GE Aviation has already checked off one of its biggest milestones for 2020 with the first flight of the GE9X-powered Boeing 777X on January 25th. What else is in store for GE Aviation and its joint ventures this year? Here are some big moments the business is anticipating.

GE9X engine certification

It’s a big year for GE Aviation’s largest, most fuel-efficient commercial engine. Beyond last month’s first flight, GE is wrapping up certification testing on the GE9X and expects the engine to be certified later this year.

GE Aviation has been designing and testing the GE9X engine since 2013. Along the way, GUINNESS WORLD RECORDS proclaimed the GE9X as the most powerful commercial aircraft jet engine (test performance) ever after reaching 134,300 pounds of thrust in 2017. It beat a record held by GE’s GE90-115B engine of 127,900 pounds set in 2002.

GE has built 10 compliant engines to support the Boeing 777X flight test program. Once the aircraft and engine enter service, the efficiencies of the GE9X and Boeing 777X project to save 750,000 gallons of fuel a year per aircraft and nine decibels quieter than legacy engines.

GE Aviation also provides the Common Core System (CCS), the Enhanced Airborne Flight Recorder (EAFR), the Electrical Load Management System (ELMS) and the Backup Generator and the Backup Converter (BUG/BUC) for the Boeing 777X.

Reengining the mighty B-52

Above: The B-52 Stratofortress. Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force. Top: The first flight of the 777X powered by the GE9X engine. Photo courtesy Boeing.

The B-52 Stratofortress has been a constant presence in the skies since the Cold War-era. Its mission has evolved from deterrence, to conventional warfare, to modern-day precision strike and a key component of the nuclear triad. Now more than 60 years old, the B-52 is entering its next season of sustainment which requires reengining of the iconic bomber. The Air Force is finalizing a Request For Proposal (RFP) this year for engines that can meet the future required missions of the aircraft.

GE has two engines that represent great opportunities for the B-52. The CF34-10 is the gold standard for regional jets in terms of on-wing performance, reliability and low cost.  GE’s Passport engine is the highest technology engine and has the best specific fuel consumption (SFC) of all the engines in its thrust class.  Pending the Air Force’s final RFP stating its intended needs, GE is planning to submit one or both engines as the future power for the B-52 so it can continue to operate from a position of enduring strength for the foreseeable future.

First flight of GE’s Catalyst engine

GE’s Catalyst will enter into service on the Cessna Denali. Photo courtesy Textron.

Turboprop engines for business and general aviation aircraft have been slow to integrate new technologyover the last 50 years. GE recognized a glaring need for a technology infusion and announced it would move forward with a new, clean-sheet turboprop engine in the 850-1650 standard horsepower range for next-generation aircraft.

GE’s Catalyst, the first clean-sheet engine design to hit the turboprop market in the last 50 years, will fly for the first time this year. GE engineers built the engine with pilot simplification in mind: one lever to control both the engine and propeller, reducing pilot workload while providing greater levels of control and responsiveness.

Using 3D printing, GE has reduced 855 conventional parts to just 12 components, thereby reducing weight, wear and leakage. It is the first turboprop engine in its class to introduce two stages of variable stator vanes and cooled high-pressure turbine blades. In total, GE’s Catalyst currently has 98 patented technologies on the engine. These technologies enable the engine to achieve 10 percent higher cruise power compared to its competitors in the same size class.

Textron chose GE’s Catalyst to power its clean-sheet design, the Cessna Denali. When installed on the Denali, these engine efficiencies help enable a larger cabin experience with a range of 1,600 nautical miles carrying one pilot and four passengers and a comfortable 6,000-foot cabin altitude at a 31,000-foot maximum cruising altitude.

Before flying on the Denali, the Catalyst will lift off on a flying test bed – a Beechcraft King Air 350 later this year.

GE90 engine and GE Aviation Services celebrate 25th year

The year 1995 marked a new era for GE Aviation. On Feb. 2, the GE90-powered Boeing 777 made its maiden flight in Seattle. It would enter service later that year on a British Airways 777-200 after achieving certification at 84,700 pounds of thrust.

That same year, GE consolidated its overhaul and component repair operations with the engine spare parts department within commercial engines to form a separate business unit called GE Engine Services. They also introduced new programs such as Maintenance Cost Per Hour (MCPH), in which customers pay a flat rate for each hour an engine is flown. Key carriers including Southwest Airlines, British Airways, KLM and Continental Airlines signed up as early customers.

Both the GE90 and GE Aviation Services have grown to Goliaths of the industry today. More than 2,200 GE90 engines are in service worldwide. The engine family has accumulated more than 90 million flight hours and 13 million cycles. GE Aviation has a services backlog of more than $120 billion and anticipates more than 5,500 total fleet shop visits this year.

Engineering ramp up for military applications

U.S. Army Black Hawk helicopters.

Beyond the B-52, GE is focused on plenty of critical work that will impact the military sector for years to come. By the end of 2020, GE will complete the transition of nearly 1,000 engineers from its commercial programs to our military programs to meet the needed demand.

This includes GE’s T901 engine, which won the Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP) competition and will replace GE’s T700 engine in both the Army’s UH-60 Black Hawk utility and AH-64 Apache attack helicopters. The T901 will also power the Army’s Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft (FARA) which is still in the competitive prototyping phase. It also includes the continued Low-Rate Initial Production (LRIP) of T408 engines, which power the U.S. Marines Corps’ most advanced heavy-lift helicopter, the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion.

GE also continues work on the XA100 engine under the U.S. Air Force’s Adaptive Engine Transition Program (AETP), the service’s endeavor to create an advanced, next-generation combat engine. This engine will increase combat aircraft thrust more than 10%, improve fuel efficiency by 25%, and provide significantly more aircraft heat dissipation capacity, all within the same physical envelope as current propulsion systems.

GE celebrates 40 years in China

The CFM LEAP-1C powers the COMAC C919.

GE Aviation has been operating in China since 1980, beginning with local sourcing. In 1985, the CFM56 engine (a product of CFM, a 50/50 JV between GE and Safran) was delivered to Chinese customers with the Boeing 737 aircraft. Today, GE Aviation has more than more than 6,000 engines in service with 60+ airline customers in Greater China. In addition, GE Aviation and its partner also actively assist the development of China’s aviation manufacturing industry. GE and its partners provide CF34-10A engine for the ARJ21, the regional aircraft independently developed by China, and CFM’s LEAP-1C engine for C919, China’s independently developed large aircraft. GE and China Aviation Industry Corporation ’s equity joint venture AVIAGE SYSTEMS also provides advanced avionics systems for the C919. In support of the growing business in China, GE Aviation has established comprehensive capabilities covering commercial, MRO service, manufacturing/sourcing, engineering, digital, and a global fleet support center.