The challenges facing aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls Royce continue to grow. For months now nearly 400 Trent 1000 engines known as the “Package C” group faced increased inspection requirements and reliability concerns in the Intermediate Pressure Compressor (IPC). With dozens of aircraft grounded the impact to the aviation world is massive. And it is about to get worse. The company performed significant analysis on other iterations of its Trent 1000 engines and now “Package B” models are affected. The Package B operational fleet covers 166 engines worldwide.
A similar Intermediate Pressure Compressor durability issue has now been identified on a small number of high life Package B engines and we have therefore agreed with the relevant regulatory authorities, with concurrence from Boeing, to carry out a one-off inspection of our Trent 1000 Package B fleet, to further inform our understanding. The Package B standard has been in service since 2012 and consists of 166 engines.
These inspections will be supported by an EASA Airworthiness Directive which will be published in the coming days, and as a result we anticipate there will be a limited impact on customer operations to enable this programme of one-off inspections to take place. Engines will be inspected on-wing using existing techniques.
In addition to the Package B engines Rolls Royce is redesigning the IPC component in the TEN engine, the newest variant of the type. The company claims that “although currently a young fleet, we have not seen any examples of reduced IPC durability,” in the TEN series. Still, it will develop the replacement as a precautionary measure.
The Package C replacement parts are in development and began testing earlier this month. The company expects to have the first overhauls completed in late 2018 for these engines. The impact to the 787 global fleet will extend into 2019 as the Package C are repaired. This is a massive challenge both for Rolls Royce and for the airlines involved. With dozens of planes grounded owing to the engine issues airlines are scrambling to source replacement aircraft on lease. It also means reduced growth in the market as new routes and services cannot be supported without the aircraft operating reliably.
The secondary aircraft leasing market is benefitting from the Rolls Royce problems. Wamos, Hi Fly and others are now pushing their entire pool of planes into service to backfill for the grounded planes. This is theoretically a short-term boom for those vendors, though Dreamliner reliability issues, particularly at Norwegian, have kept Hi Fly busy for several years now.
The impact to passengers is also significant. Some travelers face significant delays or flight cancellations as a result of the inspections. Others are flying close to on time but with a significantly different product than expected. Virgin Atlantic pulled a pair of A340s out of retirement and picked up former AirBerlin A330s; the latter now appear slated for an interior refresh owing to the expectation that they’ll be operating for a while. Carriers with Wamos, Hi Fly and other wet-lease operations face greater challenges on the passenger experience front. This is especially pointed when travelers book based on the promise of the 787 experience, including newer aircraft and a fresh interior. Sure, the leased planes are safe, but they typically lack the comfort factors the 787s aimed to deliver. Certainly the higher humidity and air pressure in the cabin are missing.
Boeing seconded senior executive Keith Leverkuhn to Rolls Royce recently, aiming to help resolve the manufacturing challenges. Leverkuhn previously oversaw the 737 MAX development efforts, bringing the new type into commercial service ahead of schedule.