Álvaro Rojas is part of the aircraft development team at Rolls-Royce. / SUR

Local engineer brings Rolls-Royce engine to Malaga aviation museum

The Trent-900, which is used in the biggest passenger aircraft in the world, will be the only one of its type on display to the public in Spain

IGNACIO LILLO MALAGA.

His name is Álvaro Rojas Zamora, he is 33 and comes from the Gamarra district of Malaga city. Despite now living abroad, he is one of that group of Spanish professionals who never lose sight of their roots. This aeronautical and mechanical engineer is one of the team who develop experimental engines for passenger aircraft at the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby, England. There, they design, manufacture, install and test the machines that enable the biggest commercial planes to fly. They also carry out test flights in Toulouse (France) and Tucson, Arizona (USA).

Rojas began by studying aeronautics at Seville University, then went on to study mechanical engineering in Malaga, did an Erasmus course in Paris and finally graduated with a double degree at Wrexham Glyndwr University in Wales. In January 2016 he joined the multinational's graduate scheme, and spent several months moving between different posts within the company. And that is how he joined the team which carries out flight tests on experimental engines.

In 2017 the engine he had been working with ran out of useful life. "They didn't know what to do with it. They considered scrapping it, and that was when I suggested donating it to an educational institution," he said.

This was the result of his own past and present experiences. "When I was little I went to the Science Museum in London and I have a photo of me with the engine they had on display; when I started working for Rolls-Royce I had another one taken in the same place," he told SUR.

Álvaro Rojas is also a science volunteer in different places in the UK and Spain: "It is my duty to extend a hand to those who will be following me. I collaborate with universities to inspire students and look for promising candidates... I thought, what could be better for them than to see a real engine?" he said.

The first place he thought of was the Museo Aeronáutico, the aviation museum at Malaga Airport. "There was a long process of internal approval, but they finally decided it should come to Malaga. The museum is in line with the values of Rolls-Royce: entry is free, it promotes science and there are a lot of British people on the Costa del Sol," he explained.

A long process

The process took several years, and Rojas stayed at the helm, including the negotiations with the Spanish airports operator Aena and the logistics, even though he was no longer working on the project.

The engine finally arrived at its destination during Easter week. It took several hours of complex manoeuvering with a crane to position it on its support. It will be on display very soon, once the room it is in has been decorated and the information panels are in place.

There is only one other engine on display in Spain, at a factory in the Basque Country, although that one is not as easily accessible by the general public as the one in Malaga will be. Now, plans are also being made for Seville University to have another for its aeronautics students.

The engine in question is a Trent-900, named after the river near the factory in Derby. These are used in the Airbus 380s, the biggest passenger aircraft in the world, with two storeys and capacity for 800 passengers.

The engine weighs 6.5 tonnes, the equivalent of three cars, and is the second biggest made by the British company, measuring nearly three metres in diameter. It generates 63,000 hp, three times as much as all the Formula 1 racing cars together, and costs tens of millions of euros.

Rojas is an experienced volunteer, including at the airport museum when he is in Malaga. He also participates in the name of the company at the UK's biggest science fair, which is attended by 80,000 people, talking to children about his work and hoping to inspire them.

He promotes the Rolls-Royce graduate scheme and scholarships "to inspire future engineers and look for the best talent wherever it may be", he added.