Rolls-Royce has flown its Trent 1000 turbofan – the lead powerplant for Boeing’s 787 twinjet – for the first time, aboard the UK manufacturer’s 747 testbed. The first phase of the engine’s flight test programme is being conducted from Waco, Texas.

“We gave the engine a hard time for its first flight, but it did everything we asked. It was very stable and predictable,” says Rolls-Royce chief test pilot Phill O’Dell.

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“Normally at this stage we would have expected to leave the engine at fixed thrust, but we gained confidence so quickly that we used it to manoeuvre the aircraft. We will now move quickly to aggressive operability testing.”

Dominic Horwood, Rolls Royce director of Boeing programmes, adds: “We have only a few tests over the next few weeks to complete the certification validation programme.”

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The Trent 1000 underwent simulated high-altitude bench testing at the Arnold Engineering Development Centre in Tullahoma, Tennessee. This included icing compliance, engine operability and in-flight restarts across the flight envelope.

Rolls Royce’s 747-200 flying test bed was converted by L-3 Communications at the company’s Waco base. This included removing one of the original RB211-524C engines to accommodate the Trent 1000.

The modification also involved installing equipment to dissipate the half a megawatt of electricity produced by each Trent 1000 in flight. The 787 will use this energy to power the aircraft’s control surfaces and cabin systems.

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Rolls Royce recently delivered the first set of Trent 1000 engines to Boeing, which are being installed on the first 787 for its roll-out next month. The aircraft is due to have its first flight by the end of September.

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