ANA, the Japanese airline, grounded five of its 11 new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft after a problem was identified with engines made by Rolls-Royce.
Two 787s were grounded by ANA last Wednesday, and a further three on Saturday, after a potential corrosion problem inside gearboxes on Rolls-Royce’s Trent 1000 engines was discovered.
Rolls-Royce is replacing the gearboxes, and three of the five 787s that ANA grounded are now back in service, but the corrosion issue is also believed to affect some Trent 1000 engines made for Dreamliners that have not yet been delivered by Boeing to airlines.
Analysts said the issue appeared to be relatively minor at this stage – but some noted that Rolls-Royce recorded earnings charges after one of its Trent 900 engines exploded on an Airbus A380 superjumbo in 2010.
The Trent 1000 engine was designed for the Dreamliner, Boeing’s next generation wide-body aircraft.
Rolls-Royce’s shares fell 2.9 per cent on Monday. Shares in UTC, parent of Hamilton Sundstrand, which makes the gearbox for the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine, fell 2 per cent in New York morning trading to $72.8. Boeing’s shares fell 1.9 per cent to $72.5.
The 787 programme has been dogged by delays because of technology difficulties and outsourcing problems. The first aircraft was delivered to ANA last September more than three years late.
Boeing has so far supplied 15 Dreamliners to two customers – ANA and Japan Airlines. Japan Airlines’ four 787s have engines made by General Electric.
ANA’s 11 Dreamliners all have Trent 1000 engines, but the potential corrosion issue inside the gearboxes is confined to five 787s. It was discovered by Rolls-Royce during engine testing, and has been traced to a manufacturing process.
Rolls-Royce said: “We have identified that a component on Trent 1000 engines being fitted to Boeing 787 Dreamliners has a reduced service life. As a proactive measure, this component is being replaced in a number of engines.”
Hamilton Sundstrand said: “We are … aware of the issue and working closely with Boeing and Rolls-Royce to resolve.”
Boeing said it had advised ANA to remove the five 787s from service to replace the affected gearboxes.
It added that no further Dreamliners would be delivered to customers with the potential corrosion issue.
ANA said: “Three [of] the five [Dreamliners] are already back in operation, and the rest of them will be back within a few weeks.”
Rolls-Royce recorded a £56-million charge against its 2011 earnings after the Trent 900 engine blowout on a Qantas A380 in 2010, which resulted in the Australian airline grounding its superjumbo fleet.