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Power & Passion – Celebration of a Global Giant

written by australianaviation.com.au September 26, 2019

Power & Passion
Celebration of a Global Giant

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written by Steve Gibbons
June 20, 2019

I

t is fitting in the year GE Aviation celebrates
its centenary, that the global giant also has
reason to celebrate an engine deal worth close to half
a billion dollars that extends its already impressive
reach within the Asia Pacific.

The announcement at the end of May that Air New Zealand had chosen GEnx-1B engines to power its next generation fleet of eight Boeing 787-10 Dreamliners is another endorsement of the hugely successful GEnx program, and further cements its reputation for long-range reliability and fuel efficiency.

GEnx is just one of a huge suite of engines developed over the years by GE Aviation with both commercial aviation and military applications. From the phenomenal CF6 family, the cornerstone of the commercial widebody industry with 430 million flight hours logged since 1971 (think those Qantas 747s that flew Brisbane to Dallas), to the CFM and military F414 powering the Super Hornet.

GE Aviation has sold more than 2,500 GEnx engines since their launch 15 years ago, and are now the fastest selling high-thrust GE engine in history. Currently the dominant powerplant on 787 fleets worldwide, with around 65 percent of the market, and the GEnx-2B the engine of choice for the 747-8 series.

That dominance includes Australia with GEnx powering the Qantas and Jetstar 787 fleets and is fundamental to the ongoing success of the ultra long-haul Perth to London route. In making its announcement, Air New Zealand rightly sees its new 787-10 order bringing New York into reach from Auckland.

Now all civilian eyes are on the GE9X engine with its potential on the brand new 777X to deliver ultra long-range, like Qantas’s “Project Sunrise” ambition to fly from Sydney to London non-stop.

It’s all a long, long way from light bulbs, but like nearly every global success story the path to extraordinary achievement has the most humble of origins.

The GE90-115B engine, powerplant of

the long-range 777s, pictured at the GE

plant and test facility in Peebles, Ohio.

 

GE AVIATION

The Australian connection: the GE

Aviation Systems offices in the

Brisbane Airport precinct

 

GE AVIATION

T

he instigator of this global phenomenon is Thomas Edison who
invented the first commercially practical incandescent lamp in 1879.
Then, in the same year, the first dynamo - a device that converts
mechanical energy into electrical energy capable of powering
neighbourhood-wide lighting systems.

Within four years Edison moved into the power generation business with the Edison Electric Illuminating Company. Just a decade later, General Electric was born when Edison General Electric Company combined with Thomson-Houston, another prominent manufacturer of dynamos and electric lights.

From there, growth was exponential, by moving from lights to locomotives, generators and transformers, into medical research with the early development of x-ray machines, plastics, radio and vacuum tube technology and alternators with national and international applications. All while helping to revolutionise comfort and convenience in the home with electric fans, toasters, cookers and refrigerators.

It was inevitable for GE to become involved relatively early in the burgeoning new industry of aviation – an involvement that spurred along by the need of a country going to war.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, GE became one of two contenders to develop an engine supercharger to boost the power of an aircraft operating at higher altitudes. To demonstrate, a team from GE hauled equipment to the top of Pike’s Peak, 14,000 feet above sea level in Colorado. It was worth it; GE won the contract for what became the turbo-supercharged Liberty aircraft engine.

It was the start of a relationship that led to the US Army Air Force selecting GE in 1941 to develop the nation’s first jet engine – the I-A – at its plant in Lynn, Massachusetts. In October 1942, at Muroc Dry Lake, California, two I-A engines powered the historic first flight of a Bell XP-59A Airacomet aircraft, launching the US into the Jet Age.

Subsequent early development saw production of the J33 and, by the end of 1947, the J35, the first GE turbojet engine to incorporate an axial-flow compressor – the type of compressor used in all GE engines since.

The Australian connection: the GE

Aviation Systems offices in the

Brisbane Airport precinct

 

GE AVIATION

It’s a long, long way

from light bulbs’

They were followed by another game-changer, the J47. The first turbojet certified for civil use and the first to use an electronically controlled afterburner to boost its thrust.

