Rolls-Royce Scrambles To Adjust To Crisis

Rolls-Royce estimates that all variants of the Trent 1000 would cost around $3.1 billion from 2017-2023.
Credit: Rolls-Royce

In early March the coronavirus was still a distant problem to most Europeans: Italy was only in the early foothills of its grisly climb to about 1,000 deaths per day and national lockdowns were not in place.

Likewise, companies had not yet understood the impact the virus would have. At the end of February, for example, Rolls-Royce was forecasting that contracted engine flying hours would increase by 8-9% in 2020 and that the number of shop visits would rise from just under 1,000 in 2019 to 1,100-1,200 this year.

Little over a month later and that guidance has been binned after Rolls-Royce reported a 50% reduction in its widebody engine flying hours for March and a 25% fall for the first quarter.

Ominously, the British OEM also warned of “an expected further deterioration in April and beyond.”

It added: “We are in close communication with our customers and suppliers as we prepare for an anticipated reduction in engine delivery and MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul) volumes.”

The faint silver lining for Rolls is that the global groundings have taken the spotlight away from durability problems of certain Trent 1000 components, while at the same time its MRO facilities have continued to operate to implement fixes.

As a result, by the end of March around 25 787s remained grounded due to Trent 1000 issues, versus around 35 at the beginning of February.

Design work remains on schedule to resolve the last remaining technical issue, a new high-pressure turbine blade for the Trent 1000 TEN engine, with ground testing of the new blade progressing through the second quarter. 

The OEM expects the new design to be ready for incorporation into the fleet from mid-2021.

Alex Derber

Alex Derber, a UK-based aviation journalist, is editor of the Engine Yearbook and a contributor to Aviation Week and Inside MRO.