Airbus, Boeing respond differently to engine problems

March 14, 2018, © Leeham Co.: Airbus and Boeing have engine issues on in-service airplanes, but customers point to very different responses to getting their grounded airplanes back in the air.

Airbus’ problems with A320neos powered by Pratt & Whitney Geared Turbo Fan engines have been making headlines almost since introduction in late 2016.

Less well publicized, but nevertheless by now well-known within the industry, has been Boeing’s 787 powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.

Grounded A320neos

Airbus and PW suffered long-running engine shut-down issues that resulted in airlines grounding aircraft for the lack of spare parts or spare engines. Monday, the Indian aviation authority ordered A320neos at Indigo and Go airlines grounded over the latest problems. Neither the European EASA or the USA’s Federal Aviation Administration thought it necessary to ground the airplanes as long as one of the two engines did have the latest design issue (see Bjorn Fehrm’s story today).

Airlines note that Airbus has PW sending new engines off the production line straight to the customers with Airplanes on the Ground, known as AOGs. New production A320neo family airplanes are parked around the Toulouse and Hamburg airports, engineless because the powerplants are going to the airlines with AOGs.

On the other hand, airlines with 787s that are AOG due to issues with the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, complain that Boeing hasn’t taken a similar action.

Grounded 787s

Air New Zealand had four grounded 787s. Three are about to return to service. Virgin Atlantic also has grounded 787-9s. It leased in Airbus A330-200s and returned to service an Airbus A340-600 to replace its grounded aircraft.

ANA also has been affected, as has other airlines. Latam is leasing in A330s to cover its grounded 787s. About 200 787s are affected by the engine defects.

LNC is told that Boeing wants new Trent 1000 TEN engines delivered to it to maintain production as opposed to customers with AOG that would get them back in the air. Boeing is also in the process of increasing 787 production. Diverting the Trent engines to AOG airplanes could threaten the ramp up, LNC is told.

Boeing did not directly address this when asked.

“We are working with our engine partners to meet our delivery commitments and ensure our customers’ airplanes return to service as quickly as possible,” spokesman replied in an email. “We have been working with Rolls-Royce and our customers to ensure issues with Trent 1000 Package C engines are addressed in a timely manner. The performance of the 787 fleet is important to us and any disruption receives our prompt and rigorous attention.“


61 Comments on “Airbus, Boeing respond differently to engine problems

  1. In the old days airlines like Air NZ would have a spare engine in their shop, but I suppose taking an engine off the wing for unscheduled maintenance got so rare and the change to 3rd party/power by the hour meant all you have is a contract in paper now but no engine. Hate to think what this sort major issue does for RR ETOPs on the 787 and those long pacific overwater routes.

    • @dukeofurl:
      “In the old days airlines like Air NZ would have a spare engine in their shop..”
      Which would still be useless for NZ today because that spare engine is still carrying faulty parts which are the only reason for the grounding of 787s with older T1000 design(i.e. non-T1000TEN). Spare works only when the issue is an isolated/random incident but doesn’t work when the issue is systemic (i.e. all hv the same design issue within a pretty large production batch delivered a while ago….it’s just like recalls by car manufacturers).

      Also in the good old days, Boeing assembly line would not compete against the spares/parts warehouse @ their customers for the obviously finite supply of engines. Widebody production rate was far far lower back then. e.g. for the 1st 20yrs of 747 production, the avg was far below 3/mth shared by 3 diff engine designs supplied by 3 engine manufacturers(i.e. risk due to engine design problems was spread 3 ways)….on avg, Boeing needed less than 4 engines each fm PW, GE and RR every mth. Today when Boeing is consistently assembling 787 @ 12units /mth and roughly half of them require T1000TEN(the good T1000), RR needs to deliver @ least 12 engines every mth just for Boeing….not much T1000TEN supply remain to fulfill the replacement need fm such a large but grounded 787 fleet worldwide.

