Thursday, March 8, 2018

Rolls-Royce spending millions of dollars to repair 787 engines

The deterioration of turbine blades inside Rolls-Royce jet engines that power more than 200 in-service 787 Dreamliners has required constant monitoring of the engines and urgent maintenance in some cases. The problems have caused serious disruption to airlines — and they’re proving costly to the British engine-maker.

Rolls on Wednesday reported an accounting charge of $315 million to cover ongoing repairs to two models of its jet engines, mostly the Trent 1000 in the Boeing 787 fleet, as well as compensation to airlines for planes taken out of service for the engine retrofits.

The affected Trent 1000 engines now flying will be monitored and gradually taken out of service and repaired through 2022.

“These issues have required urgent short-term support including both on-wing and shop visit intervention which has resulted in increased disruption for some of our customers,” Rolls said in a news release. It said it is “making solid progress with longer-term solutions, largely through re-designing affected parts.”

The problems with the engines first appeared in 2016, when All Nippon Airways (ANA) of Japan discovered that turbine blades inside the engine were corroding faster than expected and said it would have to cancel up to 300 flights as it took aircraft out of service for repairs.

Similar problems later were discovered by British Airways, Air New Zealand, Norwegian Air and Virgin Atlantic.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in 2016 issued an airworthiness directive after an investigation of high engine vibration during climb revealed damage to some Trent 1000 high pressure turbine blades attributed to cracks in the metal.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) followed up a year ago with its own directive requiring repetitive inspections of Trent 1000 high-pressure turbine blades.

In December, Air New Zealand took two of its 787s out of service after each encountered in-flight abnormalities in one engine. The airline canceled some flights and delayed others as engines were taken out of service for repair with no replacement engines available.

“The remainder of the (Air new Zealand 787) fleet is subject to a Rolls-Royce approved monitoring and scheduled maintenance program,” said airline spokeswoman Hannah Searle, in an email.

Norwegian Air is swapping out 42 Trent 1000 engines in its fleet.

Boeing spokesman Paul Bergman said the jetmaker is working with Rolls-Royce and its airline customers to ensure the engine issues are “addressed in a timely manner.”

ANA spokewoman Nao Gunji said the airline has “been able to operationally manage the situation to avoid a major impact to our scheduled service.”

The second Rolls engine affected by the early corrosion problem is the Trent 900, which powers some models of the Airbus A380 super-jumbo jet.

Rolls has also redesigned an extended-life turbine blade for this engine and further redesigns will be available in 2020.

The engine-maker said Wednesday that the cash impact to cover the problems with both the Trent 1000 and Trent 900 was $236 million last year, will rise to a peak of about $472 million next year and is expected to decline to $333 million in 2019.

(Dominic Gates - The Seattle Times)

No comments: