Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc (RR/) has begun work on a jet-engine design that would be the foundation of a new family of powerplants to replace the Trent series used on Airbus SAS and Boeing Co. (BA:US) wide-body airliners.
Development efforts on the concept engine, which is designated the RB3039, may result in the flight of a demonstrator within seven years, Ric Parker, director of research and technology at Rolls-Royce, said today. The engine may enter service in the first half of the next decade, he said.
Rolls-Royce is developing Trent models for the Airbus A350, which first flew in June, and future versions of Boeing’s 787. The company, which also builds Trent 900s for Airbus A380 super jumbos, worked on the RB3025, its most powerful turbine, for Boeing’s 777X before losing out to General Electric Co. (GE:US)
The RB3039 “will be quite radically different,” Parker said. The new engine “will probably not carry the Trent name.”
The engine will likely be Rolls’s first modern powerplant to feature a composite fan that would aim to cut weight and improve efficiency. A prototype fan could be flying on a demonstrator in two years, Parker said in an interview at a Royal Aeronautical Society conference in London.
The engine architecture will use a three-shaft design that is a hallmark of the London-based engine maker’s large jet offering, which differs from those of rival GE and United Technologies Corp. (UTX:US)’s Pratt & Whitney.
The effort comes as Rolls-Royce Chief Executive Officer John Rishton has tightened the company’s focus on costs.
For the past decade the engine maker has increased research spending, Parker said. The company spent 919 million pounds ($1.48 billion) on research and technology last year, he said.
Funding for the demonstrator will be partly provided by a U.K. government research support program and European Union aerospace funding, Parker said.
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