      “Hate to think what this sort major issue does for RR ETOPs on the 787 and those long pacific overwater routes.”
      Biggest risk fm the faulty parts on T1000 is inflight shutdown although the chance of simultaneously occurring on both engines is still extremely remote. To avoid any ETOPS emergency diversion, operators such as NZ voluntarily elected to ground part of their 787 fleets until replacement T1000TENs are installed.

    • How do? The airlines decided which engine manufacturers to contract with. Buyer beware!

      • Yep, they could have chosen the reliable GE engine. 60+ % did.

        • No kidding. Trying to pin this on Boeing is wrong, as is trying to pin the PW woes on Airbus is wrong. These screw-ups lay firmly at the feet of Rolls-Royce (everyone should have seen that coming, what with engines blowing up on test stands) and PW (rushing the product to primetime? Likely..)

          Meanwhile, good ole GE is running along relatively well. It’s had its problems, sure, but GE’s products have never threatened to send a company into bankruptcy (hello RR and your nonsense almost sending Lockheed to the cleaners)

          • Blow up on stand ( Youtube) ?
            That was a deliberate ‘blade out’ test on the stand.

            What other way would you suggest they test for that occurrence- wait to see if it happens in service ?

          • @dukeofurl:

            You didn’t see this:


            This wasn’t a planned ‘failure’, as you can read for yourself.

            Or the fact that RR basically knows they have a dud in the Trent 1000 they sold Boeing, and, surprise, surprise, they put all their resources into the Airbus A350 Trent XWB, which appears to be operating quite well:


          • “Trent 1000 early failure”

            IMU this was pushed by Boeing at the time to detract from their abysmal performance on 787 project as whole.
            Afair the uncontained failure was a result from operating beyond allowed parameters.

            I find your simplistic GE better than anything stance tiring. What one has to note is that GE has press protection (TM) and seems to operate a fast reaction force of hecklers to “fix up” competitors in public perception.

          • One of the main issue with these companies like Boeing and Airbus, they are getting away from the technical advise and going more towards engineering standards when it come to decision. You have to combine both disciplines to get a better result. SYSTEMS, STRUCTUAL and ZONALS will never change.

      • Montana,
        There are so many factors that drive that decision. Fuel efficiency, range, performance, maintenance and last but not least pricing. Its really hard to blame Boeing because they are not in the engine building business. Plus these aircrafts are tested with the engine prior for them sold. How it works is Boeing builds the aircraft and all other suppliers come in and add their components. Its just the lock of the draw. At the end of the day, That RR engine is not bad just like everything else issue and that could only be combatted with research and overhaul.

    • Boeing does not control what engines are installed – this is called “BFE”, buyer furnished equipment. What model engine gets installed is chosen by the customer when the AP order is placed, and changes to future deliveries can be made if given enough notice.

  2. I have to defend Boeing just a little bit for the first time in en long period, – but if you take a look at this table:

    Here you can see expected production for next aprox 160 frames or so.
    Of them will 55 be powered by RR, and
    100 will be GE.

    This number could of course reflect “market share” on this product, – but on the other hand could it also be that Boeing has prioritized GE frames to give RR a chance to get this mess cleaned up.


  3. Amazing that Airbus has not done the same of stop making PW1100G airframes and just produce LEAP powered ones until PWA get fully working Engines shipped. One would think they should have done it much earlier.

    • This is actually very difficult to do, – supply chain is very complex, because if you prioritize LEAP frames, you must also be certain that the suppliers of seats and galleys etc. for that customer can deliver on (new) time.

      An airplane without seats is exactly as useless as an airplane without engines.


      • I can understand that the flow of PW1000G aircraft unique parts from suppliers can be hard to halt but you can store them instead of producing gliders. Most parts on the A320neo are common for LEAP or PW1100G powered versions.

        • CFM is busting their butts just to provide engines at all, this is a huge ramp up.

          You don’t just dial up an engine like and Uber cab.

          • Always issues with component suppliers with big ramp-ups. One thing is not to drop the ball with QC and QA, rather fall behind with delivery than drop quality. Its peoples lifes that hang on those wings.

