While the Trent XWB-84 engine for the Airbus A350-900 is set to break even this year, Rolls-Royce is not guaranteeing a similar achievement on the higher-thrust XWB-97 for the A350-1000.

Chief executive Warren East, speaking at a 28 February briefing, said the company would ship its first break-even XWB-84 in the fourth quarter.

But while the XWB-97 – which entered service two years behind its sibling – remains a loss-making contributor, East says he “cannot commit” that it will “actually get to zero”.

“It’s possible that we don’t want [this engine] to get to break-even,” he says, explaining this apparent counter-intuitive reasoning by pointing out the efforts the manufacturer puts into extending time-on-wing.

“It’s possible we actually want to spend the money and have components to improve the durability and time-on-wing for service of a given engine,” says East. “Because we make more profit out of that than trying to squeeze a technical profit on the [original equipment].

“So generally it’s a good idea to make as little loss as possible on [original equipment]. But when you get in the detail, and you get to the smaller numbers, it might actually be better not to do that, economically, for the programme and our overall profit.”

Airbus has accumulated orders for 759 A350-900s and 176 A350-1000s, of which over 350 have been delivered.