Rolls-Royce Uses UltraFan Tech To Upgrade Trent Engines

By Spyros Georgilidakis | February 23, 2024

Rolls-Royce has revealed an ongoing process to upgrade many engines in the Trent family, using lessons from its UltraFan engine concept.

During the Dubai Airshow last November, a deal between Airbus and Emirates Airlines for a number of A350-1000 widebodies fell through. As we saw, this had to do with worries about the longevity and maintenance requirements of the Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-97 engines of this aircraft.

In the end, Airbus got a smaller order for the A350-900. Image: Airbus

These issues were specific to that variant of the engine AND its use in the heat and dust of the Middle East. It wasn’t a safety of flight issue – Emirates’ concern was that the engines needed too frequent maintenance, grounding the aircraft.

That was the Dubai Airshow. But now, at this year’s Singapore Airshow, Rolls-Royce announced a drive to upgrade this and other Trent engines. These include the Trent 1000 (787), the 7000 (A330neo), and the two Trent XWBs of the A350-900 and -1000.

Rolls-Royce Uses UltraFan Tech To Upgrade Trent Engines
The fan of a Rolls-Royce Trent XWB-84, that powers the smaller A350-900. Photo: Adelie Huang

A Key Rolls-Royce Engine Upgrade

It appears that Rolls-Royce had been working on this upgrade for some time. The engine maker had previously said that technology from its newer UltraFan concept would make it to its current crop of engines. But until now, we didn’t have a specific timeline or extent of such upgrades.

Rolls-Royce UltraFan prototype during testing. Photo: Rolls-Royce

For most of its engine models, Rolls-Royce is aiming this upgrade at improving their efficiency and allowing them to run a bit cooler, to help with longevity and maintenance. When it comes to the XWB-97 engine (A350-1000), the improvements will double its time-on-wing, in harsh environments.

The low time-on-wing of this engine was a central point in Emirates’ rejection of the A350-1000. A350 operators in less demanding climates will also see a time-on-wing increase, of 50%. However, these improvements won’t come overnight.

Rolls-Royce Uses UltraFan Tech To Upgrade Trent Engines
The two XWB engines of an Airbus A350-900. Note the deployed RAT! Photo: Laurent ERRERA, CC BY-SA 2.0

The Rolls-Royce upgrade will first affect the Trent XWB-84 of the A350-900, as early as next year. Other engines like the Trent 1000 and 7000 will follow, building on pre-existing updates to these models. The A350-1000 engine upgrade should follow, in 2028.

In all, Rolls-Royce is investing $1.25 billion in this program. The company has recently seen a dramatic improvement in its financial outlook, largely thanks to a strong long-haul recovery worldwide, in 2023. Besides the A350-1000, the Trent XWB-97 will also power the Airbus A350F freighter, making it a vital engine for Airbus.


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