Rolls-Royce pursues rival’s technology

Rolls-Royce, the world’s No 2 commercial jet-engine maker, will pursue geared turbofan technology championed by rival Pratt & Whitney as it seeks to power future Boeing and Airbus aircraft.

The so-called UltraFan would be available from 2025 and offer about 10% greater efficiency than the TrentXWB, the engine maker’s most modern turbine, said Simon Carlisle, executive vice president for future programmes at Rolls-Royce’s civil aerospace division.

The UltraFan would build on the so-called Advanced engine, a technology upgrade due from 2020. “The demands of the industry are becoming much greater,” Carlisle said. “We need to make sure we don’t stand still.”

Rolls-Royce has focused on powering long-range airliners, with engines on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Airbus A380 superjumbo and the A350 that is due to begin commercial operation this year.

The company has 2,500 Trent-family engines in service and orders for the same number to come.

The London-based manufacturer faces competition to power future aircraft, with General Electric the exclusive provider for the Boeing 777X, the largest twin-engine plane due around 2020. Pratt & Whitney, United Technologies’s engine arm, is also seeking wide-body applications for its geared turbofan technology on narrow-bodies.

The new Rolls-Royce offerings are not aimed at a specific plane from Airbus or Boeing, Carlisle said. Airbus has said it is exploring re-engining programs for its A380 and A330 wide- bodies.

Rolls-Royce, which spends about £1bn (€1.2bn) on technology research each year, will run a test engine in 2015 to help mature the 2020 powerplant, with a trial UltraFan to come toward the end of the decade, Carlisle said.

Technologies could flow into future engines to power the more ubiquitous single-aisle market, where Rolls-Royce has retrenched after exiting the International Aero Engines joint venture led by Pratt & Whitney.

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