In February, the National Aeronautic Association announced nine nominees for excellence in aeronautics and astronautics in America, competing for the prestigious Collier Trophy.

Of the nine nominees this year, GE Aviation has ties to two projects in contention for the prestigious award: the Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management (UTM) team and the Bombardier Global 7500. The UTM team, which developed a new paradigm for air traffic management, was submitted by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The nomination includes AiRXOS, a subsidiary of GE Aviation, as a key team partner. The Bombardier Global 7500, powered by a pair of GE Passport engines, is being recognized for its excellent flight performance in 2019.

Commissioned in 1910 by Robert J. Collier, the Collier Trophy was intended to motivate the aviation community in America to strive for excellence in aeronautic development. The trophy is awarded only once a year “for the greatest achievement in aeronautics or astronautics in America, with respect to improving the performance, efficiency, and safety of air or space vehicles, the value of which has been thoroughly demonstrated by actual use during the preceding year.” (This year’s awards were supposed to take place in early April but have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.)

Unmanned Aircraft Systems Traffic Management Team

AiRXOS, a part of GE Aviation, is digitizing the current airspace by infusing next generation air traffic management technology and services with world-class aviation expertise and execution. In concrete terms, that means employing unmanned vehicles for commercial purposes on a global scale.

First unveiled in April 2019, the AiRXOS Air Mobility Platform demonstrates a cutting-edge network that provides a unified view of operations. The UTM system manages the volume, density and variety of unmanned traffic data, while coordinating and integrating that data within a secure, FAA compliant, gated cloud environment—ensuring safe unmanned operations. A month after it was initially launched, AiRXOS Air Mobility Platform was chosen to support the Nevada Institute for Autonomous Systems (NIAS) and NASA UTM Technical Capability Level (TCL) 4 program demonstrations. The TCL4 trials had the goal of utilizing a UTM system to successfully integrate unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly referred to as drones, in an urban area.

Above: TCL4 flight trials over Reno supported by AiRXOS and GE Aviation. Top: Drones in flight in downtown Reno, Nevada, during the final test flights of TCL4. Credits: NASA/Dominic Hart

Under the leadership of NIAS, the State of Nevada USA Test Site instructed the TCL4 demonstrations to be staged in Reno, Nevada. These trials marked the first time in U.S. aviation history that unmanned aircraft flight operations were performed in an urban area under “beyond visual line of sight” conditions. This means that the UAS were flying at a distance that their operators were unable to maintain unaided visual contact.

The operations that were performed in the TCL4 program are the most complex demonstrations of UAS airspace management to date. The event in Reno featured the AiRXOS UTM system and GE Aviation’s Avionics Systems. Avionics Systems supported Drone America and NIAS in flight, including using the DA NavX drone that flew with CUAS avionics onboard, which was configured by the Avionics Systems team in Grand Rapids, Michigan. All members of the UTM team have played a vital role in these efforts to integrate unmanned operations in the national airspace.

Bombardier Global 7500

The Bombardier Global 7500 is the world’s largest and longest-range luxury business jet in the industry. In addition to its large, customizable living spaces, adaptable lighting system and advanced avionics technology, the Global 7500’s flight performance is unmatched due to its pair of ultra-long-range GE Passport engines. Designed specifically for the Global 7500, the Passport engines entered service on Dec. 20, 2018 when Bombardier Business Aircraft celebrated the delivery of this luxury aircraft. The Passport engine has met or exceeded current specifications for standard fuel consumption, weight, noise and emissions.

In just a little over a year of service with the GE Passport engines, the Global 7500 set numerous records for range and speed: the longest range flight in business aviation from Singapore to Tucson, Arizona; the fastest continental U.S. flight from New York to Los Angeles; and the fastest transatlantic flight from New York to London. And in October 2019, the aircraft flew from Sydney, Australia, to Detroit on a single tank of fuel, with its Passport engines offering an industry-leading eight percent better fuel efficiency than its competitors. The Global 7500 also boasts a top speed of Mach 0.925, which the aircraft can sustain for over two hours. All of this with minimal cabin noise.

The Bombardier Global 7500 business jet, powered by GE Passport engines.

This is not the first time that GE Aviation has been in the running for the Collier Trophy. GE has had four direct Collier Trophy wins, been listed as part of the industry team for four additional wins, and has had ties to two others. The full list of Collier Trophy winners can be found here. GE’s history with the Collier Trophy includes the following milestones in aviation history:

1940: Dr. Sanford A. Moss and the Army Air Corps for the development of the turbo-supercharger. Although GE is not directly mentioned in this award, Dr. Sanford Moss accomplished this feat as a retired GE employee who led further work on the GE turbo-supercharger in collaboration with the U.S. Army Air Corps.

1958: The United States Air Force and industry team responsible for the F-104 Starfighter: Clarence L. Johnson of Lockheed Aircraft Corporation for the design of the airframe; Neil Burgess and Gerhard Neumann, of the flight propulsion division, and General Electric Company for the development of its J-79 turbo jet engines.

1966: James S. McDonnell for his leadership and perseverance in advancing aeronautics and astronautics exemplified by the F-4 Phantom aircraft and the Gemini space vehicles. GE was not recognized for this win, but the F-4 Phantom aircraft was powered by two GE J79 engines.

1974: Dr. John F. Clark (of NASA) and Daniel J. Fink (of General Electric) for proving the value of U.S. space technology in the management of the Earth’s resources and environment for the benefit of all mankind. Clark and Fink represented the NASA/industry team that was responsible for the Earth Resources Technology Satellite program, later renamed Landsat.

1976: The United States Air Force/Rockwell International Corporation and the B-1 industry team for the highly successful design, development, management, and flight test of the B-1 strategic aircraft system. Four GE F101 engines powered the Rockwell B-1 Lancer.

1983: The United States Army, Hughes Aircraft Helicopters and the industry team for development of the AH-64A Apache advanced technology helicopter weapon system. Two GE T700 engines power the Hughes (now Boeing) AH-64A Apache.

1989: Mr. Benjamin R. Rich, Lockheed Aircraft Corp. and the United States Air Force Team for the F-117A stealth aircraft development. GE was not recognized this year, but the Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk was powered by two GE F404 engines.

1991: The Northrop Corporation, the industry team, and the United States Air Force for the design, development, production, and flight testing of the B-2 aircraft, which has contributed significantly to America’s enduring leadership in aerospace and the country’s future national security. Four GE F118 engines power the Northrop Grumman B-2 Spirit.

1998: Lockheed Martin Corporation, GE Aircraft Engines, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Air Combat Command of the United States Air Force and Defense Intelligence Agency for designing, manufacturing, and operating the U-2S/ER-2 high altitude, all-weather, multi-functional data collection aircraft, which serves as America’s Sentinel of Peace around the world. One GE F118 engine powers the Lockheed U-2S Dragon Lady and the NASA ER-2.

1999: The Boeing Company, GE Aircraft Engines, Northrop Grumman Corporation, Raytheon Company and the United States Navy for designing, manufacturing, testing and introducing into service the F/A-18E/F multi-mission strike fighter aircraft, the most capable and survivable carrier-based combat aircraft. Two GE F414 engines power the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet.