Thursday, June 20, 2024

India is going to be a credible, relevant partner in global aviation, says Rolls-Royce

In February 2023, Tata Group’s Air India placed an order for 840 aircraft, including 40 A350-900/1000 aircraft from Airbus. With this Rolls-Royce bagged its biggest-ever order for Trent XWB-97 engines which will power A350-1000 aircraft. The company’s Trent XWB-84 engines will power the Airbus A350-900s. In an interview, India & South Asia president Kishore Jayaraman gives more details.

How significant is the Air India order for Rolls Royce and has it changed the company’s equation in the market?

It is a very significant part of Rolls Royce, it is the largest-of-its-kind order for Rolls Royce anywhere globally. It is the largest wide-body order in India by far. This is the first time that an Indian airline has ordered the Trent XWB [engines] and the deal will make Air India the largest operator of the Trent XWB -97 in the world. The Trent XWB will support the Tata Group’s and Air India’s ambitious growth plans for the airline, providing reliability, flexibility and efficiency to its fleet as it takes on ultra-long-range routes between India and the U.S. With a 15% fuel consumption advantage over the first generation Trent engine, the Trent XWB goes further on less fuel, and offers leading performance and noise levels. It is also ready to operate on a 50% Sustainable Aviation Fuel blend. Rolls-Royce has a strong supply chain commitment with Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL) for the manufacture of a significant number of parts for the Trent XWB engine in India, as well as several high-precision components for other Rolls-Royce civil aerospace engines. This order sends significant message that says that India is going to become a credible, relevant partner to the globe in transporting people from India to the globe, from the globe to India and connecting the globe together, which we did not have that real significant connection. It brings about the question of how we [India] become a hub, where hub and spoke model is very common in the airline industry globally. Every country has their own national carrier and Air India will be the national carrier with India in its name, it might be owned by private or public company. But it will be the flagship carrier for India, it is the ambassador for India. And hopefully someday that Maharaja will come back.

How you’re gearing up to deliver the order and how many engines? 

We received an order from Air India for 68 Trent XWB-97 engines, plus options for 20 more.  This is the biggest-ever order for the Trent XWB-97, which exclusively powers the Airbus A350-1000. Air India has also ordered 12 Trent XWB-84, engines, the sole engine option for the Airbus A350-900. These are in the production factory. Six aircraft need to be delivered before the end of this year. So, we’ll have to make sure that engines are in place before that.

Rolls-Royce has been supplying engines to wide-body aircraft throughout the world. Besides Air India, we have IndiGo which is significant player. Do you think they will also one day have wide-body aircraft flying Rolls Royce engines? 

I am 100% sure that IndiGo will have wide-body aircraft. IndiGo is a very relevant and a significant player in the Indian civil aviation scenario. And they are also becoming very relevant in terms of international operations. So, they fly frequently to the Middle East and within South Asia. So, I think they are a very, very credible, significant relevant airline in India, they will be in the wide-body market. I really wish it will be with the Rolls-Royce engines, the entire fleet should be with the Rolls-Royce engines. That’s my wish. But regardless, they will be in the wide-body market. And, we at least will get our fair share. And when do I say this is happening? Not very far. 

As the concern on emissions is growing and since aircraft are considered one of the biggest polluters, what is Rolls-Royce doing to bring down the carbon footprint?

It’s a good question. We have signed up to the U.N. Net Zero chapter, so by 2050, we will be net zero, all our products, all our services, all our factories, everything we do will be net zero. That’s Rolls Royce’s promise. This year it is going to be sustainable alternative fuels (SAF). All our products will be SAF compatible by 2023. All our factories will be net-zero compliant by 2030. All our new products will be compatible before 2030, and everything for Rolls-Royce will be compatible by 2050. These are some of the milestones we set for ourselves.  But what about the next generation technologies, electric?. So, we flew the first electric aircraft, it reached a speed limit of about 350 miles per hour, a speed record. For an all-electric [aircraft] we are looking at battery technology. It is not enough if you just look at civil aerospace flight, we had to look at defence and how does it work in defence. So, we apply the civil aerospace concepts into defence. Defence is a very different world. So, we had to figure out how to make it more efficient.  Our series 2000 engines have run successfully on hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO). So, we continue not to take our eyes off the ball in making today sustainable. Our products today are sustainable for the future and doing something today.   We are committing to having proven that all our in-production commercial aero-engines are compatible with 100% SAFs by 2023 and Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines will power the first-ever net zero transatlantic flight from the U.K. this year using 100% SAF.

How is Rolls-Royce contributing to India?

Ours is the original Make in India story, which started over 60 years ago with Rolls-Royce partnering with HAL for whole engine technology transfer, and Rolls-Royce engines have been manufactured in India since then. We continue to build on this relationship to deliver service excellence and supply chain capabilities.”  Rolls-Royce is keen to partner India for combat engine development with a co-creation model that ensures Intellectual Property (IP) for this critical technology is created and owned in India. With technological know-how and know-why resting within the country, India could position itself as a strong supplier to the global market and raise its competitiveness in the international arena. Such a model will not only allow future upgrades and exports, but also enable indigenous new engine development in future. We are well-positioned in India with a strong ecosystem of strategic local partnerships, suppliers, talent, digital solutions and service capabilities to support such a programme.”

What is the next big thing happening at Rolls-Royce? 

When we talk about climate change, Small Modular Reactors (SMR) play a very important role. The U.K. Government and Rolls- Royce are working together very closely to develop a product, which would be approximately 400 megawatts. I think that’s the future of sustainable power generation. And, we definitely are very keen to participate in India.

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