    • Afaics they adjusted deliveries carefully.
      There are a lot less gliders around than the NEO shortfall in production and that shortfall has been taken up by CEO deliveries. Airbus increased overall A320 deliveries in 2017 despite all the engine/?cabin stuffings? holdups.

  4. I was under the impression that purchasers of new airline transport aircraft with multiple engine options typically negotiate separate purchase contracts with the aircraft manufacturer and engine manufacturer. Is this not the case? If this is the case, I would have expected, based on the way things work in the hospital business in which I work, that an airline would be able to divert engines that it had contracted with an engine manufacturer to receive in a particular month from the assembly line its own AOG aircraft, but should not expect engines contracted for by another airline to be diverted from the assembly line. Does it work some other way in the airline business? Is Boeing resisting diverting engines from aircraft being assembled for the same customer who has an AOG aircraft, or resisting diverting engines from aircraft that are being assembled for another customer?

    • Is it the airframe manufacturer (Boeing or Airbus) or the engine manufacturer (GE, PW, Roll Royce) that controls where engines purchased by a particular airline go, i.e. to an assembly line, an AOG aircraft, or a maintenance facility? If the number of engines purchased by an airline is not sufficient, due to engine reliability issues, to keep the number of aircraft that the airline has purchased in service, is it the airframe manufacturer’s responsibility to provide additional engines for free or to “borrow” them from another customer’s aircraft, or is the engine manufacturer’s responsibility to provide whatever additional replacement or spare engines or engine parts are needed?

  5. Customers in the near-term backlog aren’t necessarily the same customers with aircraft in service. An airframer might claim that not diverting engines to relieve operators with AOG, is at least relieving under-supply without disappointing new operators. However, one must also keep in mind that airframer revenue is hugely dependent on delivery. Perhaps the difference in airframer behaviour is the result of different contractual obligations? The volume difference is also at play here, a target of 30 or so NEO airframes per month is a little different from 12-14 WBs per month…

  6. The Trent 1000 seems to becoming more and more of a quagmire for RR. They have tacitly accepted it’s shortcomings by going for the TEN. What I fail to understand is the length of time for these issues to come to light. There seemed to be an extended honeymoon period until the issues arose. Are the problems due to lack of durability or is there something more fundamental at issue?

    In my understanding it suffers in part from being a rush job in order to satisfy the original kamikaze schedule of the B787 as there is not the same widespread issues with XWB engines……. so far!

    • Infant mortality or midlife crisis. that is the question 🙂

      RR has been pictured as having some financial issues.
      ( which imu is derived from highly qualified “analysts” not understanding the premise? )
      Could that have created issues via “saving money” by way of “optimizing” processes?

      Have there been any largish eruptions around ( increasing atmospheric sulfur content), bad fuel?

      • If history repeats itself it can be that the T1000C for the 787-9 is a small push too far, like the RB211-524H from the RB211-524G.
        The T1000-TEN corresponds then to the Trent development as the T700 or RB211-524G/H-T was before. If the T1000-TEN is as sucessful as the T700 many customers will be happy.

        • Just looked a bit around on avherald.
          T1000 aren’t the only engines present for 789.
          But GE seems have paid for Press Shield (TM) and AstroTurferRally (TM) .
          ( some thread on the headless A380 GP7200 engine instantly turned into a bashing screed on RR.)

          • The problem has been there, no one has been paying attention.

            ANA had to re engine their whole fleet, they ran into it first.

            Now it has spread as the others have seen equivalent life hours.

            RR had to have seen this coming, they obviously gave up on the 1000 and went with the 10.

            Its clear they were more interested in market share than fixing the 1000 problems.

            Some may think this is harsh, but I have heard RRs vaunted 3 spool spiel for years. I detest spin (pun intended)

            GE plebeian 2 spool is beating their 3 spool as did the GP7000.

            What we still have to see is how the A350 does long term.

          • Transworld, you have made the simple error of assuming GE engines on 787s are ‘error free’, no need to build a sand castle now.

