Pointed to the A350 engines, Rolls-Royce is pulling out its claws

Airbus and Rolls-Royce, which has become the exclusive engine manufacturer of the European manufacturer’s long-haul aircraft, had a turbulent show in Dubai. Damaged by the departure of Tim Clark, president of Emirates, or that of commercial director Adnan Kazim The gallery Nevertheless, in terms of the performance of the A350-1000 engine, the two partners are experiencing a prosperous period with the strong recovery of the long-haul market. With the replacement of the huge fleet of Boeing 777-300ERs underway, the prospects are unprecedented.

Outraged by Emirates’ statements about the durability of the XWB-97 engines fitted to the A350-1000, particularly the short initial time to remove the wing and the cost of their maintenance, Ewen McDonald, Rolls’ customer relations director – Royce responded quickly The gallery.

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“The Airbus A350 and Rolls-Royce Trent XWB have proven time and time again that they are a winning combination,” he argues. As proof, he cites the sixty customers who have opted for this solution, “which has set an industry benchmark in efficiency and reliability”.

“Airlines such as EVA Air, Air France-KLM and Air India have opted for a combination of Trent XWB-84 and Trent XWB-97 – so we are confident that this product has good future prospects. The engine was also recently chosen to power Qantas’ Project Sunrise (Sydney-London and New York), the world’s second longest scheduled flight.adds Ewen McDonald.

The Trent XWB-97 will continue to evolve

As a result, Rolls-Royce’s customer relations director estimates that “The Trent XWB is the most efficient engine in the world”. But if he also presents the Trent XWB-84 as “the best engine on the market in terms of efficiency, durability and reliability”he makes a distinction with regard to the Trent XWB-97.

“It is the only new generation high thrust engine in use. It has proven its reliability and durability during its five years in service and after more than 2 million flight hours, a figure expected to rise to more than 5 million by 2025.

He even suggests that efforts are still needed: “We also continue to improve our engines and invest in their lifespan. The A350-1000 XWB-97 is no exception to the rule. It’s a good engine and we’ll continue to make sure it improves as we look to implement some of the new technologies from our UltraFan demonstration program. »

The deal still ended on a high with Emirates ordering 15 new A350-900s on Thursday. Good news, even if it is not the A350-1000 that could have been hoped for. This new contract also comes during a particularly dynamic period for sales.

Air France-KLM places a huge order for 50 Airbus A350s

Never seen it before in ten years

With 149 units ordered this year, the A350 achieved its best commercial performance in a decade and 239 aircraft sold in 2013. And this figure could rise further if the contract with Turkish Airlines – which could include up to 95 A350s – is confirmed. , when the memorandum of understanding signed with Ethiopian at the Dubai air show for 11 A350-900s will be converted into a contract, or when EVA Air will confirm its choice for 18 A350-1000s, as announced last week. It’s a little less flamboyant for the A330 NEO with only 36 orders. This performance still remains the best year in terms of turnover since 2019.

“I have been in the industry for a long time and the current market conditions, where there is much more demand than supply, are incredible. I have never experienced such a busy period in terms of aircraft sales and purchase requests”rejoices Ewen McDonald.

A dynamic partly related to the desire of companies to secure delivery times to guarantee the replacement and growth of their fleets, in a context of decarbonization commitments. “Replacing old aircraft with new, much more efficient aircraft is the fastest way to achieve these goals, because the availability of SAF (sustainable aviation fuels) now will not be high enough to make a big difference. 2050 »he analyses.

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Replacement of the 777-300ER, the deal of the century

The demand is there in all regions of the world, according to the director of Rolls-Royce, even though he mainly cites Europe and the United States. It only puts a damper on China. The Middle Kingdom has in fact been weakened by slow growth, which estimates say is more due to the late exit from the Covid crisis Ewen McDonald. The latter therefore remains optimistic for the year 2024.

The market could accelerate even further thanks to the nascent replacement market for the Boeing 777-300ER. In service since 2004, 880 units have been sold. That’s more than all other 777 models combined (excluding freighter). Enough to rub the industry’s hands. Ewen McDonald mentions Eva Air’s order for 18 A350-1000s as “the first confirmation from a very independent airline […] who had always bought Boeings before”. And according to him, it has only just begun.

“When we do analysis, we see that the peak in replacement demand for orders will be reached in the next two years. So we are just at the beginning. “We will see many announcements over the next six months regarding the preferred aircraft choice to replace the 777-300ER.”he predicts.

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Return to pre-crisis levels

Airbus also announced the further production of the A350 at the beginning of November. From an average of six aircraft produced per month at the beginning of 2023, the aircraft manufacturer was already aiming for growth to nine aircraft by the end of 2025. It is now expected to reach ten in 2026, i.e. a return to the pre-crisis production level. For the A330 NEO, the target remains four monthly aircraft by 2024.

“We have been preparing for some time now. The pace is set by Airbus, but we have planned it in close cooperation. And whatever rate is announced by Airbus, we have to supply engines at that rate. So I think it is excellent news to increase production rates,” the British leader welcomed.

Will Rolls-Royce be able to keep up with this pace? “We are talking about 2026, so there is still some time. The increase is not dramatic,” sweeps Ewen McDonald. He recalls that the A350 was already running at this level of production before the Covid pandemic. Rolls-Royce knows how to do it, he assures us in short. Above all, the Customer Relations Director points out that the effort required is out of all proportion to what could have happened to the medium-haul aircraft: “The ramp-up is very different from that of single-aisle aircraft, where we are talking about a rate of 75 aircraft per month (A320 NEO family). The take-off rate for widebody aircraft is ten (A350). So the challenge is not of the same magnitude. »

Industry: Rolls-Royce is cutting up to 2,500 jobs worldwide

A facade of serenity?

By pushing a little, Ewen McDonald finally acknowledges that “The entire sector is challenged by the supply chain issues in this post-Covid period,” under pressure from the increase in pace, the increase in interest rates and financing costs. ‘We are not immune and we too must tackle these problems’ he admits.

To best anticipate this, Rolls-Royce announced in mid-October that it had strengthened the implementation of a simplified organization as part of its transformation plan. According to the press release, she has to help him “to strengthen its capabilities in key areas such as purchasing and supply chain management”. In fact, this decision will result in a cost-cutting plan and the elimination of 2,000 to 2,500 positions worldwide, as well as a reshuffle at the executive committee level. The group had already cut 10,000 positions during the Covid period.

This new plan is not specific to the Civil Aviation Division and covers all activities, especially in the field of energy generation.