Trent XWB heads for flight test with first A380, Enders draws line on A350-1000 changes

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A well-worn A380 MSN001 rolled out a hangar in Toulouse, France yesterday sporting a newly installed Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine. The powerplant, rated at 84,000lbs of thrust, will continue to advance Rolls-Royce’s certification program for the new engine, which will eventually power the Airbus A350 XWB. The 118in (300cm) diameter fan of the Trent XWB-84 is only slightly larger than that of the three 116in (294cm) Trent 900s that are flying along side the XWB-84.

A shrunken A350-800, whose service entry has slipped to mid-2016, will be powered by a 75,000lb Trent-75, though the type has seen a steady flow of customers away from the variant.

For the A350-1000, a first engine run of its 97,000lb thrust fan is expected in mid-2014, with entry into service to follow three years later. The 2017 availability allows Rolls to incorporate technology from its three-shaft Advance3 engine design into the enhanced Trent XWB, though the improvement in performance on the A350-1000 has also drawn the ire of some customers.

The growing distance between airframe and engine commonality, which has always been a hallmark of Airbus aircraft family design, has frustrated customers like Emirates and Qatar Airways. Airbus says the -1000 will remain about 70% common with the baseline -900.

Enders, by his own acknowledgement, has made a “big jump” in technology with “a lot of unknowns” on the A350, which, at the insistence of customers, was required in 2006 to abandon its original composite wing and A330 metallic fuselage design. Enders’ attitude about the -1000 is illustrative of the balancing act the airframer must walk between not increasing the complexity of its own engineering and production operations – thus driving up its cost – while managing the high expectations of its biggest customers.

Though Enders has drawn a line in the sand, telling Flight International the A350-1000 will not be changed to appease individual customers: “For us, that is the solution,” he said. “We’re not going to redesign it every half-year.”

Photos Credit Airbus