Ethiopian Airlines signs $1.5bn deal with engine maker Rolls-Royce as it expands fleet

Ethiopian Airlines has signed a $1.5 billion dollar (Sh150 billion) deal with British engine maker Rolls-Royce as it continues to upgrade and expand its fleet to realise the ambition of dominating Africa’s skies.

The deal means all the 10 new Airbus A350-900 aircraft that Ethiopian Airlines has recently ordered will run on Rolls Royce’s Trent XWB engines.

The order also includes an engine maintenance plan for 14 of Ethiopian Airlines planes already in service or on order.

Two years ago, Ethiopian became the first airline in Africa to operate the A350 aircraft and currently has four of the 14 aircraft fleet in service.

The Rolls-Royce Trent XWB is a British series of turbofan jet engines developed from the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 and is presently used only on the Airbus A350 aircraft.

READ: Ethiopian Airlines in jet deals with Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier

Increase orders

Ethiopian Airlines chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam said the Addis Ababa-based airline has been impressed by the performance of the engines and aircraft in service and had made the decision to increase the orders.

“We have been impressed by the performance of both aircraft and engines in service and now have the confidence to move forward with our order for 10 additional aircraft,” Mr Gebremariam said, adding that the new planes are expected to bring even greater levels of comfort and service to the airline’s customers.

Ethiopian Airlines ordered Trent 1,000 engines for six Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft at the last Paris Airshow, five of which are in service, and have lease arrangements for additional four.

Rolls-Royce president for civil aerospace Eric Schulz said a repeat order from Ethiopian was a huge testament to the performance of the engines already in service.

“We look forward to contributing to deliver excellent efficiency to a customer that continues to bring the latest engine and aircraft technology into its fleet,” said Mr Schulz.

The deal comes shortly after Rolls-Royce opened a new aircraft availability centre that should see it expand its digital capabilities to achieve greater scale and scope.

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Flight data

Rolls Royce Trent XWB engines are expected to move the amount of data generated per flight from the current kilobytes to terabytes, allowing better, faster, services decisions to be made.

This will complement Roll-Royce’s global network of customer service centres, created to work locally with customers, by providing in-depth expertise.

The airline aircraft availability centre will also be a hub for the introduction of new technologies.

For instance, a new real-time collaboration system lets airplane engineers working on the Trent XWB engines around the world to share live pictures from inside an engine with the team at the centre, and receive advice on the next steps to take.

“In addition, “remote surgery” techniques, will enable experts at the centre carry out complex engineering tasks on the engine by remote control,” the firm said in a statement.

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