DUBAI: Rolls-Royce to begin Trent XWB assembly in February

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Rolls-Royce expects to begin building early next year the first Trent XWB turbofan destined to power an Airbus A350-900 for launch customer Qatar Airways.

“We’ll start assembling it in February,” says Trent XWB programme director Chris Young.

The baseline A350-900 is powered by the 84,000lb-thrust version of the Trent XWB, which is nearing the end of its development programme. By mid-October, the A350-900 test aircraft had accumulated 63 flights and 277 flight hours.

“The key challenges are preparing for entry into service and the production ramp-up,” says Young. “The engine is operating brilliantly. We’ve done quite a few relights, all of which have been perfectly successful.”

One of the principal factors in the smooth start to A350 flight tests has been the extensive Trent XWB flight test programme conducted using an A380 flying testbed (FTB), says Young. The campaign logged 87 flights and 280 flight hours – a significant proportion of which were achieved before the A350 got airborne.

“We found all the issues we needed to find and ironed them out,” says Young. “We’re at well over 10,000 cycles in the development programme now.”

Ground-based maturity testing has included more than 3,000 thrust reverser deployments performed at R-R’s Stennis facility in the USA.

Airbus’s A350 test pilots have given “immensely positive feedback on the engine”, Young adds. There are now two A350s flying, plus two spare engines have been delivered to Airbus.

“We’re delivering engines well ahead of the Airbus requirement,” says Young.

He says there is one “batch point” in the test programme which will see A350 MSN2 be the first airframe to receive the updated engine standard.

“MSN5 [also] needs the next batch for route-proving,” says Young, adding that the upgrade incorporates “a number of modifications from the development programme”.

Subsequently, there are “a handful of changes planned for the first Qatar aircraft”. The A350-900 is scheduled to enter service with Qatar Airways in the second half of 2014.

The engineering effort is progressively shifting focus to the 97,000lb growth version of the Trent XWB, which is destined to power the stretched A350-1000 and due to enter service in mid-2017.

“We’re getting ready to put the first [97,000lb-thrust] engine to test in mid-2014,” says Young. “We have passed through our critical design review.”

The milestone means final engineering drawings can be released for production.

“Parts are very much coming through the manufacturing process,” says Young. The first full engine run is due to take place in mid-2014.