Demand was so large for the J47 to power almost all the new front-line military aircraft, that GE opened a second factory which became its Evendale world aviation headquarters near Cincinnati, Ohio. Against the backdrop of the Korean War, the J47 became the world’s most produced gas turbine, with 35,000 delivered by the end of the 1950s.

Rapid growth beyond the J47 saw development of an engine pitched at fighters capable of flying at twice the speed of sound. The J79 turbojet bore innovative movable stator vanes in its engine to assist the compressor coping with the huge internal variations in airflow from takeoff to high supersonic speeds.

More than 17,000 J79s were built over 30 years, powering aircraft such as the F-104 Starfighter, F-4 Phantom II, RA-5C Vigilante, B-58 Hustler and – significantly – the Convair 880/990 series airliner via the CJ805 derivative, GE’s first commercial aviation powerplant.

They were followed by another game-changer, the J47. The first turbojet certified for civil use and the first to use an electronically controlled afterburner to boost its thrust.

Demand was so large for the J47 to power almost all the new front-line military aircraft, that GE opened a second factory which became its Evendale world aviation headquarters near Cincinnati, Ohio. Against the backdrop of the Korean War, the J47 became the world’s most produced gas turbine, with 35,000 delivered by the end of the 1950s.

Rapid growth beyond the J47 saw development of an engine pitched at fighters capable of flying at twice the speed of sound. The J79 turbojet bore innovative movable stator vanes in its engine to assist the compressor coping with the huge internal variations in airflow from takeoff to high supersonic speeds.

More than 17,000 J79s were built over 30 years, powering aircraft such as the F-104 Starfighter, F-4 Phantom II, RA-5C Vigilante, B-58 Hustler and – significantly – the Convair 880/990 series airliner via the CJ805 derivative, GE’s first commercial aviation powerplant.

Over the ensuing decades, multiple advanced technology upgrades were introduced for the T700, including the T700-derived CT7 engine family introduced for the commercial market and in Australia, including the REX fleet of SAAB 340s. More than 20,000 T700s have been built, logging more than 100 million flight hours. More than 35 years since its introduction, the T700 and CT7 commercial variants are still being selected to power today’s helicopters and other aircraft.

GE’s next generation helicopter engine portfolio also includes the T901 and T408 turboshaft engines. The T408 is designed for heavy-lift missions of the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion for the United States Marine Corps. Capable of producing more than 7,500shp (4,170kW), the T408 combines breakthrough technologies, innovative cooling schemes and durability to deliver numerous mission-critical advantages in the world’s harshest operating environments.

The T901 was designed as a replacement for the T700 powering existing Black Hawk and Apache helicopters for the US Army’s Improved Turbine Engine Program (ITEP). Compared to the most advanced T700 in service, the T901 provides 25 percent better fuel economy, 35 percent lower acquisition and maintenance costs, 20 percent longer life and as much as 65 percent more power to weight.

GE is positioned to be a world leader in military propulsion well into this century. The F414, the turbofan engine for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet front-line strike fighter and EA-18G Growler electronic attack aircraft, produces 22,000 pounds of thrust. It is also the engine of choice for the JAS 39E Gripen Next Generation and HAL Tejas Mark II.

Building on the strength of its design capabilities for high performance combat aircraft engines, GE successfully completed testing of the world’s first adaptive, three-stream engine in 2014 through the Adaptive Versatile Engine Technology (ADVENT) program with the United States Air Force Research Lab. By the next decade, the Adaptive Cycle Engine (ACE) could revolutionise military fighters. The variable cycle engine will automatically alternate between a high-thrust mode for maximum power and a high-efficiency mode for optimum fuel savings. GE is currently executing the Adaptive Engine Technology Development (AETD) program, a USAF technology program focused on maturing technologies to be used for production configuration hardware.

An


engine

pitched at

fighters

flying

twice the

speed of

sound

Civilian
Aviation

GE moved assertively into the civil market in 1971 with the CF6-6 high bypass turbofan engine for the Douglas DC-10, a derivative of the TF39 military engine.

The CF6 family grew to include the CF6-50, CF6-80A, CF6-80C2 and CF6-80E1. In the 1980s, the CF6 family of engines emerged as the most popular engines powering widebody aircraft, including the Boeing 747 and 767, the Airbus A300, A310, A330 and the McDonnell Douglas MD-11.

