Rolls-Royce PLC is facing continued costs for replacing defective turbine blades on its Trent 1000 turbofan engines, the power source for dozens of Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft. Issuing a new profit warning due to the ongoing design and replacement process, Rolls explained to shareholders that it has not yet finalized a solution and that the undertaking will cost another £800 million ($1.025 billion.) It’s now projected to cost a total of £2.4 billion ($3.1 billion) through 2023.
The Trent 1000 is a high-bypass turbofan engine developed by Rolls-Royce and introduced in 2006. It is one of two engine options offered by Boeing for its twin-engine, wide-body commercial aircraft, and it was the launch engine on both the 787-8 and 787-9 variants. Among the carriers operating Dreamliner aircraft with the Trent 1000 are ANA, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Norwegian Air, Virgin Atlantic, and several others.
Since 2017 some of the engines have exhibited shorter-than expected service life due to failing turbine blades, which requires the airlines to increase the rate of inspections, a step that removes the jets from service for extended periods.
The group has been examining the issue for two years, and in September Rolls indicated it will be 2Q 2020 before the total of idled engines is in single digits.
"We want to get planes back into the skies faster, giving (airlines) much better visibility of when engines need to be serviced and better confidence in scheduling, and providing clarity to investors," CEO Warren East explained.
The CEO offered more encouraging prospects about the material insights gained by researching the cause of the cracking. “We have completed a detailed technical evaluation of our work on an improved high-pressure turbine blade for Trent 1000 TEN, the last major redesign activity required for the issues which we have identified with the engine," East explained.
The new high-pressure turbine blade is now its final modification stage, and Rolls forecasts it will be ready for installing by early 2020. But, Rolls also noted this improved version “will not deliver a sufficient level of enhanced durability and as such we are being prudent in assuming that an improved blade is unlikely to be ready before the first half of 2021."
“Although we regret that the blade will not be ready when we had originally planned, our understanding of the technical issues has significantly improved,” East continued. “As a result we are now able to reset our financial and operational expectations for the engine based on a blade design with a prudent durability estimate that we are confident we can deliver. This will give our customers and ourselves a higher degree of certainty as we plan for the servicing of the fleet over the coming years.”
In related developments, Rolls committed to increasing its stock of spare engines, to reduce the time it takes to return idled aircraft to service.
It also plans to accelerate plans to grow its MRO network to increase capacity for Trent 1000 engines. These include plans to transition existing sites in Dahlewitz, Germany, and Montreal to become service hubs to handle Trent 1000 engine overhauls.
Rolls previously contracted to use an additional test bed in Dallas-Fort Worth, to support Trent 1000 engine tests. And, it will invest an unstated amount to expand capacity at Derby, England, and double overhaul capacity at Heathrow, in England.