Airlines operating Boeing 787 Dreamliner jet airliners have been asked to check their Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines for possible cracking of their low pressure turbine discs due to rubbing against nearby seals, the European Union’s Aviation Safety Agency has announced in a new inspection directive.
According to the safety watchdog, the issue could cause turbine disc failure, the discharge of high energy debris, and partial loss of control of the airplane. The “potential unsafe condition” directive is applicable to 11 separate models of the Trent 1000 engine, and urges users to carry out “ultra-high sensitivity fluorescent penetrant inspection of the seal fins” and replace any damaged parts.
Rolls-Royce insists the problem is not a major issue, with a spokesperson telling aviation outlet Simple Flying that the company does “not anticipate” that it will “cause any significant operator engine maintenance burden.” The company also promised that a design solution is in the works “which will remove the need to inspect these parts.”
First certified in 2007 and introduced into service in late 2011, the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 has suffered a series of problems since its inception, including corrosion-related fatigue cracking of turbine blades, and a number of other issues prompting US Federal Aviation Administration and European directives forcing repeated inspections and groundings over the past decade.
Much like other aircraft and aircraft component manufacturers worldwide, both Rolls-Royce and Boeing have already been hit hard by the coronavirus-related drop in air travel, with passenger traffic down by as much as 98 percent year-on-year, leading to thousands of lost jobs and dramatic cuts in projected earnings.
Boeing announced the resumption of 787 production at its South Carolina plant in early May, as part of a broader move to get back on track after months of COVID-19 lockdowns.