For Rolls-Royce’s aircraft engine activities the timing of the Qantas QF32 engine incident could hardly come at a worse time.
Although it is still not clear what actually caused the apparent uncontained engine failure, or if it is linked to the European Aviation Safety Agency’s concern over the intermediate power shaft, the incident involving the Trent 900 on the Airbus A380 is serious.
And it comes as the engine maker has had a difficult year on several fronts. It has now experienced several set-backs in developing the Trent 1000 for the Boeing 787, with the aircraft maker blaming at least some of the delays in deliveries of the new twin-widebody on its engine supplier.
On top of that, Rolls has seen Pratt & Whitney and CFM International secure commitments for their new powerplants – the geared turbofan and Leap-X respectively – secure new aircraft commitments, with Rolls’s strategy of offering either a two- or three-shaft turbofan failing to win any takers.
As if that were not enough, Rolls last month lost the battle to supply the powerplant for Bombardier’s future business jets, the Global 7000 and Global 8000.
But the bad news doesn’t end there. The company also has encountered headwind on its military business, where the company’s effort to supply an alternative engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in conjunction with General Electric is on the ropes, with the U.S. Congress threatening not to plus-up funding for the project which is vital to keeping the development alive.
Cuts in U.K. defense spending also will be felt, in particular next year’s withdrawal of the Harrier fleet, which will crimp support revenue.
All these developments will simply add pressure on Rolls-Royce to execute the TrentXWB development project for the Airbus A350XWB without major hiccups. But that may not be easy, industry officials note that covering the required thrust range for all three A350 versions is a non-trivial issue.