Rolls-Royce has 'whiff of BP about it' as it issues statement on defective engines

Rolls-Royce's handling of its defective engines crisis has 'the whiff of BP about it', according to one aviation comms expert.

Defective: Trent 900 engine
Defective: Trent 900 engine
The comments came as the manufacturing giant issued a long-awaited statement this morning about the engine failure that caused a Qantas A380 to make an emergency landing last week.

Today’s statement explained that the problem was due to a specific component in the engine's turbine and that it is working on a solution.

Lewis PR chief operating officer Paul Charles said: ‘Rolls-Royce has the whiff of BP about it. It has failed to control comms around the incident, leaving much niftier aviation industry players like Qantas and Singapore Airlines to lead the way. It has failed to use social media to its advantage and appears stuck in the comms dark ages.’

Charles, who was formerly Virgin Atlantic’s comms director, added that Rolls-Royce had failed to provide regular updates, leaving media and customers to search for information that has often been inaccurate.

‘Today's statement has been written by lawyers and not comms professionals. It leaves more questions than answers, such as how long the inspection process will continue and how long A380s will be out of service,’ he added.

However, Hanover MD Charles Lewington said that he thought Rolls-Royce had handled a 'no-win' communications period well.

‘Striking the right balance between responding to media pressure for quick answers during a period of share price volatility while engineers identify the exact cause of the problem is never easy,’ he said.

Bell Pottinger head of crisis management Alex Woolfall said that Rolls-Royce’s next challenge would be to demonstrate that the replacement process can be completed without aircraft being grounded in the run up to Christmas.

‘That may require ongoing communication to reassure customers and passengers and so this statement should not mark the last thing we hear from Rolls-Royce,’ said Woolfall.

The Qantas jet was forced to make an emergency landing last week in Singapore after the Trent 900 engine caught fire while flying to Sydney. Qantas boss Alan Joyce said engineers had found oil leaks beyond an acceptable level in three Rolls-Royce engines on separate A380s.


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