MIAMI – Rolls Royce feels confident in the project of the new UltraFan engine, a green engine that features new technologies. In fact, the British firm says that despite the pandemic, companies will need it during the post-pandemic recovery.

Rolls Royce Trent 1000 Boeing 787. Photo: Wikipedia

The Crisis Caused by the Pandemic

The ongoing pandemic has sent the entire aviation world into crisis. Passenger demand plummeted, airline finances plummeted, and demand for planes plummeted. In fact, Airbus and Boeing push the design of a new jet as far as possible.

Currently, the UltraFan engine has no home, another challenge for the British company that was forced to raise money last year to survive and is currently bleeding money.

However, Alan Newby, Rolls-Royce’s director of aerospace technology and future programs, said UltraFan, which will reduce fuel consumption by 10% compared to Rolls’ more efficient current models, will still be needed.

He said, “It’s the right solution before the pandemic and it’s still the right solution even now, even as the world seeks greener solutions.” In the short term, the future of UltraFan is unclear. Rolls CEO Warren East told the Financial Times in early January that once testing of a demonstrator is complete in 2022, it will be put on standby until a new aircraft arrives.

Rolls Royce Trent 1000 on the left sides for Boeing 787 family Rolls Royce Trent 970-972B on the right sides for Airbus A380-841/842. Photo: Airbus

Statement from Alan Newby

Newby said things could change at the end of the tests in 2022-2023. He said, “If we see the application on the horizon, we will move on, otherwise we will stop.” Planes take years to develop and he said if one was to be flying by 2030, the UltraFan program would “need to ramp up fairly soon to meet that customer demand.”

According to some analysts, UltraFan technology could be overtaken by low-carbon engines, before it flies, or before it establishes itself as a profitable new market for Rolls.

Newby said Airbus-favored electric or hydrogen-powered flying planes could potentially fly short-haul routes by the end of 2030, but most medium or longer routes will still be powered by “UltraFan-type products.”

Mock-up of one of the 787-10 engines from Rolls Royce. Picture from Chris Sloan.

A Green Engine

UltraFan, Newby said, is designed to run not only on regular jet fuel, but also on sustainable fuel – fuel made from waste products – boosting its low-carbon credentials.

At Rolls’ facilities in Derby, central England, Newby’s team is focused on building the first UltraFan engine this year, having completed most work on the underpinning technologies as part of a £500m (US$686m) project started in 2014.

Rolls Royce says the engine will be scalable, hoping it can open up a new market for single-aisle jets that sell at higher volumes. The company’s current engines power widebody jets, which tend to fly long-haul routes.

“It’s challenging times for the company at the moment so having something like this … seeing that first engine run, is massively exciting for all of us,” Newby said.

Featured image: Rolls Royce Ultrafan engine. Photo: Rolls Royce