In 2018, GE’s Passport engine entered service on the Bombardier Global

7500. Since December, the business jet has set multiple speed and

distance records.

 

BOMBARDIER

But it was the joint venture with France’s Snecma (now Safran Aircraft Engines), also in 1971, that has become one of the greatest GE Aviation success stories.

The objective was to develop a smaller commercial turbofan engine pitched at short to medium-range aircraft as a competitor to the low bypass Pratt & Whitney JT8D engine on the Boeing 737-100/200 series, McDonnell Douglas DC-9 twinjets, and the Boeing 727s.

CFM International, as it is now known, is now the world’s leading supplier of jet engines for single-aisle aircraft and its CFM56 has just chalked up one billion engine flying hours, the equivalent of flying to the moon and back 400,000 times.

The CF and CFM families have great resonance for Australian Jack Lutze, a senior executive with GE Aviation, who counted cities as diverse as Sydney, Singapore, Paris and Seattle as home until his recent retirement.

Lutze’s first key post with GE was as head of GE sales in the Asia Pacific.

He recalled the competition to take on Pratt & Whitney, the engine “giant” of the early model Boeing 737s. “When CFM started up, Pratt ruled on the 737 – 100s and -200s. When they came up with a new engine competition for the 737-300, Pratt bet their money on

In 2018, GE’s Passport engine entered service on the Bombardier Global

7500. Since December, the business jet has set multiple speed and

distance records.

 

BOMBARDIER

developing a new engine for the 757. As you know, it costs millions of dollars to develop a brand new engine so you’ve got to pick your winners or losers.”

“CFM modified what was basically a military engine to go and bid for the 737. We were thinking if we could sell 1,000 we’d have done really well. And of course now you know CFM sold 30,000. It’s been an incredible success story.”

Today, the CFM56-2 powers more than 550 commercial and military aircraft worldwide, the CFM56-3 about 2,000 Boeing 737s the CFM56-5A/-5B the Airbus A318, A319, A320, and A321, while the CFM56-5C is the exclusive powerplant for the long-range, four-engine Airbus A340.

The CFM56-7, powerplant for the Boeing 737-600/-700/-800/-900 series was launched in late 1993.

Lutze continues the story: “On the larger engine side we had the CF6 engine and competed to get that on the 747 and succeeded.

Qantas was won over by the revenue

case in favour of the CF6 for its

747-400s.

 

ROB FINLAYSON

“It turned out to be a pretty successful engine on that platform. We had the same engine on the 767 and of course it is appealing to an operator when you’re selling a common engine across two platforms. It was especially so in Australia for Qantas and, in those days Ansett, and in fact I had my very first win with Air New Zealand.

“I convinced Air New Zealand to switch from Rolls-Royce to GE for their next batch of 747s, and part of the argument was because they were also buying 767s so I said, ‘You can have the same engine on both’.

“And then the next time we came across to Sydney we convinced Qantas to go with GE on their next batch of 747s.”

Lutze pointed to one of the key differences between success and failure in the competitive engine marketplace.

“Normally, whenever you are in these competitions, your selling points are fuel burn and reliability, and cost of ownership. But they are marginal differences between competitors. You can argue that a per cent or so better in fuel burn means a few hours longer on the wing and so on, but if you can make the case about revenue difference you get a huge advantage.

“That’s what happened with us on the Qantas 747. With the new version (the 400 series) they wanted to go non-stop from Sydney to Los Angeles. On the return trip there’s a lot of headwinds, so they wouldn’t have been able to make it with a full aircraft.

“A GE engine could do the job, delivering about 10 to 20 more passengers than they could fly with the Rolls (Rolls-Royce) version. That’s a huge difference in revenue and it allowed us to win the contract on a revenue argument rather than just on reliability and fuel burn.”

The latest development from the GE-Safran joint venture is the LEAP engine series, successor to the CFM56, with initial application on the A320neo, 737 MAX and China’s Comac 919. The LEAP engine entered commercial service in 2016 and offers operators a 15 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency, with an equivalent reduction in CO2 and NOx emissions, and lower noise.

