Rolls-Royce could tap Airbus to secure spare Trents

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Airbus says it is prepared to supply Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines from A380s on its production line to operators that require replacements following mandated inspections.

Toulouse says replacement engines could be sourced from the Rolls-Royce production line, airlines' spares or Airbus assembly lines, explaining: "Airbus is supporting Rolls-Royce and the customers when requested to do so, by demounting engines from the customer's production aircraft in Toulouse and Hamburg."

An uncontained failure aboard a Trent 900-powered Qantas A380 on 4 November led the European Aviation Safety Agency to issue an airworthiness directive, ordering carriers to conduct extended ground-idle runs with the engine and inspect both the low-pressure turbine blades and the high and intermediate pressure structures.

Rolls-Royce subsequently revealed that the failure of "a specific component" in the turbine section had led to the oil fire that destroyed the Qantas Trent 900, without specifying the nature of the component. "Our process of inspection will continue and will be supplemented by the replacement of the relevant module according to an agreed programme," it said on 12 November.

a380 production, airbus
 © Airbus

Airbus says it is "working with our customers and with Rolls-Royce to put in place a solution to minimise disruption and to get their A380s back in operation as soon as possible", adding: "Every situation is handled on a case-by-case basis."

If a replacement engine is needed, the airframer "will choose one from an aircraft in production with a delivery date as far ahead as possible in order to minimise the impact on delivery schedules and avoid any change to delivery numbers".

However, Airbus would have to carry the checks mandated by the EASA airworthiness directive and a preceding R-R service bulletin before putting such a replacement into service, since these regulations are also applicable to the powerplants of A380s in final assembly.

"The Rolls-Royce inspections are ongoing, so the number of engines that may or may not need changing is in fact not yet fully determined," says Airbus, which adds that R-R "will supply the airlines directly with any replacement engines which they agree are needed".

During a results briefing on 12 November, Airbus owner EADS revealed that the airframer needed to deliver four more A380s this year - three of them Trent-powered - to meet a target of 20 aircraft originally outlined. The following week, at Airshow China, Airbus China president Laurence Barron said he did not "at this stage" anticipate any delays to China Southern Airlines' five Trent 900-powered A380s, the first of which is due to enter the carrier's fleet in mid-2011.

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is investigating the Qantas uncontained failure of 4 November and has sent information from the flight-data recorder to the aircraft and engine manufacturers.

However, cockpit voice recorder audio from the time of the engine failure could be retrieved, having been overwritten because the adjacent engine could not be shut down after the aircraft's landing in Singapore and so continued to provide power to the recorder. The engine itself was sent to an engineering facility for technical inspection.

Rolls-Royce has declined to add to its statement of 12 November.

  • Additional reporting by David Kaminski-Morrow, Jon Ostrower