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Rolls’ regret as extent of Trent issues emerge

written by australianaviation.com.au | November 15, 2010
A Trent 900 on a Qantas A380 at the airline's 90th anniversary celebrations.

Rolls-Royce has expressed “regret” at the disruption caused to its Trent 900 engine customers in the wake of the Qantas A380 QF32 uncontained engine failure on November 4, as further details continued to emerge as to the extent of the issue.

“We regret the disruption we have caused,” Rolls-Royce chief executive Sir John Rose said in a November 12 statement to investors.

“Safety is the highest priority of Rolls-Royce,” Rose said. “This has been demonstrated by the rapid and prudent action we have taken following the Trent 900 incident. We have instigated a program of measures in collaboration with Airbus, our Trent 900 customers and the regulators.  This will enable our customers progressively to bring the whole fleet back into service.”

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The expression of regret came after Airbus chief operating officer – customers, John Leahy, told journalists in Sydney on October 12 the latest build standards of Trent 900 engine is not affected by oil leaks in the bearing box which led to QF32’s engine fire and subsequent uncontained failure.

“These are all to a new build standard and they should not have any issues,” Leahy said, “we think the engines on the production line are fine”.

It is understood that Rolls-Royce is now up to its third, ‘C’ build standard for the Trent 900. As many as 40 of the 80 Trent 900s delivered to A380 operators Singapore Airlines, Qantas and Lufthansa are understood to be affected by the oil leak issue to some degree, with 14 of those engines on Qantas’s six A380s, 24 in service with Singapore Airlines and two with Lufthansa.

Meanwhile, Associated Press has reported that EASA (the European Aviation Safety Agency) had already issued two airworthiness directives concerning the Trent 900, warning of the potential for “inflight shut down, oil migration and oil fire” from oil leaks in the intermediate turbine.

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The same AP report also quotes an unnamed maintenance engineer from a Trent 900 operating airline as saying that Rolls-Royce had made design change to the oil lubrication system on the Trent 900 for engines delivered from the second half of 2009.

Qantas is expected to seek considerable compensation from Rolls-Royce once the issue has been resolved and its A380s return to the skies, likely to run to into the tens of millions of dollars. Rolls-Royce maintains Qantas’s Trent 900 engines under its ‘Total Care’ power by the hour arrangement.

Admitted Rose in his statement to investors, “This event [QF32] and the consequent actions will have an impact on the group’s financial performance this year.”

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