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LONDON — Rolls-Royce CEO Warren East said the company would put its UltraFan engine program on hold when testing ends in 2022 as it waits for new aircraft to be developed.

Warren East told the Financial Times Rolls-Royce would also postpone signing an industrial partner for the next-generation engine until a new aircraft program goes ahead.

"We absolutely intend to … complete the phase we are in at the moment, which is to create and fully test our demonstrator," East told the FT. "At that point, we will put the thing on ice. I can't force airframe manufacturers to invent new airplanes and if there is no demand for them then there is no demand for engines."

The engine manufacturer wants to re-enter the market for narrow-body aircraft after quitting almost a decade ago. It has spent about £500m on the UltraFan demonstrator which aims to be 25% more efficient than Rolls Royce's first Trent engines.

Finding a partner for the UltraFan would help relieve pressure on the group's finances with international air travel almost wiped out by the Covid-19 crisis. The company's cash flow relies on the number of hours its engines fly and in December Rolls-Royce said it was eating up cash quicker than expected.

East said it was too early to strike deals with the sector at a near standstill. "Nobody is going to invent a partnership for a business that isn't there," he said. Speculation about potential partners has concentrated on Pratt & Whitney, which Rolls-Royce worked with before leaving the market, and France's Safran.

The aviation industry is in the greatest crisis in its history with most planes grounded and demand predicted to take many years to recover even after the pandemic abates. Airlines have delayed orders of new aircraft and manufacturers have shelved plans for new models.

"The whole sector has taken a battering from Covid," East said. "It is going to be bruised for several years to come and so I'd anticipate a reasonably significant delay before those new aircraft appear."
Via (Financial Times)
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