Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc is wrestling with a shortage of parts needed to repair hundreds of faulty engines that power Boeing Co.’s 787 wide-body jets, further stretching a tight timetable for repairs.
The fix for excessive wear on the Trent 1000 turbines is taking about three days longer than planned in some cases due to a shortfall in stocks of compressor blades, said the people, who asked not to be named as the supply bottleneck hasn’t been made public.
Airlines are already being forced to lease replacement planes, sometimes for months, to maintain flights while Rolls-powered 787s are grounded for repairs. The number of idled jets reached 43, according to the people, and the strain on component suppliers could worsen after it was revealed that durability issues extend to an earlier version of the engine.
The parts crunch comes as CEO Warren East prepares to unveil job cuts from steps to simplify the business and improve margins. The restructuring, which Rolls plans to detail, could see the elimination of 10 percent of the payroll, or about 5,000 posts, JPMorgan Chase & Co. estimates.
Rolls told Bloomberg that extra maintenance work on Trent 1000 engines has placed additional pressure on its component manufacturers. “Their response has been exemplary and we are confident that the initiative shown by all our suppliers is making an important contribution to the containment and resolution of this issue,” the company said.
Chicago-based Boeing said in an email that it fully supports the action Rolls is recommending to “further understand” the issue.
Rolls shares fell 10 pence or 1.2 percent on news of the parts squeeze. The faster-than-expected deterioration of the Trent 1000’s blades first came to light in 2016. More and more airlines reported damage to a batch of engines known as Package C last year and in April regulators intervened, ordering emergency shop visits for 383 suspect turbines and limiting flights for the 787s equipped with them to 2 hours 20 minutes from the nearest landing spot.
Engines are far and away the most stressed part of a plane, with turbine blades running at temperatures 200 degrees above their melting point but protected by exotic coatings and cast from a single metal crystal for added strength.
Rolls’s turbine blades are forged at a handful of sites globally, including a new factory in Rotherham, England, which the company controls. It has only one supplier for titanium compressor blades, Techjet Aerofoils, a venture it partly owns, though efforts are underway to source further producers for both items, according to the people.
Rolls has also taken steps to certify an inspection method that allows work to be carried out with engines still on the plane wing, something that would ease the burden on overwhelmed maintenance shops. The company is also reaching out to third-party repairers to expand Trent 1000 overhauls beyond its own sites in Derby, England, and Singapore, the people said.
Rolls is meanwhile working on new designs aimed at resolving the wear issues. Testing starts this month on a new compressor blade, with new turbine blades to be unveiled in July.
They would then need to be retrofitted to all 787s with engines prone to problems, including those being given new parts now and others that might be expected to develop issues later. Even before the degradation problem emerged, Rolls and its suppliers
were stretched by record orders. The company is ramping up output of the Trent XWB engine for
Airbus SE’s A350.