Rolls-Royce is aiming to double the time-on-wing of its Trent XWB-97 engine for A350-1000s operating in harsh environments, through an improvement programme spanning the next two to three years.

The ability of the XWB-97 to cope with sandy conditions, typical of those in the Middle East, has been a concern to Dubai-based Emirates, which has resisted ordering the A350-1000.

At the Dubai air show last year Emirates Airline president Tim Clark cited durability issues, adding that he felt the XWB-97 needed to “stay on wing” for at least 2,000-2,500 cycles.

Speaking during a full-year briefing on 22 February, Rolls-Royce chief executive Tufan Erginbilgic said the XWB-97 was a good performer in “non-dusty, non-sandy environments”.

He insists the powerplant “sells really well”. There are 162 XWB-97s in the global installed fleet, the manufacturer states, and it delivered 31 last year.

“We aim to double the time-on-wing of the Trent XWB-97 in non-benign environments over the next two to three years, with our investment in [high-pressure turbine] blade coatings that are more resilient in areas with lots of sand and dust,” says Erginbilgic.

He adds that, in more benign settings, the manufacturer sees potential for a 50% increase in time-on-wing.

Erginbilgic says he met with Tim Clark in the last few days, and claims: “He’s very happy with where this is going to go. He cannot wait for that to come to market.” FlightGlobal has sought comment from Emirates.

The A350-1000 with the improved XWB-97 will be “the highest-thrust, best aircraft, probably, four years [or] three years from now”, Erginbilgic adds.


Source: Airbus

A350-1000s are exclusively powered by the Trent XWB-97 engine

Rolls-Royce is also hoping to advance the blade-durability programme for its Trent 1000-TEN powerplant for the Boeing 787.

Erginbilgic says the company is working with Boeing and the US FAA on the “final stages” to certify a new blade for the engine, which will double its time-on-wing.

“We expect it to be approved this year, taking us to a competitive level of durability by next year, while reliability remains very strong,” he states.

This is the same improvement certified for the similar Trent 7000 engine for the Airbus A330neo which, says Erginbilgic, has already been retrofitted to over 20% of the fleet.

He says the Trent 1000 fix was intended for certification last year. “Unfortunately, it didn’t, it got delayed,” he adds. “We want to work with [Boeing and the FAA] and accelerate, and certify this year.”

While the retrofit on 787s will “take some years”, he says it will mark a 30% improvement for the Trent 1000. “By the end of next year, it will be an absolutely fully-competitive engine on durability, as good as the competition.”

Rolls-Royce competes on the 787 with General Electric which offers the GEnx powerplant.

Erginbilgic says Rolls-Royce is investing £1 billion ($1.2 billion) in performance upgrades for its Trent engines over the next few years. But he points out that the drive for greater efficiency and higher engine temperatures has resulted in lower cycle times.

Referring to the engine which powers earlier A330 variants, he says: “No engine we’ll produce – or the competition will produce – will have the Trent 700’s cycle time. But what we’re doing with our engines is taking them to a very competitive level.”