Yesterday Rolls-Royce sought to reassure customers and investors after discovering cracks in the compressor blades used in its large Trent XWB engine that powers the Airbus A350 wide-body aircraft.
The company, which has already spent billions of dollars to solve a series of problems with the Trent 1000 engine that uses the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, said that signs of wear were identified on the intermediate pressure compressor blades of “a small number of engines (XWB) that have been in service for four or five years ”.
This is the first time that durability problems have been identified in the group’s newest and most successful engine. The discovery is another blow for the company that last week saw its shares plummet to the lowest level in more than a decade.
There are approximately 800 Trent XWB engines, including spare ones, with 100 already in use for four years or more. Cracks are known to have been discovered in one or two blades of around 20 engines during routine inspections in early July.
None of the Trent XWB-84 engines experienced any problems during the flights, the group said, but all those with a similar service life will be inspected.
The statement comes a day before Europe’s safety regulator is due to issue an airworthiness directive requiring inspections. Rolls-Royce said it wants to anticipate possible speculation.
“We do not expect this issue to create significant customer disruption or material annual cost,” Rolls-Royce noted. The costs are estimated at less than 50 million pounds. Newer engines were also inspected and no problems were identified.
Sandy Morris, an aerospace analyst at Jefferies, commented that “clearly there is no good news.” Rolls-Royce is likely to develop a longer term solution than simply replacing the blades, as it did with the Trent 1000. “We felt the day would come when premature wear would be found on a Trent XWB engine,” he said. “Given the scrutiny the XWB has likely undergone, our immediate reaction is more along the lines of ‘is that it?’
Scrutiny of the XWB intensified after problems with the Trent 1000 engine were discovered in 2017. In February, Warren East, Rolls-Royce CEO, mentioned that he was confident that the problems with the Trent 1000 family had been brought under control. Overall, the company has said the cash costs of serial blade problems that grounded hundreds of planes over three years would amount to 2.4 billion pounds between 2017 and 2023.
The company was eager to emphasize that the XWB problem was not of the same magnitude. Unlike the Trent 1000, there were plenty of spare XWB parts and engines, as well as serviceability, to fix any problems quickly, people with knowledge of the situation said. Inspections and repairs could be carried out on the normal schedule for such visits, they added. The largest turbine in the family – the Trent XWB-97, which powers the A350-1000 – is not affected by blade problems, as it has a different engine architecture.
Chris Cholerton, director of Rolls-Royce’s civil aerospace division, noted that the Trent XWB is the most successful engine released by the firm with a reliability of 99.9 percent.
China’s auto sales grew 16.4% from a year earlier, linking the fourth consecutive month of earnings.
According to what was published by Reuters, sales increased to 2.11 million vehicles in July.
Still, they fell 12.7% year-to-date to 12.37 million, according to wholesale sales data from the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, due to the pandemic.