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Rolls-Royce opts out of Boeing NMA contest

written by australianaviation.com.au | March 1, 2019

A concept of how the NMA might look. (Camil Valiquette/simviation.com)
A concept of how the NMA might look. (Camil Valiquette/simviation.com)

Rolls-Royce says it will not be a candidate to power Boeing’s proposed new mid-market aircraft (NMA).

The engine-maker informed Boeing of its decision shortly before the end of 2018, Rolls-Royce chief executive Warren East said during the company’s calendar 2018 results presentation on Thursday (UK time).

“We have made a decision to withdraw from Boeing’s proposed NMA plan,” East said.

Boeing’s study into the much-discussed but yet‑to‑be‑officially-launched NMA was focused on a two-aircraft family that would carry between 225-275 passengers anywhere from 4,500-5,000nm. It would be powered by an engine capable of producing 50,000lb of thrust.

Entry into service was projected to occur in the 2024 to 2025 timeframe.


The airframer’s initial estimates for the NMA suggested there might be a market for about 4,000 aircraft. Some aviation analysts, who might define the market differently, have put forward a number closer to 2,500.

Boeing has said previously it was in talks with three engine companies for the NMA – GE Aviation, Pratt and Whitney, and Rolls-Royce.

East said Rolls-Royce had done extensive work with Boeing in looking at what the NMA would require and determined that it could not find enough overlap with its own development of the UltraFan next generation engine.

“Many of you have heard me talk before about the NMA being potentially an attractive proposition from a strategic point of view and it was all a matter of overlapping our UltraFan development program with the NMA requirements and seeing if we could achieve a sufficient overlap there to make a sensible answer from a commercial and a risk point of view,” East said.

“We have concluded that there is not sufficient overlap to create an engine out of the UltraFan architecture within the Boeing timescales at a sufficient level of maturity to tick those boxes in terms of risk and commercial common sense.”

“We simply couldn’t find enough hours in the day, even if you threw many more bodies at it and much more money at it, there simply is not enough hours in the day to do all that work in time to get to a sufficient level of maturity in time for Boeing’s timescales.”

Rolls-Royce president for civil aerospace Chris Cholerton added in a statement: “Delivering on our promises to customers is vital to us and we do not want to promise to support Boeing’s new platform if we do not have every confidence that we can deliver to their schedule.”

Cholerton said UltraFan was the “foundation of our future large civil aero engine programmes”.

“We must ensure that it has as smooth an entry into service as possible,” Cholerton said.

“We had begun its development before the Boeing opportunity emerged and it must undergo a rigorous testing regime before we offer it to customers, which we do not believe can be achieved within the NMA timeframe.

“Withdrawing at this stage will enable Boeing to structure the final part of the competition in a way that best suits them and we hope and expect to work with Boeing on other new opportunities in the future.”

Asked if Rolls-Royce would be open to partnering with another company on the engines, East said: “If we can do something useful and it makes commercial good sense to partner in future, then of course we are open.”

Boeing planning to decide whether to launch in 2019

Boeing chief executive Denis Muilenburg said recently the company was still planning to reach a decision on whether to proceed with the development of the NMA some time in 2019, with the evaluation of the business case ongoing.

“As we’ve mentioned before, we do see a decision point this year, and that is a decision of whether we would offer the airplane in the market,” Muilenburg said at Boeing’s 2018 full year results presentation in late January.

“Assuming a positive market response or depending on the market response, we’ll make the final launch decision next year so it’s a two-step decision process, as we’ve always done with commercial airplanes, and a very disciplined process.”

Qantas is one of a number of airlines that have publicly stated its interest in the proposed NMA.

A concept of how the NMA might look. (Camil Valiquette/simviation.com)
A concept of how the NMA might look. (Camil Valiquette/simviation.com)

Rolls-Royce lifts cost estimates from Trent 1000 engine issues

Meanwhile, Rolls-Royce said it now expected the total cash cost of the Trent 1000 engine issues that have affected a number of Boeing 787 operators to be 1.5 billion pounds, an increase of 100 million pounds from the previous estimate.

The company said it incurred a cash cost of 431 million pounds in calendar 2018, with the figure forecast to be about 450 million pounds in the current year and 350 million pounds in 2020 before “falling materially” in subsequent years.

In April 2018, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an airworthiness directive (AD) that limited extended operations for Boeing 787s with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines due to some durability issues on the intermediate pressure compressor (IPC) rotor blade for Trent 1000 Package C engines.

In terms of a long-term fix to the problem, Rolls-Royce has redesigned IPC rotor blade for Trent 1000 Package C engines, which were certified in December 2018. Meanwhile, certification for a redesigned IPC rotor blade for Trent 1000 TEN and Package C engines were expected in the third and fourth quarter, respectively, of calendar 2019.

And in further positive news, Rolls-Royce said regulators recently changed a hard life limit on a compressor drum on the Trent 1000 TEN engines to an inspection regime, which has also helped reduce the disruption to airlines.

An update on the Trent 1000 engine problems from Rolls-Royce’s calendar 2018 results presentation. (Rolls-Royce)

“The thing about is the Trent 1000 issue is that it has of course caused a huge level of disruption for some of our customers and a portion of those Trent 1000 customers have been seriously affected,” East said.

“We’ve been putting a lot of effort into managing that from an operational point of view and helping those customers by minimising the number of aircraft they have on the ground.

“We do sincerely regret the disruption caused to those customers and that’s why we are spending all this money on fixing it because we want the planes all flying as soon as we possibly can.”

In addition to the cash cost, Rolls-Royce also booked a 790 million pound exceptional charge in relation to the Trent 1000 issue in its calendar 2018 full year financial accounts. This was up from 544 million pounds for the half year.

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Comments (5)

  • AlanH


    I still don’t understand where the NMA will fit in. Is it to be a 767-type aircraft? What’s wrong with using the 787-8? Meanwhile we have the 737MAX, the A321Neo and the A330Neo. It’s all very complex and crowded out there. What is the NMA supposed to provide that the others can’t?

    • Ben


      It’s not a 767 replacement… that was the 787. The 797 will be the actual 757 replacement, the MAX/NEO doesn’t have the payload-range (despite best efforts) and the 787/330 is too much aeroplane.

    • Trogdor


      Really, the NMA replaces both the 757 and 767, or really – fills the gap between the 737-MAX10 and 787-8.

      The 787 is a substantially larger aircraft, with the smallest 787 still having a 20-tonne heavier MTOW and 3,000 klm longer range than the largest 767.

  • Ben


    RR opts out? More like they don’t have any spare cash to develop another engine before the Trent1000 debacle is finished.

  • AlanH


    Thanks Ben, think I’ve got it, but it will be a tight squeeze fitting it in that space. I guess the bean counters at Boeing will work that one out. Meanwhile Airbus will just soldier on with its A320/A330neos I guess.

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