Rolls-Royce has confirmed that it has submitted a proposal to Embraer to power the new 70-90 seater turboprop that the Brazilian plans to launch later this year. During an Investor Day presentation, President of Civil Aerospace, Chris Cholerton, said that Rolls-Royce is bidding and developing the technology for the turboprop aircraft. Rolls-Royce bids for Embraer turboprop.

“I think we are having a compelling proposition”, Cholerton said, without going into further details. A turboprop engine fits in perfectly in Rolls-Royce’s strategy to develop new-technology engines, with the UltraFan at the other end of the spectrum “which is at the heart of our future widebody strategy and indeed any future narrowbody opportunities.”

With the confirmation of Rolls-Royce, it is believed that now all three major engine manufacturers have made proposals to Embraer, so there is a real choice to be made for the airframer. Rolls do not have an off-the-shelf turboprop product right now, so its offer should constitute a whole new engine concept that, as Cholerton indicated, uses elements of the UltraFan engine. Pratt & Whitney has been working on the Next-Generation Turboprop Program (NGTP) for some time, but this hasn’t resulted in the public launch of a new engine yet. Alternatively, it could offer new versions of the PW-150. General Electric is said to be working on an updated version of the T408 that is used on the Sikorsky CH-43K helicopter or could offer a version of the Catalyst engine.

Rolls-Royce and the other two engine makers are all working hard to make their engines compatible with 100 percent sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) while also looking at hydrogen as a future option. Embraer’s Rodrigo Silva e Souza told AirInsight in August last year that the turboprop should have engines that run on pure SAF when it enters the market around 2027/2028, while it could offer a hydrogen version around 2040. One of the reasons to change the design and opt for rear-mounted engines has been the easier accommodation of a hydrogen system close to the engines in this configuration.

Assembly of the power gearbox on the first UltraFan engine. (Rolls- Royce)

Restructuring has made Rolls-Royce one-third smaller

In various presentations, Rolls-Royce updated investors and analysts on the various aerospace programs and the restructuring that has now been almost completed. The biggest restructuring was done at Civil Aerospace, which since 2019 has reduced its operating costs by 35 percent or £1.2 billion, reduced its staff by 34 percent or 8.700 employees, reduced its carbon footprint by 27 percent, and reduced capital spending by 46 percent.

Rolls want to maximize the income from its services businesses, benefitting from the recovery of air travel. The target is to secure more long-term service agreements (LTSA) for the engine fleet, with the number of Trent 1000s, XWBs, and 7000s growing from 900 this year to 2.000 in 2030. For the next five years, ninety percent is covered by LTSA contracts. The share of business engine contracts should get to seventy percent as the fleet grows from 3.700 to 4.500 engines. The number of Trent 700s will come down from 700 to 500 by 2030, but they will continue to fly on converted freighter aircraft. Rolls expect some 300 conversions of Trent 700-powered Airbus A330s by 2030. LTSA share should get to 85 percent.

To improve LTSA margins, time on wing per engine needs to be extended, said Dominic Horwood, Services Director at Civil Aerospace. The target is to get a 25 percent improvement in 2025, notably coming from the newer and more reliable engines. By comparison: the Trent XWB-84 that powers the Airbus A350-900 is 65 percent more reliable, has eighty percent fewer infight shutdowns than the Trent 700, and has forty percent lower costs for shop visits in the first two years. High-pressure turbine (HPT) blade life has doubled on the XWB and Trent 7000 on the Airbus A330neo, the life of limited part extensions is eleven percent better on the XWB-84, the turbine of the XWB-97 on the A350-1000 has enhanced temperature limits that extend turbine life by eight percent. Instrumental to getting to these higher numbers is the IntelligentEngine program.

After ten years, Rolls-Royce’s investments have reached a low point and are expected to be limited on the mediyum-term. (Rolls-Royce)

Improved margins on large engines

Despite a fifty percent drop in the volumes of installed large engines since 2019, Rolls-Royce has managed to reduce new engine losses by thirty percent. Add spare parts to the basket, and the engine maker will even break even on large engine production, said Sebastian Resch, Operations Director at Civil Aerospace. This has only been possible thanks to rigorous cost management in the whole organization by breaking the link between volumes and costs. Operating costs were down by £600 million between 2020 and 2021. Retsch mentioned a £5 million cost-benefit per year from better logistics when transporting new fan blades, which he said is a very costly procedure.

In its financial targets, Rolls-Royce aims to improve its medium-term operating margin from -4 percent in 2021 to high single-digit numbers, revenues by low double-digit percentage points, and cash flow comfortably exceeding operating profits. After an intensive ten-year period of investments (including those to solve the Trent 1000 issues), the Derby-based company expects a period of lower investments in new engine programs and will keep a very disciplined approach to new investments.

The assembly of the first UltraFan technology demonstrator engine is in progress, with the first tests scheduled for the coming months. Chris Cholerton said that Rolls-Royce will announce further updates in July at the Farnborough Airshow.

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Richard Schuurman
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Active as journalist since 1987, starting with regional newspaper Zwolse Courant. Grand Prix reporter in 1997 at Dutch monthly Formule 1, general reporter Lelystad/Flevoland at De Stentor/Dagblad Flevoland, from 2002 until June 2021 radio/tv reporter/presentor with Omroep Flevoland.
Since mid-2016 freelance aviation journalist, since June 2021 fully dedicated to aviation. Reporter/editor AirInsight since December 2018. Contributor to Airliner World, Piloot & Vliegtuig. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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