The link with Comac is a further indication of the growing importance of the Chinese market in both the narrowbody and regional jet space. China selected the CF34-10 engine to power the ARJ21 regional jet and sees a potential market for 850 aircraft in the next 20 years representing potential revenue for GE’s CF34 of more than $4 billion. The CF34 series also powers the Bombardier CRJ700 and CRJ900 and the Embraer170/-175/-190 and 195.

In the widebody arena GE developed the GE90 turbofan engine in the early 1990s to power the Boeing 777 and the GE90-115B derivative – which earned a place in the ‘Guinness Book Of World Records’ as “the world’s most powerful jet engine” – was selected by Boeing as the exclusive engine for its longer-range 777-200LR and -300ER aircraft. It represented one of the most significant deals in GE history.

The world’s next great engine GE9X recently took out the title of “world’s most powerful jet engine” from GE90-115B when Guiness Book of World Records certified it for achieving 134,000 lbs of thrust.

Meanwhile, the Engine Alliance, a 50-50 joint venture between GE and Pratt & Whitney, was formed in August 1996 to develop, manufacture, sell and support a family of modern technology engines for new high-capacity, long-range aircraft.

The GP7200 is derived from two of the most successful widebody engine programs: the GE90 and PW4000 families. Building on the GE90 core and the PW4000 low spool heritage, the GP7200 delivers unprecedented performance, reliability, environmental levels, and customer value.

In 2001, Air France launched the advanced GP7200 engine on the new Airbus A380-800. Seven years later, in 2008, the GP7200 entered revenue service powering the Emirates A380-800 aircraft.

Qantas was won over by the revenue

case in favour of the CF6 for its

747-400s.

 

ROB FINLAYSON

GE Aviation IN AUS/NZ
1970

Air NZ buys CF6-50A
engines for its DC10

1984

Qantas orders CFM56-3
engines for its 737s

1988

Qantas 767-300ER powered
by CF6-80C2s

1989

Air NZ buys CF680C2
engines for its 767-300s

1998

Air NZ buys CFM56-3C
engines for its 737s

1998

Qantas buys the CF6 for
its 747-400s

2000

Virgin Blue launches with
CFM56 powered 737s

2002

Qantas’s first 747-400ER is
powered with CF6-80C2s

2002

Qantas 737NG is powered
by CFM56-7s

2003

The first Qantas Airbus
A330-200 uses CF6-80E1s

2010

Air NZ receives a 777-300ER
powered by the GE90-115B

2013

Jetstar receives its first
GEnx-powered 787
Dreamliner

2017

Qantas receives its first
Dreamliner

2019

Air NZ announces switch to
GEnx for its next-gen 787s

Going
beyond
the
engine

Civilian Aviation

In 2007, GE acquired Smiths Aerospace, a UK-based supplier of integrated systems for aircraft manufacturers and components for engine builders. The acquisition broadened GE’s offerings for aviation customers by adding innovative flight management systems, electrical power management, mechanical actuation systems and airborne platform computing systems to GE Aviation’s commercial and military aircraft engines and related services.

In 2009, GE Aviation Systems reached a milestone, supplying the Boeing 787 Dreamliner with aircraft systems from takeoff to touchdown on its maiden flight.

In Australia, GE Aviation Systems has been supporting military and civil aircraft operators for more than 15 years. Along with the main operation at Brisbane Airport, GE Aviation Systems Australia conducts maintenance, repair and overhaul at BAE Newcastle, Richmond Air Force Base and Amberley Air Force Base.

Growing from the original avionics MRO capabilities, comprehensive services are now provided for military and civil avionics, as well as military and civil GE Dowty Propellers.

Export business has continued to grow attracting a wide range of customers including operators across South-East Asia and China, India and both the British and Italian Air Forces.

Recent and significant wins include the assignment of electrical power product maintenance support for Australia, Japan and South Korea’s Joint Strike Fighter fleets under the US Joint Program Office Global Sustainment Solution.

GE Additive

LEAP engine manufacture incorporates fuel nozzle parts produced by one of the break- through new industries forming part of the GE conglomerate.

