.
“The mitigating actions we continue to take across the group, enable us to be confident that our [full-year 2018] guidance for Group [Free Cash Flow] of around £450m +/- £100m remains unchanged”, the UK engineering group said.
In March, Rolls-Royce revealed that parts on about 500 of its Package C Trent 1000 engines were wearing out more quickly than expected. This means that airlines are forced to spend more on costs related to additional, more enhanced inspections. About 80% of the Package C version have undergone initial checks for cracks or signs of metal fatigue on turbine blades; a little under ⅓ of the engines failed the tests required for planes to fly more than 2 hours 20 minutes from the nearest diversionary airport.
The problems with the Package C Trent 1000s grounded Boeing 787 Dreamliners for enhanced inspections; Airbus A380s were also affected by the Package C problems. Airlines such as Air New Zealand have been forced to lease replacement aircraft while aircraft, mostly Dreamliners, undergo enhanced inspections.
“Like other airlines around the world, we are carrying out detailed precautionary inspections on Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines on some of our Boeing 787-9s to ensure we meet all the relevant regulatory requirements,” a British Airways spokesperson said. “To facilitate the additional engine inspections and new regulatory requirements we have had to make some minor adjustments to our schedules. We are rebooking affected customers onto alternative services or offering them a refund.”
Rolls-Royce has plans to release a fix that problem later this year.
Rolls-Royce hasn’t yet released a release date for the fix to the Package B issue. The manufacturer plans to update investors on the issue at its Capital Markets Day on Friday. It is at that time that Rolls-Royce is expected to make an announcement on anticipated job cuts. At the time of writing, the company employs roughly 50,000 people in 50 countries.
The two recent announcement from Rolls-Royce have given American competitor General Electric an upper hand in the long-range market.
“It’s hard to make the direct connection to technical problems, but the Trent upgrades are intended to improve fuel burn, so there is a connection,” GE spokesperson Rick Kennedy said in a statement. “The GEnx engine is also demonstrating better fuel burn on the 787, and as a result, GEnx-powered 787s are flying routes that would be challenging with the other engine.”
Kennedy says that GE has seen increased interest in its GEnx engine since Rolls-Royce first reported issues with the Trent engines. American Airlines, for example, chose GE engines for all of its 47 new Dreamliners to be delivered in the coming years. GEnx engines now power about 65% of Dreamliners in the sky.
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