Rolls-Royce is preparing for the fastest production ramp-up of its "big fan" manufacturing history by planning assembly of the first production Trent 500 engines for the Airbus A340-500/600.

"It's the biggest increase we've ever faced in a big fan engine," says Trent 500 programme director Ian Kinnear. The rate is scheduled to increase from 20 in 2001 to 150 per year in 2003. The ramp-up supports Airbus production plans which envisage initial A340-600 deliveries beginning in June 2002, and -500s starting in November 2002. Overall, Airbus plans to deliver 16 A340-500/600s in 2002.

The assembly of production engines is set to begin in Derby around mid-year, says Kinnear who adds that the company and its suppliers have entered a period of "intense activity to enable the production ramp-up". To date, Rolls-Royce has firm orders for 550 engines, covering around 120 aircraft on firm order plus spares. "We're sold out to mid-2004, and if you look at the way other orderbooks have gone once aircraft go into service, we expect this to grow significantly," says Kinnear.

The first production standard engine, delivered early to Airbus in March 2000, is meanwhile being used to "de-risk" some of the aircraft certification programme in the run-up to first flight, expected by early May this year. The engine has successfully completed the first phase of flight testing on an A340-300 flying testbed (FTB) last August after 47 flight hours were amassed on 34 flights. Subsequent tests have been aimed at proving modifications made in the nacelle, as well as validating changes to the engine control software. The FTB is also being used by Airbus for some "anti-icing tests originally planned for the first aircraft," says Kinnear.

Rolls-Royce is currently delivering the final two engines for the second of three A340-600 aircraft that are set to enter the test programme this year. The engine maker is building a fourth shipset of engines for the single A340-500 due to join the certification programme in 2002. The four test aircraft are expected to amass around 2,400h flying.

Rolls-Royce is starting detailed design of the Trent 600 for the Boeing 747X and Longer Range 767-400ER, having completed the preliminary design freeze. The company is developing the engine to cover the 68,000-72,000lb (302-320kN) thrust band outlined for both types by Boeing.

Source: Flight International