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Rolls-Royce Engine Dependability: Fact or Fiction

posted 19 Nov 2010, 05:21 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 19 Nov 2010, 05:23 ]

It was back in the 1990s when Airbus announced that they were
going to build a large aircraft, as a natural successor to
the largest commercial plane in the world, the Boeing 747.
When Airbus announced it was designating their new aircraft
the A3XX, Rolls-Royce stepped up to develop their next
generation of turbo fan engines, the Rolls-Royce Trent 900.


By the year 2000, Airbus decided the Rolls-Royce Trent 900
would be the engine that would launch the first A380 sold.
By 2009, Rolls-Royce held nearly 52% of the engine market on
all of the A380s manufactured and in production. Though it
has been a bumpy ride, with all the major delays Airbus had
in producing the A380, Rolls-Royce and the Trent 900 finally
took the leadership role in powering Airbus' largest
aircraft.

However, on November 4, 2010, while in flight over
Singapore, a Qantas Airbus A380 experienced a major
uncontained failure of the port side Rolls-Royce Trent 900
turbo fan engine. Though no one was injured as the aircraft
made a safe landing at Singapore's Changi International
Airport, many questions have arisen about the Rolls-Royce
engine's dependability.

Qantas and Singapore Airlines immediately grounded all of
their A380s powered by the Trent 900, to begin inspection of
all of their Rolls-Royce engines. Qantas announce within a
few days that it found numerous small leaks on the Trent 900
engines on three of their other A380s. Scrambling to find the
cause of the uncontained failure, Transportation Safety
Bureaus from around the world are placing strict
restrictions on any A380 deemed not flight worthy.

At this time, the problem seems to be centered on mangled
pieces of a shattered turbine disc, as airworthiness of all
aircraft powered by the Trent 900 is called into question.
Early indicators suggest a fire might have erupted inside
the engine causing the disc to fail. Though it's important
to get the A380 fleet back up into the air, safety is the
number one concern for the airlines and the flight safety
agencies.

The challenge facing Rolls-Royce with its Trent 900 and the
new Trent 1000 is the public's perception of the
dependability involving their engines. Unlike the thousands
of engines used on other major commercial aircraft, there
simply isn't enough Trent 900 turbo fan engines installed
and in service on A380s to work through engine safety issues
on these aircraft that have now flown for thousands of hours.
How fast Rolls-Royce finds and corrects this problem will
determine the airlines' and passenger's opinions on the
dependability of their Trent 900 engine.

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