Rolls-Royce Taps Virtual Technology for Engine Training

Credit: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class River Bruce

Rolls-Royce is using virtual reality technology to help U.S. Air Force engine maintainers “learn by doing” more safely and efficiently. It has launched its Virtual Reality Maintenance Training Software for AE2100 engines, which power Lockheed Martin C-130J aircraft, with the first system entering service at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico.

“We must transform the way we learn,” says U.S. Air Force Col. JB Baquet, 58th Maintenance Group commander. “The VR maintenance system will enhance training efficiency, shorten the learning curve, accelerate skill levels and improve fleet readiness.”

The system works by replicating the process of maintaining AE2100 engines in an immersive virtual environment, which Rolls-Royce says can improve student engagement and enhance troubleshooting skills. It also notes that the VR system will increase efficiency and reduce cost of the training process.

Rolls-Royce VR training
Credit: Rolls-Royce

“The system allows maintainers to virtually remove, examine and replace AE2100 engine components without risk of damage to the equipment, an engine or personnel injuries. Maintainers can safely train and practice anytime, anywhere and gain hands-on experience without any mission disruption,” says Air Force Master Sgt Joe Muscarella, 58th Maintenance Group lead production superintendent. He adds that the VR system will help the maintenance group better understand engine operations, performance parameters, component removal and installation practices and procedures.

According to Rolls-Royce, the system will also help reduce travel costs for maintenance crew while enhancing their learning skills and retention. The system features networked learning, which it says enables multiple people from around the world to train simultaneously—an obvious selling point during COVID-19 travel restrictions.

The system was developed by the engine OEM at its Indianapolis site, where its primary defense business is located in the U.S.

Rolls-Royce virtual reality engine training
Credit: Rolls-Royce

Rolls-Royce is also using virtual technology to carry out maintenance training on the commercial side. According to Peter Troman, service integration manager, Rolls-Royce has been using Librestream Onsight Connect to deliver online training to inspectors so they can carry out inspections of IP compressor blades on Trent 1000 engines. Troman says the technology has helped customers like Air China avoid AOG situations during the pandemic.

It expanded the use of its VR training for customers in May in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, adding a program for the BR725 engine that powers Gulfstream G650 family aircraft. According to Rolls-Royce, customers just need an internet connection and the required VR equipment, which it ships to them—rather than shipping a full size training engine. The VR training lets users interact with the engine alone or the engine installed on an aircraft in a virtual hangar.

It first launched VR training as parts of its IntelligentEngine vision through a collaboration with Qatar Airways in April 2019. The airline is using the technology to train engineers on Trent XWB engines, which power the Airbus A350.

Lindsay Bjerregaard

Lindsay Bjerregaard is managing editor for Aviation Week’s MRO portfolio. Her coverage focuses on MRO technology, workforce, and product and service news for, Aviation Week Marketplace and Inside MRO.