When Will Rolls Royce’s Trent 1000 Issues Finally Be Solved?

The recent earnings call for Rolls Royce was a chance for the manufacturer to update us on where they’re at with the Trent 1000 engines. Turbine blades need to be redesigned and replaced, owing to premature wear identified on the Package B and C engines, and concerns over the newer TEN engines too.

Trent 1000
The Trent 1000 is used on the Dreamliner. Photo: Rolls Royce

Progress on the Trent 1000

Right now, Rolls Royce revealed that their IPC replacement for Pack C blades is read and being fitted. This is leading to a reduction in grounded aircraft. The redesign of the Trent 1000 TEN and Pack B IPC is underway, with testing taking place as we speak.

Trent 1000 IPC
The IPC blades have been installed on Pack C engines, and are being tested for Pack C and TEN. Photo: Rolls Royce

Speaking at their recent earnings call, CEO Warren East said,

“We have made good progress on resolving the Trent 1000 compressor issue, though regretfully, customer disruption remains.”

At its peak, the Trent 1000 issue has grounded 44 aircraft, which was less than Rolls Royce’s original prediction of 50. Now, the manufacturer is targeting to get the number of grounded aircraft to a single-digit figure by the end of 2019.

However, getting to this stage is not going to be easy, as the Trent 1000 TEN has also needed to be redesigned and certified. East commented that the additional work required meant,

“…we are going to take a little longer to reach a position of single-digit aircraft on the ground. It is possible we can get there before the end of the year [but the] polluting effect of the TEN might mean it takes longer,”

In terms of timescales, the company has said that all the technical changes are expected to be embodied into the Trent 1000 Package B and C fleets by 2022.

Increased capacity

Rolls Royce says that there are 300 aircraft in service that are at risk of this issue, and despite their efforts to accelerate maintenance and overhauls, the number that are grounded remains high. The company has said themselves that this is ‘unacceptable’, and are clearly striving to get things sorted as quickly as possible.

To get on the way to zero grounded aircraft, the company says they have significantly increased capacity at their MRO facilities. They have also invested in new tools, equipment and staff, and are working to reduce the engine turnaround time and boost the supply of parts.

Trent 1000 on a Dreamliner
The issues have affected some of the 787 Dreamliner fleet. Photo: Wikimedia

Chris Cholerton, President of Civil Aerospace at Rolls-Royce, said in a statement,

“We sincerely regret the operational impact to our customers, and we are working closely with them to minimize this. We deeply appreciate their continued support. We remain absolutely committed to eliminating these issues from the Trent 1000 fleet and providing the best powerplant for the Boeing 787.”

Rolls Royce reported a loss of £909m ($988m) during the first half of 2019. The cash cost of the Trent 1000 was revealed to be £219m for the first half of 2019, more than £100m higher than in the first half of last year.

The story of the Trent 1000

Early in 2016, the launch customer of the Boeing 787, ANA, noticed some unusual corrosion in the blades of the engine. The aircraft used the Trent 1000 Package C engine. The problem was discovered to be widespread, and led to the grounding of many Dreamliners as a result. Due to the issue, the EASA and FAA reduced the ETOPS for the affected aircraft from 330 to 140 minutes, impacting transpacific operations.

Some of the worst affected airlines included Air New Zealand, Air Europa, British Airways, LATAM, Norwegian, LOT Polish, Virgin Atlantic and Ethiopian.

LOT Polish trent 1000
LOT Polish is one of the affected carriers. Photo: Tony Hisgett via Flickr

Two years later, in mid-2018, the same problem was discovered on Trent 1000 Package B engines too. This meant a further 61 in service aircraft needed to be inspected, as well as eight which were in storage.

Now, it looks like we are coming out of the worst of it, with a target to get all aircraft off the ground by 2022 at the latest. Although reducing grounded aircraft to single figures may not be achieved by the year end, it’s clear to see Rolls Royce are committed to rectifying these issues as quickly as possible.