Volvo cash injection to fuel jumbo engine deal

Volvo’s aerospace division is linking with Rolls-Royce to help finance the development of the Trent 900, the engine powering Airbus’s A380 superjumbo.

The deal, which will see Volvo taking a 3% stake in the programme, sees the first risk-sharing partner on Rolls-Royce’s Trent 900 programme. The aero engine maker is looking to attract additional partners over the coming months to shoulder up to 30% of the engine’s development costs, put at close to £1bn.

Derby-based Rolls-Royce has so far won orders for 240 engines, sufficient to power 60 of the new aircraft, and hopes to win the lion’s share of total A380 business. Competing engine, the GP7000, produced by Pratt & Whitney and GE Engines, has yet to be ordered by any of the airlines buying the A380.

A wide thrust range, meaning operators only require one standard of engine to power a fleet containing any A380 variant, is thought to be a key reason for the 900’s success over the GP7000.

Rolls-Royce has also been able to set a short development timeframe for the engine on the back of the transferability of component technology from earlier Trent turbofan engines.

The 900, which has a price tag of around US$10m per engine, is not the largest thrusted motor out of the Rolls-Royce stable. That accolade goes to the Trent 800, designed for the Boeing 777, which delivers 90,000lb of thrust compared to the 900’s 80,000lb.

The Trent 900, which will enter service in 2006 with Singapore Airlines, has the largest fan size of any Rolls-Royce engine at 116 in (295cm). Airlines stipulated that the engine comply with existing and future noise regulations and the larger blades rotate 5% slower than those of a 100in fan, thereby generating considerably less noise.

Head of civil aerospace communications Martin Johnson said that Rolls-Royce did not plan taking on additional staff to meet future Trent commitments.

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