By Allan Olingo
Uganda Airlines will have to wait even longer to take to the skies after engine maker Rolls-Royce announced potential delays in delivery of their new Airbus A330eo aircraft. Another regional carrier, RwandAir, will have to wait too.
On Monday, the Airbus engine maker said there were potential delays in delivering the Trent 7000 engines to be fitted in the kind of aircraft Uganda Airlines and RwandAir have ordered, due to early-stage production ramp-up challenges.
“We have caused Airbus a significant problem, and we are working with them to manage the situation with airline customers and lessors,” said Rolls-Royce’s president of civil aerospace Chris Cholerton.
For Uganda Airlines, this could not have come at a worse time, with the airline preparing to launch operations in April 2019, and at the same time facing headwinds hitting its maiden Bombardier fleet after its key Canadian financier said it was no longer participating in the transaction.
Rolls-Royce said it will continue to work closely with Airbus and its customers on the details of the delivery schedule.
“Rolls-Royce expects to deliver fewer Trent 7000 engines in the fourth quarter of this year. As a result, we are likely to fall short of our prior engine delivery projection of approximately 550 large engine deliveries for 2018, and are now expecting to deliver approximately 500 engines,” the British engine maker said in a statement.
“While we regret the impact this will have on our customers, our priority has always been to ensure that the Trent 7000 engine meets customer expectations on entry into service and we have seen very good performance attributes during a rigorous testing phase.”
In August, Rolls-Royce’s chief executive Warren East admitted that the firm faced challenges in producing significant quantities of its new engines – 7000s and 97Ks – in the second half of this year, but was well positioned to overcome them.
In the initial estimates, Airbus was to receive 30 of its Trent 7000 engines by the end of October, which would have allowed it to deliver 15 of the wide-body aircraft to customers by year-end. However, it will now only receive 10 engines, enough for five aeroplanes, leaving it with a 10 plane shortfall.
Air Mauritius, which hopes to be the first client on the continent for the Airbus A330Neo later this year, will also see a delay in its delivery.
It had already ordered two A330-900s on lease from Air Lease Corporation. In June, Airbus flew the A330-900Neo to Mauritius, a first time in Africa for a “route proving campaign” as part of the final phase of test flights leading to the Type Certification of its latest mid-size wide body airline.
The route proving campaign was designed to demonstrate to aviation authorities its compatibility with airports and readiness for airline operations.
Uganda in July signed a deal with Airbus for the purchase of two A330-900 Neo aircraft, featuring new wings and Rolls-Royce’s latest-generation Trent 7000 engines.
The aircraft are expected to be delivered in 2020. RwandAir, on the other hand, expects to add two A330-200s and a A330-300, through a lease programme, with a delivery planned for July 2019.
Kampala, which will be buying the A330s at $293 million apiece, has been gearing up for an April 2019 relaunch of its flag carrier, but the procurement of the first four aircraft — Bombardier CRJ 900 series — was rocked by financing setbacks after the withdrawal of Canadian export credit support.
The EDC had agreed to lend Uganda $108 million for the purchase at an annual interest rate of 3.5 per cent. Uganda Airlines plans to use the Airbus A330Neo for its regional and international route network comprising London, Mumbai and a point on the Chinese mainland.