In our next installation of Quick Six, The Bike Shop sat down with Dale Hughes, an Assembly & Test Technician, who is helping to drive customer deliveries of the popular LEAP engine at our Durham, NC, facility.
It didn’t take much of a “LEAP” for Dale Hughes to become part of GE — chalk it up to location, a Google search and a passion for aviation.
Following a stint in the U.S. Army, where he worked on T700-powered AH-64 Apache helicopters, Hughes was able to parlay his engine experience and quest to pursue exciting opportunities into a post-military career at GE beginning in 2016.
What excites you most about your role at GE Aviation?
The most exciting thing about my job is that technicians have input on processes, tooling designs, and the ability to become involved with design changes. Unrelated to engine assembly, is our ability to influence plant operation, culture and operational decisions.
What is your specific role relative to the LEAP engine?
I currently am qualified to build the LEAP 1A and 1B compressor stator, stage 2 nozzle assembly, stage 2 nozzle assembly grind, compressor module assembly and core assembly. Additionally, we act as preliminary review personnel which enables us to address quality concerns as they arise and to make informed decisions on the dispositions utilizing available drawings, specifications and engineering resources. Lastly, technicians are responsible for providing improvements to the LEAP workstations, processes and tooling designs.
How is working on LEAP different than other engines?
LEAP’s development and assembly is taking place in a time of improved technology and advancements in processes. While there will always be a learning curve when introducing new equipment and processes, we can take processes that were once arduous and time consuming and design and implement changes that substantially reduce the energy and effort expended by technicians. Durham technicians operate in a culture of flexibility and this has set the foundation for our successes and will continue to do so.
What is your team doing to help ensure on-time LEAP deliveries?
Ensuring LEAP deliveries is something that everyone strives for here. Durham technicians make every effort to maintain delivery schedules and fulfill our commitments. But we have challenges on occasion. Recently we were faced with a delivery obstacle, so a team member and I changed shifts in the middle of a week to get out an extra engine core. These are difficult decisions that we are ready to make to work around issues that could arise during assembly processes.
How do you think LEAP will impact commercial air travel?
The fuel consumption is much better compared to other engines. Hopefully this will lead to lower air fares, less downtime for refueling and increased flight time and safety overall thanks to the reliability of the engine. I look forward to the time when the public sentiment of LEAP is regarded in the same manner as the CFM56 engine. As more LEAP engines are produced and flying in the skies, I’ll express pride in being able to say, “Hey, I built that.”
What would you say to an airline customer about LEAP engines and technology?
LEAP engines incorporate the latest technology and materials, including ceramic matrix composites (CMCs) and additive manufacturing. And they are a great powerplant. We are proud of LEAP and all our engines, and that we make every effort to provide the highest-quality product at a rate that exceeds any other production capacity that we have ever seen. Our culture here at Durham strives for process improvements, the implementation of new technologies and reduction in cycle times. I’m very proud to work in Durham, not only because of my roots within the local community but because of all the hard work our team puts in here.
Did you know Quick Six is a series? Read our previous features:
- Quick Six with Terrance Brand, Staff Engineer for GE Aviation in Hooksett, NH.
- Quick Six with Flavio Caciuffo, engineer at GE Aviation business, Avio Aero.
- Quick Six with Phil Woniger, Senior Account Sales Manager, at GE Aviation in Savannah, Georgia.
- GE Aviation’s Quick Six with Mike Bonacum, T901 Technology Maturation Leader at GE Aviation in Lynn, MA.
- GE Aviation’s Quick Six with David Burns, CIO of GE Aviation in Cincinnati, Ohio.
- Quick Six with Mike Bonacum, a T901 Technology Maturation Leader at GE Aviation in Lynn, MA.
- Quick Six with Teresa Saint-Blancard, a customer program manager at GE Aviation in Cincinnati, Ohio.
- Quick Six with Gavin Roe, an international program director in Cincinnati, Ohio.
- Quick Six with Maria Giuseppina Motta, a GE programs director at Avio Aero in Italy.
- Quick Six with Greg Gass, a director of strategic and Army programs in Washington, DC.