MIAMI — Earlier this month, Virgin Atlantic was forced to ground most of its Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet due to unforeseen engine problems. Now Air New Zealand has done the same with two of its 787s, which had experienced the same engine hiccups on some long-haul flights.
As a result of this, both carriers have had lease some backup aircraft to cope with the growing demand, as the airline industry enters into one of the busiest times of the years for the December holidays.
The British carrier is replacing the grounded 787s with four leased Airbus A330-200s, which will remain on lease for as long as the 787 engine troubles are mitigated.
These A330-200s will go alongside the A330-300 models that the carrier operates, which will allow for more commonality amongst pilots.
In addition to leasing aircraft to alleviate the shortage, Virgin Atlantic’s partner Delta Air Lines will operate flights VS45/46, between London-Heathrow (LHR) and New York (JFK) as well as VS103/4 between LHR and Atlanta (ATL) until the end of February 2018.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesman told Airways that the airline “had announced changes to its flying program to ensure it can continue to offer a full schedule in light of the industry-wide supply issue with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines used on Boeing 787 aircraft.”
Air New Zealand is also looking to lease some backup aircraft.
Hiccup for Rolls-Royce or Boeing?
As for Rolls-Royce, the engine manufacturer has said that at least one-fifth of their Trent 1000 engines that are in service need to have parts replaced due to unexpected corrosion.
Virgin Atlantic and Air New Zealand are not the only airlines that have been affected by the engine’s woes. Back in July, Thai Airways had to ground their Dreamliner fleet, as well as All Nippon Airways due to the cracking and corrosion of the Trent 1000 engines.
This is a problem that has been ongoing all throughout the year, and Rolls-Royce has yet to find a solution.
Rolls-Royce tells Airways that they are experiencing “the worst,” as the number of aircraft requiring repairs is growing and their MRO centers are at capacity trying to fix the issues.
“We sincerely regret any disruption caused by our engine that our customer is experiencing and we are working together to minimise this impact and restore full flight operations as soon as possible,” said Rolls-Royce in a statement.
“It’s not uncommon for long-term engine programs to experience technical issues during their life and we manage them through proactive maintenance. Trent 1000 is now approaching six years of revenue service. We have a clear service management plan in place for all operators to undertake this work and minimize disruption.”
A set of Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines costs around $50 million, so it will be putting the airlines in financial difficulty while the repairs take place.
Rolls-Royce aims to fix this issue by implementing a new engine version called the Trent 1000 TEN, which includes a new, redesigned part that should fix the problem of corrosion.
The Trent 1000 has now achieved over 3.5 million flying hours, and the company hopes to see that number increase with the new Trent 1000 TEN variant.
Airline Operations Disrupted
“Virgin Atlantic is working closely with Rolls-Royce to source additional engines and has announced some steps to protect customer journeys while some Boeing 787 aircraft are temporarily parked,” the airline’s spokesman told Airways.
With the news surfacing around the airline industry, British Airways will be adjusting its winter operations to cater for heavy maintenance on their 787s to make sure that the damage that ANZ and Virgin have suffered is not replicated on their planes.
Doha (DOH), San Jose (SJC), and Washington-Dulles (IAD) are some of the British Airways destinations that have seen canceled Dreamliner flights, with the carrier expecting the cancellations to continue into the new year.
Even though flight cancellations and emergency leases have had to occur, it appears that Rolls-Royce will be getting the situation under control.
The manufacturer believes that the problems shall reduce and alleviate going into 2018.
However, the scale of the engine troubles could escalate and damage the Boeing 787 Program’s reputation, which already had its fair share of hiccups during the first five years of operations.