Airbus A350 Engine Build Ramps-Up as Rolls Wins Safety Approval

Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc has won safety approval to power Airbus SAS A350 airliners as the British turbine maker shifts the program’s focus to an unprecedented ramp-up in production.

The European Aviation Safety Agency today granted the Type Certificate to the TrentXWB, Dominique Fouda, spokesman for the Cologne, Germany-based regulator said by phone. The engine is the only one available to buyers of A350 twin jets with more than 580 aircraft on order.

Rolls-Royce has bet heavily on powering large commercial aircraft in recent years, with engine offerings also for the Airbus A380 and Boeing Co. 787. It won the monopoly position on the A350 after rivals, such as General Electric Co., opted not to develop an offering for Airbus’s newest airplane.

“Making sure Airbus can deliver A350s on time relies heavily on us delivering our engine on time,” Chris Young, TrentXWB program director at Rolls-Royce said in a telephone interview. “We have to make sure we have completely derisked our ability to do that.”

Rolls already has dispatched two TrentXWBs to Airbus to support the first flight of the A350 mid-year. Those engines were built on a pre-production assembly line Rolls is using for the first time as it validates build processes to assure it can quickly ramp-up output to keep pace with Airbus, Young said. The full production will come on line next year, he said.

TrentXWB Engine

The TrentXWB is the largest and most powerful commercial aircraft engine Rolls has built. It’s diameter is equivalent to the fuselage size of an A320 airliner, said Tim Boddy, head of marketing for the engine.

Rolls-Royce built 11 test engines for the demonstration phase which have accumulated more than 3,100 hours. That includes around 180 hours of flight testing that began in February on an A380 powered by one TrentXWB and three Trent 900s, Rolls’s offering on the superjumbo.

Among the last ground tests to be completed was demonstrating that the engine can contain one of the 22 massive fan-blades in the unlikely scenario one separates. The test, in which a small explosive is used to detach the blade while the engine is running beyond its specified output level, was completed in late November, Young said.

“It is the world’s most efficient large engine,” Young said. The design has been continually refined and Rolls “is expecting the engine will hit our targets at entry-into-service,” Young said. The next year will also focus heavily on assuring reliability before commercial use, he said.

Development activities will continue, particularly as Rolls works on an even more powerful version, the 97,000 pound thrust powerplant for use on the Airbus A350-1000, the largest version of the Airbus product. A preliminary design review of that TrentXWB was completed in January.

Rolls is now working on the detailed design of the turbine and building components to begin trials in mid-2014, Young said.