Rolls-Royce Examines Jet Engine Plan as Trent Replacement Starts

Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc has begun work on a jet-engine design that would be the foundation of a new family of wide-body powerplants as it explores how to re-enter a market for smaller Airbus SAS and Boeing Co. jets.

Development efforts on a future long-haul aircraft engine, which is designated the RB3039, may result in the flight of a demonstrator within seven years, Ric Parker, director of research and technology at Rolls-Royce, said today. The engine may enter service in the first half of the next decade, he said.

Rolls also is starting to explore how to approach the “mid-market,” Parker said less than five weeks after the company and United Technologies Corp. scrapped plans to jointly work on powerplants for planes seating 120 to 230 passengers.

Rolls has bet heavily on wide-body airliners after exiting a joint venture that supplies engines for single-aisle Airbus A320s. It is developing Trent models for the Airbus A350, which first flew in June, and future versions of Boeing’s 787, while also powering A330s and A380 super jumbos.

The RB3039 “will be quite radically different,” Parker said. The new engine “will probably not carry the Trent name.”

The engine will likely be Rolls’s first modern powerplant to feature a composite fan that would aim to cut weight and improve efficiency. A prototype fan could be flying on a demonstrator in two years, Parker said in an interview at a Royal Aeronautical Society conference in London.

The engine architecture will use a three-shaft design that is a hallmark of the London-based engine maker’s large jet offering, which differs from those of rival GE and United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney.

The efforts come as Rolls-Royce Chief Executive Officer John Rishton has tightened the company’s focus on costs.

For the past decade the engine maker has increased research spending, Parker said. The company spent 919 million pounds ($1.48 billion) on research and technology last year, he said.

Funding for the demonstrator will be partly provided by a U.K. government research support program and European Union aerospace funding, Parker said.

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