The aviation industry is heading into a new year after facing its most challenging period ever. As 2021 approaches, Rolls-Royce has shared that the crisis may offer room to develop crucial new engine technologies. Interestingly, there could be a possible return to the narrowbody jet market for the company.
A change of scene
When it comes to commercial aviation, Rolls-Royce specializes in widebody engines. Its critically-acclaimed Trent series has seen significant success over the years. However, the pandemic continues to cause massive shifts in the landscape of the industry. Notably, ongoing travel restrictions are seeing short-haul services take up greater segments in the market compared to previous years. As a result, many widebody jets remain on the ground.
According to Bloomberg, Rolls-Royce feels that the downturn will create a window of opportunity before struggling carriers are ready to take the leap into revolutions such as hydrogen propulsion. Nonetheless, the United Kingdom-based firm is in communications with Airbus about prospects. The two could collaborate on designs for a hydrogen-powered engine for a 200-seater narrowbody. This plane could be produced by the middle of the 2030s.
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Keeping a lookout
Rolls-Royce engineering and technology director Simon Burr spoke about the plans of his company this decade. Altogether, the business will keep an open mind across the industry.
“The industry’s going through a bit of a hiatus. We want to be in a position that when someone launches a new product we’re credible, whatever that market may be,” Burr said, as reported by Bloomberg.
“We don’t rule ourselves out of any part of the market today because evolution in the 2020s could be really quite exciting.”
An eye on the future
Altogether, Rolls-Royce is looking to preserve its engineering talent. So, amid the global health crisis, it has been transferring employees to its nuclear and defense departments. The company’s main development program at the moment is the UltraFan jet engine. This model is projected to succeed the Trent series, but it’s not bound to widebody aircraft. Instead, it will have a thrust range spanning between 25,000 and 100,000 lbs and will also be applicable to narrowbodies.
Ground tests on the UltraFan will begin in late 2021. Eventually, it will be introduced at the end of the decade. This schedule is a few years later than the initial 2025 target. However, Rolls-Royce affirms that if the demand is there, the product could be rolled out sooner.
Simple Flying reached out to Rolls-Royce for comment on the potential of narrowbody jet engines. We will update the article with any further announcements from the company.
What are your thoughts about Rolls-Royce eying a return to narrowbody jet engines? Do you feel that this would be a good approach for the company? Let us know what you think of the prospects in the comment section.