Rolls-Royce says it has managed to further reduce average original equipment loss per large engine sold to £1.3 million (US$1.58 million), though the UK engine manufacturer continues to struggle to overcome the premature blade deterioration on Trent 1000s that power a part of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet, AINonline reported.
“We are pleased with the progress we are making on managing and fixing all of these issues, but reality is that we still have got a lot of hard work to do before it is out of the way,” said Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East.
Speaking during the company’s first-half results presentation with analysts, East conceded the Trent 1000 blade issue continues to cause “a number of our customers significant disruption.”
The good news, he added, is that the disruption has lessened considerably in the past 12 months, and the number of aircraft on ground (AOGs) today equates to about half the total of a year ago, the report said.
The bad news, the company reported a loss of £909 million (US$998 million) for the first six months of 2019. It is likely that problems with the Trent 1000 and the newer variant, Trent 1000 TEN, have massively contributed to numbers being negative.
Rolls-Royce announced a further £100 million loss on the Trent 1000 engine, bringing the total cost of the jet turbine’s issues to £1.6 billion.
Problems with the Trent 1000 gas turbine engine could be traced back to 2016, when the launch customer of the Boeing 787, All Nippon Airways, detected unusual corrosion in blades of intermediate-pressure turbine (IPT), resulting in early wear and cracking on Trent 1000 Package C engines, Aerotime reported.
Two years later, in June 2018, it was discovered that the Package B was affected too. This forced Rolls-Royce to start a long campaign of inspections and replacement of defective parts.
While Rolls considers the reduction of AOGs encouraging, the decline hasn’t kept pace with Rolls-Royce’s original plans, mainly owing to the reduced life expectancy of blades in the high-pressure turbine of the Trent 1000 TEN variant — yet another financial setback for the aero engine giant.
Inspections to date have shown faster HPT blade deterioration than the manufacturer expected, and some blades need replacement a couple of hundred cycles before reaching the reduced life limit of 1,000 cycles, the AINonline report said.
“Let’s be clear, [even] a life limit of 1,000 cycles is completely unacceptable for a typical customer,” East acknowledged.
The company anticipates that the problem has affected about a third of the TEN engines, and it expects that the projected number of resulting AOGs will prove “much smaller” than those caused by the intermediate-pressure compressor (IPC) blade deterioration of Trent 1000 Package B/C disruption.
However, the HPT blade replacement has added to the workload of Roll-Royce’s repair and overhaul facilities and that might affect the pace of the overall AOG recovery on the Trent 1000.
“It may take a bit longer for the Package C and B fleets to return to a single-digit AOG,” East warned. “It is possible we get there by the end of the year, but it is also very possible that the polluting effect of the TEN will cause a longer delay.”
Rolls-Royce delivered 257 large engines — 239 installed and 18 spares — in the first half of the year and shipped a further 14 engines to airframers, up from a total 259 shipped units in the first six months of last year and 209 in the first half of 2017.