R-R to swap out Trent XWB on A380 testbed

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Rolls-Royce is preparing to remove the first Trent XWB flight-test engine from Airbus's A380 testbed after completing about 16 flights and just under 50h with the powerplant designed to power the A350 widebody twinjet.

The initial engine will be replaced with one produced to the most recent build standard, incorporating design changes to further reduce specific fuel consumption, operating temperatures and weight, says Trent XWB programme director Chris Young. Fan instrumentation will also be removed.

"It's the fan instrumentation that was stopping us flying in cloudy weather or rain," says Young. "We will use this [replacement] engine to do the hot-weather campaign and some of the other campaigns that are away from base."

Young says the Trent XWB has "beaten expectations" in flight testing and burns less fuel than the Trent 900s on the A380 testbed.

"One of the things that the pilots said when they first got off is that you notice, on the dials, that it is demonstrably burning a lot less fuel," says Young.

"The pilots were also very complimentary that the Trent XWB can maintain level flight on the A380 with all of the Trent 900s at idle, so it's got enough power to keep the whole aircraft going on its own."

R-R is close to finishing Trent XWB certification testing, ahead of the first flight of the A350, planned for mid-2013. Icing tests in Manitoba, northern Canada, as well as large-bird ingestion tests have been performed successfully.

"We are down to just the last couple of certification tests to go," says Young. "The last one is the fan blade-off test, in quarter three. That's our critical path to certification."