The Curious Case of the RB211

December, 23, 2020 by

While it may seem like just another engine variant on the 757, the RB211 actually features a long and messy history. The development of the RB211 traces its roots all the way back to the development of the L-1011 and DC-10 in the 1960s.

Initial designs of the engine were designed to be fitted to variants of the 747 and A300. Unfortunately for Rolls Royce, neither design would be approved for the new wide bodies. As a result, Rolls Royce further developed the engine into the RB211 that we enjoy today. All of this work caused Rolls Royce to become insolvent.

At the time, the British government was forced to nationalize the struggling manufacturer. This also put strain on vulnerable Lockheed and required the US government to offer loans to ensure the L-1011 program. To make matters worse, the initial deliveries of the RB211 suffered from worse than expected reliability. Lucky for them (and us), future variants proved to be reliable engines on Boeing wide bodies.

Ryan Epps is a writer for the IFATC Education Group. He is also a commercial pilot, flight instructor, and helps run the Airport Editing Team, currently as an Airport Editing Manager.