July 02, 2012
Robert Wall Derby, England
Rolls-Royce's decision to retrench from the narrowbody engine market has raised the stakes on the company's big powerplant activities. The coming months could show whether that bid is paying off as Boeing refines its widebody strategy.
Boeing continues to deliberate whether to add a larger model—the -10X— to the 787 family, even as it explores refresher options for the 777 family to ward off end-of-decade competition from the Airbus A350-1000. “Quite detailed” discussions are underway with Boeing over a Trent 1000 version to power the 787-10X, says Simon Carlisle, Rolls-Royce's program director. The powerplant will be roughly in the 76,000-lb.-thrust class, although the exact figure is not settled.
The 315-323-seat aircraft represents a simple stretch of the 787-9, says Jim Haas, marketing director at Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA). It would be effectively about 40 seats larger than the -9 and be ready to enter service later in the decade. Whether Boeing will launch the 787-10X at the Farnborough International Airshow, which opens next week, is unclear, particularly in light of the surprise decision last week to name Raymond Conner, head of sales at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, as the replacement for BCA CEO and President James Albaugh (see p. 31).
Rolls-Royce would look to introduce technologies now incorporated in the TrentXWB for the A350 but not yet on the Trent 1000. A few additional technologies that have matured more recently could also be included, to achieve a 1-2% fuel-burn improvement over the so-called Package C Trent 1000s.
The “Study Engine” that would incorporate the feature could emerge in 2016. Rolls-Royce is in the process of freezing the concept before proceeding to a critical design review in about six months.
At the same time, the company is in talks with Boeing about the RB3025, a 100,000-lb.-thrust engine concept for the 777-8/-9 Boeing is studying. The aircraft maker is talking with Rolls-Royce, Pratt & Whitney and its exclusive 777-300ER engine supplier—General Electric—about new engines for the larger twin-widebodies.
The RB3025 would feature a range of new technologies, including a composite fan blade and composite casing, says Robert Nuttall, Rolls-Royce vice president for strategic marketing. Rolls has been using titanium fans, arguing its design was as efficient as the composite fans being offered by competitors. But Nuttall now says that composites technology has improved and fan blades and casings made of composites promise several hundred pounds in weight savings.