O is for Open Systems
There’s no denying that a traditional airplane flight deck looks… complicated, to say the least. And because aircraft are typically in service for decades, it becomes a huge burden in both time and money to update flight decks with the latest technologies. That’s where GE Aviation’s Open Systems flight deck comes in. The Open Systems flight deck has architecture built for the digital age, with several large, touch-screen monitors and a heads-up display constantly monitoring the aircraft’s performance. Like today’s smartphones, the Open Systems flight deck allows pilots to download and use a wide variety of specialized applications that crunch numbers mid-flight, giving pilots the power to get the most out of each flight.
N is for NOx
Thanks to cutting-edge materials and a focus on reducing our carbon footprint, GE Aviation’s newest jet engines have drastically cut NOx emissions. The GEnx, first announced in 2004, introduced the twin-annular pre-swirl (TAPS) combustor, a breakthrough technology that helped reduce its NOx emissions to as much as 55 percent below regulatory limits. The next generation of engines are taking fuel efficiency to the next level too. Technologies like additive manufacturing and composite materials reduce engine weight and GE Aviation’s FlightPulse flight analytics tool helps pilots optimize every drop of fuel during each flight, all helping contribute to cleaner skies and a greener planet.
M is for Manufacturing —
Manufacturing has been, and always will be, at the core of what GE Aviation does. Thousands of GE Aviation’s manufacturing employees work day-in and day-out around the globe to produce the components that bring a jet engine to life. From the nuts and bolts all the way to 3D-printed fuel nozzles and ceramic matrix composites, it all comes together thanks to the passion and expertise of GE Aviation’s manufacturing employees.
L is for Life Cycle —
From an engine’s inception to its last time powering an aircraft, the life cycle of a jet engine is quite the journey. It starts humbly with sketches on a piece of paper, moves to prototyping and testing, and eventually, an engine ends up on-wing powering people through the sky. Maintained properly, a GE jet engine can be in service for upwards of 30 years!
K is for Kitty Hawk —
A tiny, remote town in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, Kitty Hawk gained international fame after the Wright Brothers successfully completed the world’s first-ever powered flight on December 17, 1903. The Wright Brothers chose Kitty Hawk for its consistent winds and soft sand dunes, and they spent three years testing gliders in Kitty Hawk before finally making that famous first flight.
J is for Jet Age —
Early iterations of the jet engine took flight at the dawn of World War II to kick off the jet age in the late 1930s and early 1940s, but jet-powered aircraft saw virtually no combat action. That period of innovation did establish jet-powered aircraft as a viable technology, though. Once the war was over, the jet age began on a global scale with a period of massive growth, moving beyond the military into civil and commercial operations. Over the following decades, flight became a reality for millions of people as the cost of flying dramatically decreased.
I is for Ice Testing —
Jet engines go through a series of rigorous tests, including sand, wind, hail stone and ice ingestion. You might call it jet engine bootcamp. Every engine under development must go through the ice certification program before it can go on the wing of an aircraft. GE’s Aircraft Engine Testing, Research and Development Centre (TRDC), located in Winnipeg, has established itself as one of the leading cold-weather test centers for jet engines in the world. Getting blasted with ice… just another day of testing for jet engines. See for yourself.
H is for Hush Hush Boys —
With WWII raging in Europe, the British aircraft industry was frantically building fighter planes to defend against German bombers and had little time to develop the Whittle Turbojet. So England turned to the United States for help. It was up to the U.S. to improve the jet engine and put it on the production line. The Army Air Corps set a six-month deadline to produce the first American jet. Because of its success building complicated turbines, GE was asked to improve Sir Frank Whittle’s jet design. Starting in 1941, a group of GE engineers at Lynn called the Hush Hush Boys designed new parts for the engine, redesigned others and delivered a top-secret working prototype called I-A. On Oct. 1, 1942, the first American jet plane, the Bell XP-59A, took off from Lake Muroc in California for a short flight. The jet age in the U.S. had begun.
G is for Gas Turbine —
At the very heart of the jet engine powerplant is the gas turbine. Early generators mostly used steam, but in 1903, a young engineer named Sanford Moss hit on an idea to produce power by using a small turbine wheel driven by exhaust gases to turn a supercharger. Using this concept at General Electric’s Steam Turbine Department in Lynn, Mass, Moss perfected his supercharger design for aviation, enabling airplane engines to retain their power at high altitude by feeding thicker exhaust air back into the engine. In 1942, Moss used his turbine principals to help GE develop the first practical jet engine, the I-A. Today, the gas turbine is one of the most widely used forms of propulsion systems for modern aircraft engines.
F is for FlightPulse —
Not only are technologies such as additive manufacturing and composite materials being used to make lighter weight and more fuel-efficient jet engines, data can also reduce fuel consumption on aircraft. Collaborating with pilots, GE Aviation developed FlightPulse, an application allowing pilots to measure fuel use during every stage of a flight. Pilots can use their findings to make fuel-saving changes on their next trip.
E is for Electron Beam —
Using a 3D printer, layers of titanium aluminide powder are welded together with a 3-kilowatt electron beam to make turbine blades for the GE9X engine. Electron Beam melting can be used to make parts with complicated shapes that weigh less than parts made with traditional manufacturing methods such as casting.
D is for Data Visualization —
GE Aviation’s Digital Solutions help customers understand data and analytics to solve business challenges. For example, the GE Data Visualization project allows airlines to gain valuable insight from large volumes of flight and operations data to help prevent disruptions and identify revenue-growing opportunities.
C is for Ceramic Matrix Composites —
Jet engines powering flight are now made with new materials such as Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMCs), which is replacing some metals in hot sections of more GE Aviation engines. Composites consist of separate materials that, when joined together, have new properties. In the case of CMCs produced by GE, the materials are stronger and can withstand higher temperatures compared to some metal alloys, leading to lighter, more fuel efficient, yet more powerful engine products. Watch and see how these super materials are created.
B is for Bypass Ratio —
Bypass Ratio measures airflow through a turbofan jet engine, comparing how much air goes around the engine core than through the engine core. Engines with high bypass ratios generate more thrust for less fuel. The GEnx engine gained 15 percent fuel efficiency over the CF6 engine, thanks in part to new lightweight material technologies and a bypass ratio as high as 8.3 for certain models.
A is for Adaptive Cycle —
Whether the military pilot’s mission is fuel efficiency or high thrust, GE Aviation’s Adaptive Cycle Engine allows them to automatically switch between engine modes in the air and on the move. Traditional engines have fixed air flow. The Adaptive Cycle Engine is the only combat engine with variable cycles, able to withstand longer flight times and the hottest temperatures for engine parts in the history of jet engine propulsion.
GE Aviation is celebrating its 100th year in business. We will be celebrating from A to Z all year with the ABCs of Aviation, highlighting the technology and engineering milestones that have made the last 100 years remarkable.
Each month we are revealing two new letters that feature aviation-themed words we’ve all come to know and love. Have a word you think is more significant? Tell us why!