The GP7200 engine for the Airbus A380 has encountered a "few small issues" during the test and development phase, but the Engine Alliance's executive VP Bruce Hughes says that the programme remains on-target, thanks to some useful margin being built-into the original schedule.
"As you would expect with a new engine, the cycling testing phase threw up a few small issues, but the bird ingestion and icing tests are looking extremely good. The engine is currently undergoing its 150-hour block test when it's put through severe cycles with 'max everything' and all dials in the red," he says.
"Let me tell you, that thing really roars and several times the engineers have seen more than 90,000lb of thrust on the clock. We've eaten up all our buffer, but I don't anticipate any further delays to the programme."
As the Alliance's launch engine is going to be certificated at 76,500lb thrust - and then at 81,500lb for the freighter version - it's clear that there's plenty of power leeway in the engine.
The current phase of "significant technical testing" is scheduled to be concluded by the end of July and then the reports will be submitted to the FAA for certification to be issued, on schedule, by the end of October.
Between now and then the engine will continue to fly for up to 100 hours and 22 flights on GE's flying test-bed Boeing 747, to ensure that reliability is up to scratch.
Says Hughes: "We've already started our 'maturity programme' and this is hugely important to Airbus, and to us. Basically, we're working on the premise that the 'service-ready programme' will deliver an engine that's as reliable 'out of the box' as a powerplant on an ETOPS twin-engined airframe. The engine will have run through around 7,000 cycles before certification and 15,000 cycles before service entry and this includes such items as the thrust reversers."
Although Hughes says that he's looking forward to seeing the A380 fly at Le Bourget, complete with R-R Trent 900s hanging on the wings, he clearly can't wait to see the Alliance-powered variant fly, hopefully at the end of this year.
Like Rolls-Royce, the Engine Alliance is waiting to see what effect the A380's delayed service entry schedule means to their programme. Hughes is confident that there will be no serious issues affecting the airframe/engine partnership. He says: "Although we have to manage our cashflows carefully, we're in this together and I'm sure that there'll be no animosity."
The Alliance has around 300 'firm orders' on the books for the GP7200 series of engines and this is sufficient to keep the production lines working for the next five years or so. Production engines will be built from October this year, with the first deliveries scheduled for the first quarter of next year - although this is the date that could 'move' depending on re-scheduling of the 'entry into service' dates.
The only A380 engine news at Le Bourget is likely to be from Korean Airlines, which may well confirm which engine variant will power its five airframes. Both R-R and the Alliance are hoping for good news, although the suspicion is that the latter may well be smiling more than the former. There's then likely to be a gap until August or September, when China Southern may announce its choice.
Source: Flight Daily News