ILA: Rolls-Royce partners with Airbus for UltraFan flight tests

Rolls-Royce will co-operate with Airbus to develop a nacelle and pylon for flight tests of the UK manufacturer's under-development UltraFan demonstrator engine.

The European airframer has been recruited to provide "both nacelle and engine/aircraft integration architecture and technology enablers" for ground and flight tests under the future engine programme, R-R says.

"Airbus integration solutions will play an important part in achieving the overall fuel-efficiency improvement," the engine maker says, with this achieved through "innovative architecture and associated technologies".

It notes the trial will be conducted on "a Rolls-Royce flying test-bed"; the Derby-headquartered manufacturer uses a Boeing 747 for test flights of its engines.

Airbus's head of research and technology, Axel Flaig, says the co-operation represents "a key project to pave the way towards the next-generation integrated propulsion systems that will be needed by airline customers towards the end of the next decade".

The partnership will enable Airbus to "fully integrate the overall powerplant system – composed of engine, pylon and nacelle – onto future long-range aircraft products" and to facilitate "scalability for future short-range aircraft", the airframer says.

Advanced manufacturing technologies, including high-deposition-rate 3D printing, welded assembly and high production-rate thermoplastics, are to be employed for the project.

Under the UltraFan programme, R-R will develop a geared turbofan that will utilise an engine core that is being developed in a separate future technology effort named Advance.

The new engine is set to reduce fuel consumption by 25% versus the Trent 700, and is scheduled to become available for service entry from 2025.

R-R is in the process of testing individual sections and components of UltraFan, including a demonstrator version of the Advance engine core.

In February, R-R's chief engineer of civil aerospace future programmes, Phil Curnock, said the manufacturer intended to build an UltraFan demonstrator in "a few years' time".

UltraFan has not yet been selected for any aircraft programme, and R-R has previously not associated the future engine with any particular airframer. However, the manufacturer has offered a variant of the developmental powerplant for Boeing's New Mid-market Airplane.

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