As the first engine to enter service from the Trent family, the Rolls-Royce Trent 700 has now accumulated more than 50 million flight hours powering Airbus A330 aircraft. It is also the oldest of Rolls-Royce’s commercial engines still in production, although a transition to its successor engine, the Trent 7000, which will power the A330neo, is beginning.
There are 1,710 Trent 700s in service, according to Aviation Week’s 2018 Fleet & MRO Forecast. The A330-300 accounts for 952 of these, with the rest on A330-200 passenger and freighter aircraft. Aviation Week predicts that Trent 700 numbers will peak at 1,738 in 2020—the last year of Trent 700 production. Even as new engine sales wind down, however, maintenance demand will make the engine a vital revenue source for its British manufacturer for years to come.
When the Trent 700 entered service with Cathay Pacific in 1995, it represented the revitalization of Rolls-Royce in the widebody engine market, which for many years had been dominated by GE and Pratt & Whitney. Today, the engine has a 60% market share on the A330 platform, which can also use General Electric CF6 or Pratt & Whitney PW4000 engines. Those strong sales were followed by subsequent members of the Trent family, cementing Rolls-Royce’s position as one of the top two large-engine manufacturers.
Today, the Trent 700 accounts for roughly one-third of the Rolls-Royce’s installed fleet, although diminishing sales mean that it was only 23% of the company’s engine deliveries in 2017. Even so, Rolls has worked to keep the 72,000-lb.-thrust engine attractive, introducing its EP performance upgrade package in 2009, which was designed to improve fuel burn by 1%.
In contrast to some of Rolls-Royce’s newer engines, the Trent 700 has a dispatch reliability of 99.9%, although like all engines, it has faced issues. In 2017, for example, a fan blade break caused an inflight contained engine failure. Certain other blade failures were addressed with a series of airworthiness directives from 2013 to 2018, requiring repetitive ultrasonic inspections and replacement—if necessary—of low-pressure compressor blades.
Given the age of the Trent 700 and the relatively high numbers in service, the engine is a key driver of maintenance revenue for Rolls-Royce. The manufacturer reports a 25% increase in maintenance demand since 2016 and expects another 25% rise in the next decade. Aviation Week estimates that the Trent 700 MRO market will be worth roughly $1 billion in 2018, increasing to almost $1.3 billion in 2021.
Also important is the fact that maintenance work on older engines tends to be a higher-margin business. Many Trent 700 operators have completed any long-term service deals they agreed with Rolls-Royce on a cost-per-flight-hour (CPFH) basis, and have moved on to old-fashioned time-and-materials contracts. These often make more sense for mature engines with limited life remaining, and they also benefit the manufacturer.
“On the time of materials, the two key engines that are generating revenue there are the RB211 and the 700. There is good margin on this busines,s and it’s a revenue stream that we don’t probably talk about as much as we should do,” said Rolls-Royce Chief Financial Officer Stephen Daintith on a recent earnings call.
An alternative to one-off overhauls with time-and-materials pricing is SelectCare, Rolls-Royce’s maintenance package for operators of older engines, who can pick the services they require across an agreed number of engine shop visits on a CPFH basis. In early 2018, Singapore Airlines chose SelectCare for the Trent 700s powering 11 of its A330s.
The engine’s typical mean time between overhaul (MTBH) is 26,000 hr., although the record time on-wing for the engine is almost twice that. “It is noteworthy that this robust performance even applies to engines operated in harsh environments such as the Middle East and China,” says Rolls-Royce spokesman Bill O’Sullivan, referring to the typical MTBH.
Trent 700 operators might worry, however, that problems with the Trent 1000 would push their engines down the maintenance queue at overhaul facilities. O’Sullivan admits that “the current well-publicized difficulties affecting the Trent 1000 have led to additional pressures in the Trent MRO network,” but he also points out that Rolls-Royce is adding 60% to its Trent overhaul capacity between 2016-19.
“Rolls-Royce and its overhaul partners expect to be fully able to support our Trent 700 customers, even as the current Trent 1000 problems are worked through,” he says.