          • second simple error TW, assuming all ANA 787 engines are RR, they are not.
            They are only RR for 787-9, their 787-8s are GEnx

            Air NZ was the launch customer for the 787-9 so presumably thats why they are worst affected

          • As Air NZ were launch customer for the 787-9 maybe BA feel that they have already been compensated by low pricing? Anyway, anybody who gets something cheap should expect a payback some time. Still I think it is well done putting existing operations ahead of production numbers/wall street free cash flow concerns.

          • @TW
            As I understand it GE had a further year in development to get their ducks in a row at the outset. By being the launch engine on the B787 they put themselves under too much pressure to have their engine out on time. It looks like they are now paying the price for it.

            We have all read about the ‘inherent advantages’ of the 3 spool vs the 2 spool design but both approaches have proven to be valid. You seem to take great pleasure in denigrating RR when their market penetration has been consistently strong and increasing over the near 50 years of the 3 spool design (211 to Trent). That can’t all be spin (pun intended)

          • dukeofurl

            Incorrect on GE engine powered 787 for ANA. All of ANA’s 787 fleet, -8’s and -9’s, are RR powered, even the last 5 AP that have yet to be delivered are RR. Not a single GE on the books as of yet.

      • ‘some’ is a bit of an understatement. The analysts actually seem to have understood it fairly well. RR was – to use the term widely used – ‘cumbersome’. Communication inside must have got bad with the way they were organised, taking time that should have been spent on actioining the programs to an acceptable standard.

        • “.. actioining the programs to an acceptable standard.”

          What I said, not a shimmer of insight.

          Engine makers work with a rather big bet on the future.
          RR does not have the aid of GAAP beautification for their books.
          Their numbers will look terrible to the quarterlies crowd.

        • I don’t want to kick RR when they are down, but if anyone high up in the company reads this – please please please, start pushing for the company to stop doing your tools and processes on the cheap.

          Start investigating the use of proper database software for anything where you are currently using a myriad of excel sheets. You’d save a fortune in time and money and drastically improve product quality!

        • @dukeofurl

          You are very mistaken. All of ANA’s 787s are RR-powered. JAL went with GE (smart move)

  7. Can an airline change from PW’s to CFM’s?

    Are the changes just software or are their more tricky ones to over come.

    • Maybe. Needs a lot of lead time and planning to do that. Also, if you have already started taking in planes with PWs and then change midway to CFM it will be very expensive to fly that mixed fleet.

      • Indigo has 400 NEO’s on order with ~40 delivered (10%).

        Rather change now?

        • CFM is hard put to meet the LEAP needs right now, so a change to even more engines even if it could be done with the pylon and other parts is impossible short term.

          They not only have the A320NEO ramp up going, they have the 737MAX as well (and continued production of the CFM56.)

          • Haven’t got the CFM56 figures on had but ~750 B737NG’s and 320/1 CEO’s still on backlog.

  8. I find it hard to believe that this is only going to cost RR the reported £315million. PWs costs must be absolutely enormous. John Leahy was recently moaning on these pages about the engine manufacturers lying when they told him new engine technology wouldn’t be be ready for 10 years when they launched the A380.They have been proved to be not lying.This has to be born in mind when thinking about a realistic EIS for the 797.
    Its not very clear whats going on with swapping some T1000C for T1000TEN.It doesn’t seem to all of them,are some airlines paying extra for brand new engines?I assume that its a straight swap.

    • Its in the hundreds of millions (pounds ?) 300 something as I recall.

      Whats not reflected is the all new Ten. That is another billion or so.

  9. Of some note, there are a lot more Pratt A320’s in operation than Rolls 787’s. I’d say Airbus has voiced quite a bit of displeasure with Pratt re: production disruptions, and Rolls has a greater ability to provide 3 or 4 787’s per month with new Trents in addition to AOG aircraft vs. the 20-40 A320’s being made monthly as gliders.

