I have long been of the opinion – and expressed it here, that engines are not reliable at the point of delivery to airlines.
The reason for this is something of a chicken and egg scenario, which came first?
The airlines want aircraft with better engines yesterday, because they want to save money and meet legal requirements on noise and emissions at airports.
The aircraft manufacturers push to produce aircraft that meet these demands and they in turn press the engine manufacturers to provide more economical engines to fit those aircraft.
Airlines claim they only respond to pressure from manufacturers claiming amazing new specifications for their aircraft, they agree to buy and then have to deal with broken promises and unreliable engines.
Let’s just look at the recent engine sagas.
A320neo – all versions have had issues with engines, including altitude restrictions and engine cut-outs, geared turbofans etc.
A220 – same problems (near identical engines to the A320neo)
737 MAX engine issues as per Neo again, similar engines, but rather buried in the wider problems
787 Dreamliner – minor GE issues but major Rolls Royce problems
A350 – early signs of minor issues With the Rolls Royce fan core
A380 – Engine Alliance issues have never gone away. So many in fact that AirFrance have said they contributed to its early retirement decision. The Rolls Royce engine has had serious issues in the past. Both types have had explosions in flight.
747-8i and 8F – chronic fuel consumption and under performance dogged it for years, added to a wing flutter issue. So much so that Cathay Pacific and Cargolux refused deliveries and threatened to cancel orders, receiving substantial compensation. Lufthansa cancelled 6 aircraft and said it would not operate them past ten years.
And now, finally Emirates who suffer from EA engine issues and Rolls Royce on A380’s have said “no more”.
Their attitude will now be that if engines are not performing or unreliable they will not take delivery of more aircraft until they’re properly resolved.
This is something manufacturers need to hear and experience – every airline needs to take the same approach.
Until they do, forcing manufacturers to require engines to be properly developed – which means giving engine manufacturers more time to do what they need to do to make it happen – these problems will not go away.
Right now GE is still months away from allowing 777-X test flights. Emirates have orders for this very aircraft. It’s in everyone’s interest to get it right. Yet nagging at GE will be Boeing with a production line already building aircraft that haven’t even had a flight test and might well have to sit in storage until 2021.
Testing aircraft engines with paying passengers – selecting a lower point for what amounts to ‘commercial acceptability’ and letting airlines trial them in use is not the best way forward. Emirates is drawing a line under the practice and it’s not before time. Quite how Airbus and Boeing will react isn’t clear – but the engine manufacturers will be grateful because time is their friend in developing new units.
Their accountants however and their shareholders are only interested in income – from sales, and they’ll still press for faster engine deliveries. In the end the customer will win this one – and the suppliers will have no choice but to listen.