The continued growth of aviation in the Middle East means good news for airlines and freight operators as well as the manufacturers of aircraft and jet engines.

“Middle East airlines continue adding routes and buying more planes to manage the increased demand,” said Aziz Koleilat, senior executive and general manager of GE Aviation Sales for the Middle East, Russia/Commonwealth of Independent States and Turkey. “We are proud to have more than 2,400 engines from GE and our joint venture partners power aircraft in the region. Our engines do truly move the Middle East.”

While Middle East airlines have been flying GE jet engines for many years, the partnership between GE and Middle East carriers flourished in the last few decades as the aviation industry experienced rapid growth. This growth coincided with GE’s introduction of the most advanced jet engines, like the GE90 and the GEnx. “These engines have provided a solid foundation of innovative technology that has helped our customers achieve tremendous success,” said Koleilat.

Above: A GEnx at the Dubai airshow in 2015. Photo credit: Adam Senatori. Top: A shot from the Dubai airshow in 2015. Photo credit: Adam Senatori.

Building on the successful architecture of the GE90 and GEnx, GE Aviation is accelerating certification testing of its GE9X engine that will power Boeing’s 777X aircraft beginning in 2020.

GE9X ready to take flight

“The GE9X engine will be the most fuel efficient large engine GE has ever produced,” said Koleilat. “Results from maturation testing on key GE9X technologies demonstrated the engine’s outstanding capabilities.”

Based on the highly successful, world-record setting GE90 engine, the 100,000 lbs.-thrust class GE9X engine underwent extensive technology maturation testing after Boeing selected it to power the 777X aircraft in 2013. Before beginning certification testing this past May, GE and its partners spent more than $1 billion on technology maturation and product development for the GE9X engine.

Following the unprecedented pre-certification program investment, the first round of GE9X certification tests were conducted on the second GE9X production-configured powerplant beginning in May 2017. To prepare for the rigorous certification program, trials of the first full engine to test (FETT) GE9X engine commenced in March 2016, generating critical data on the full engine system and aerodynamic performance, mechanical verification, and aero thermal system validation. Testing of the FETT engine concluded earlier this year with a series of preliminary natural-icing tests at GE Aviation’s Peebles Test Operations, where the GE9X ran more than 50 test points, accumulating 168 hours and 162 cycles.

GE9X: First engine to test

“Completing a full year’s worth of validation efforts on the FETT engine gave us great confidence heading into the certification program with the second GE9X engine,” said Koleilat. “By incorporating all the learnings from the FETT engine, we started the GE9X certification program with a stable configuration and positioned ourselves to meet the schedule and performance expectations of our customers from day 1 of service entry.”

As the second GE9X continues its testing missions, GE Aviation is preparing additional GE9X certification engines for crosswind and icing ingestion tests. Another GE9X engine is slated for installation and flight tests aboard GE’s 747-400 flying test bed flown out of GE’s Mojave Desert facility in Victorville, CA, before the end of this year.

The GE9X engine has many unique technologies that will allow it to provide a 10 percent improvement in fuel burn compared to the GE90-115B engine that powers the Boeing 777-300ER, 777-200LR and 777 Freighter. The GE9X technologies include: a next-generation 27:1 pressure-ratio 11-stage high-pressure compressor; a third-generation TAPS III combustor for high efficiency and low emissions; and ceramic matrix composite materials in the combustor and turbine.

GE9X: The world’s biggest fan of ice

Almost 700 GE9X engines are on order, and Middle East customers have taken a keen interest in the GE9X-powered Boeing 777X aircraft.

“Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways ordered more than 200 GE9X-powered Boeing 777X aircraft,” said Koleilat. “We look forward to working these airlines over the coming years as the engine completes its certification and begins flying over the region.”

IHI Corporation, Snecma and Techspace Aero (Safran), and MTU Aero Engines AG are participants in the GE9X engine program.