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Rolls Royce claims ‘historic moment’ after successful test of new UltraFan engine

Rolls-Royce has completed the first tests of a new type of aircraft engine using UltraFan technology that could be fitted to Trent engines to make them more efficient.

The engine manufacturer conducted the tests using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) at its Testbed 80 demonstrator facility in Derby, the word’s largest.

Rolls Royce declared the test a “historic moment” due it being the first time in 54 years that it has tested a new engine architecture.

The firm said the break through is “proof of what can be achieved when industry and governments work together”.

UltraFan delivers a 10% efficiency improvement over the Trent XWB, already the world’s most efficient large aero engine in service.

Rolls Royce said in the nearer term it might be able to transfer technologies from the UltraFan development programme to current Trent engines.

In the longer term, UltraFan technology has the potential to power new narrowbody and widebody aircraft anticipated in the 2030s.

Tufan Erginbilgic, chief executive of Rolls-Royce plc, said: “The UltraFan demonstrator is a game changer – the technologies we are testing as part of this programme have the capability to improve the engines of today as well as the engines of tomorrow.

“That is why this announcement is so important – we are witnessing history in the making; a step-change in engine efficiency improvement.

“When combined with Sustainable Aviation Fuels, more efficient gas turbine engines will be key to hitting the industry’s target of Net Zero flight by 2050. Today we are closer to achieving this ambition.

“Collaboration is key in driving the decarbonisation of air travel and the UltraFan programme is a great example of what can be achieved when Government and industry come together with a common purpose.”

Testing the demonstrator is the culmination of many years work, which has been supported by the UK government through the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), Innovate UK; the EU’s Clean Sky programmes plus LuFo and the State of Brandenburg in Germany.

Kemi Badenoch, the UK business and trade secretary, said: “This cutting-edge technology will help the transition towards a greener future for aviation while attracting further investment into the UK’s aerospace industry, helping grow the economy.

“I’m proud that the Government has backed this initiative through our Aerospace Technology Institute programme, and we will continue to work with manufacturers like Rolls-Royce as we seek to grow the UK’s share of the global aerospace market.”

Gary Elliott, chief executive of Aerospace Technology Institute, added: “Rolls-Royce’s UltraFan programme has achieved a huge step forward in terms of the fuel efficiency of aircraft engines.

“The technology developed within the programme has greatly improved our understanding of how to increase engine performance while reducing environmental impact.

“It is a programme that puts the UK at the forefront of the global market, and is absolutely critical for the future of the UK aircraft engine industry. Our congratulations to the Rolls-Royce team for the successful tests of this exciting technology demonstrator.”

UltraFan has been a decade in the making, with the concept unveiled publicly in 2014. It is a fundamentally different design architecture to that within the approximately 4,200 Rolls-Royce Civil large engines currently in service, as it incorporates a geared design that no other industry player has produced at this size before.

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