Five years after Steven Udvar-Hazy, then chairman of ILFC, began his successful campaign to force Airbus into a major redesign of the A350, could his influence be telling once more?
Three months ago Udvar-Hazy, now CEO of Air Lease Corp, commented at the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) conference in Scottsdale, Arizona that the A350-1000 did not have sufficient engine power. Just hours before, at the same conference, Rolls-Royce’s Airbus vice-president of marketing Andrew Shankland, stated that the Trent XWB, rated at up to 93,000 lb thrust, had ample power for the A350-1000.
Since then the rumor mill has continued to churn, and over the recent months Airbus has stuck to its line that there will be no changes to the aircraft or its engine as it closes on design freeze by December this year. Overall configuration of the -1000 was ‘validated’ in November 2010, including the fuselage length or cross-section which is sized to accommodate 350 passengers against the typical 370-seats in its principle competitor, Boeing’s 777-300ER.
Now reports are emerging that Airbus and Rolls-Royce are set to announce a thrust increase of around 5,000 lb, a sufficiently dramatic design change to force the planned entry-into-service target for the larger model slide from 2015 to at least 2016. If true, what does all this mean for Rolls and the carefully crafted development architecture built around a single engine type, and focused on the middle aircraft, the A350-900? Originally rated at 83,000-lb., the Trent XWB power was increased an extra 1,000lb following an early Airbus program review. The identical -800 engine, originally de-rated down to 74,000-lb., was also adjusted upwards to 79,000lb.
Current the -900 is set to enter service in 2013, the -800 in 2014 and the -1000 in 2015, but if the engine thrust is changing again then the -1000 timescale will certainly change.
Is the Trent XWB about to put on a late thrust growth spurt? (Rolls-Royce)
Despite the thrust variations the whole point about Rolls’ master plan is the baseline fan diameter remains unchanged at 118-in for all three variants. To accommodate the thrust needs of the -1000 Rolls planned to run the 22-blade fan faster to increase mass flow. In addition, the fan was expected to be beefed-up with thicker gauge, hollow-titanium blades, and a strengthened containment system. So can the engine still deliver an extra 5,000 lb without an increase in diameter, or additional design changes to the fan profile or possibly even the low pressure turbine?