    There’s just a lot of difference in scale here, really. No party involved in either situation wants a large fleet of AOG/gliders/production disruption in deliveries. RR and Pratt are not very reliable with new products, and that’s the core issue. Boeing and Airbus should (have) contracted the risk in delay, as much as possible, to the airlines. Rolls power by the hour contracts probably don’t cover returning A346 etc. to service!

    I wonder what the daily cost is to ground those relatively huge fleets in India alone.

  10. With engine issues bubbling, wonder how the T7000’s are doing on the 339?

  11. Another (conveniently?) poorly researched article which implies things which just aren’t true.

    At this point, Rolls Royce has not received approvals for engine intermix between the package B or C engines and the TEN engines. So Boeing diverting a TEN engine to an operator who has an airplane AOG really doesn’t help. They would need to divert two TEN engines to get the airplane back in the air, as a TEN engine (at least for now) can’t be intermixed with any of the earlier Trent 1000 engines.

    In other words, this situation is very different from the GTF circumstance on the A320neo.

    • My understanding is that every pair of TENs fitted to a secondhand 787 releases a pair of engines to the pool,and that this is the area of real crisis where failures have used up the pool of engines waiting for modifications.

  12. That’s a switch – Boeing has had better support, indeed in the 70s an operator of F-28s judged that it was better out of the box but Fokker (and my inference European companies) didn’t understand the need for support.

    Granted, if it hadn’t been for airlines like Air Canada, PamAm, and United doing design work themselves early US jetliners would not have become reliable.

    (A small example was that somewhere circa 1980 AC was modifying brand new Airesearch APU turbine wheels before installing them. (In DC-9s I presume. Airesearch stumbled on for years, fomenting competition.)

  13. The problem with RR is that they are not as good as they thought they were.

    They have worked their 3 spool tech to the max.
    The Trent has been a success and they have managed to get themselves into the top 2 of TA engine suppliers.

    Great result given their travails in the 70’s.

    However they got fat and happy — they believed their own hype / imbibed their own waste water as they would say in Glesga — until they were presented with a challenge they had to meet but without the correct amount of new tech in the development pipeline.

    Cue a cavalry charge to get something out in the marketplace no matter how half baked it was and the rest they say is history.

    And then there is the issue of their SA strategy …
    Fat and happy don’t do quick and nimble overnight.
    They will talk the talk but not walk the walk.

    Today’s crisis is the product of ego and stagnation 10/12/15 years ago. A case of a good company losing its way.

    • Trouble with that analysis is that RR , like both GE and P&W use partners who ‘design and or build’ on their engines.

      For the 787s Trent 1000 there are 6 partners with 35% of the program
      Kawasaki Heavy Industries (intermediate compressor module)
      Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (combustor and low pressure turbine blades)
      Industria de Turbo Propulsores (low pressure turbine)
      Carlton Forge Works (fan case)
      Hamilton Sundstrand (gearbox)
      Goodrich Corporation (engine control system).

      ITP from Spain is now part of the RR group.

    • @dukeofurl: All of ANA’s 787s (-8, -9 and -10) are all Trent 1000 powered.

      @texl1649: If you look at LatAm, Virgin, British Airways, ANA, Air New Zealand, Royal Brunei and Thai, you will find that there are more than 20 787s that have been grounded for some time due to the Trent 1000 issue. Having a $150m + aircraft sitting on the ground and cancelling flights as a result is a real pain for an airline, much more so than having the aircraft being late for delivery (at least the airline has not paid for it). With the late deliveries and by sending production engines to operators, Airbus takes the financial hit to ensure that operators can fly. Boeing places more importance to its deliveries and cash than to the operations of the affected 787 operators.

      • You have to first find engines to replace it with, its not about deliveries, its about finding a solution in the mean time orders not using RR trents must go on.. Its comparing Apples to Grapes

  14. Of course we have to remember that RR (well Power Jets really) invented the first viable jet engine. All these other young upstarts are simply standing on the shoulders etc.

    light the blue touch paper and retire a suitable distance….

    • Well the first commercial bypass jet engine the Conway , certainly.

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