Additive manufacturing (AM), also known as 3D-printing, is a transformative approach to industrial production that enables the creation of lighter, stronger parts and systems. AM excels at producing parts with weight-saving, complex geometric designs and represents an ideal solution for creating certain light but strong aerospace parts.

In August 2013, NASA successfully tested a 3D-printed rocket injector during a hot fire test and in 2015, the FAA cleared the first 3D-printed part for use in a commercial jet engine.

GE explains: “AM is another technological advancement made possible by the transition from analogue to digital processes. In recent decades, communications, imaging, architecture and engineering have all undergone their own digital revolutions. Now, AM can bring digital flexibility and efficiency to manufacturing

undergone their own digital revolutions. Now, AM can bring digital flexibility and efficiency to manufacturing operations.

“AM uses data computer-aided design (CAD) software or 3D object scanners to direct hardware to deposit material, layer upon layer, in precise geometric shapes. As its name implies, additive manufacturing adds material to create an object. By contrast, when you create an object using traditional methods, it is often necessary to remove material through milling, machining, carving, shaping or other means.

“While additive manufacturing seems new to many, it has actually been around for several decades. In the right applications, additive manufacturing delivers a perfect trifecta of improved performance, complex geometries and simplified fabrication.”

GE Additive includes additive machine providers Concept Laser and Arcam EBM, along with additive material provider AP&C.

GE Aviation military
IN AUS
1970-73

F4 Phantoms leased prior to
F111 acquisition (J79 in lieu
of J85)

1985-Present

F/A-18 Hornet (F404)

1988

Black Hawk enters into
service for the Australian
Army (T700)

1988-2017

Sea Hawk operated by RAN
(T700)

2002

RAAF acquires BBJ
CFM56)& Challenger
(CF34) for VIP

2009

Wedgetail, a 737 derivative,
enters service for AEWC
role (CFM56)

2010

Australia (RAAF) becomes
first international country
to operate Super Hornet
(F414)

GE Aviation’s digital group

GE offers data-driven insights for commercial airlines, business jet operators and military to reduce operational costs, empower crew, improve passenger experience and get mission-ready. Leveraging a century of aviation domain expertise and data science capabilities, this business has won the trust of over 450 customers. More than 15,000 aircraft and helicopters are connected to its data integration platform and applications that support technical operations, flight operations and network operations teams. Over 57,000 crew members and more than 6,000 pilots are improving their operations with GE’s digital solutions.

GE believes in collaborating closely with its customers while developing solutions that matter to them. For example, 2,990 pilots at Qantas are using a GE app called FlightPulse to understand their fuel consumption at various stages of flight. The app idea originated from a Qantas pilot and has been developed by pilots, for pilots. FlightPulse helps Qantas pilots reduce fuel use and carbon emissions, while improving operational efficiency. As many industries realised, digital transformation is a journey. Qantas and GE are co-innovating on this journey by augmenting the FlightPulse app with more analytics. It’s this spirit of partnership and domain knowledge that drives GE to uncover insights that are not always visible in plain sight.

It is, indeed, a long way from light bulbs. GE is now one of the world’s principal multi-nationals, counting as its business arms Additive, Aviation, Capital, Digital, Healthcare, Lighting, Power, Renewable Energy, and Research. As of June it had a market capitalisation of US$86 billion and employs around 280,000 people worldwide.

GE Aviation is a world-leading provider of commercial, military and business and general aviation jet and turboprop engines and components, as well as avionics, electrical power and mechanical systems for aircraft with a global service network to support these offerings.

2011

Airbus A330 assumes MRTT
(n-flight refueling & VIP
transport) role (CF6-80E)

2013

Sikorsky Romeo replaces
Sea Hawk (T700)

2015

Australia (RAAF) becomes
the first international
country to operate Growler
Electronic Attack Aircraft
(F414)

2016

P8 Poseidon replaces the
P3C Orion for maritime
surveillance role
(CFM56)

GE Aviation

Celebrating 100 Years
1918

And so it begins: engine
supercharger victory at Pike’s
Peak.

1939

B-17 engines use GE B-2
turbo-superchargers.

1948

GE opens its second engine
plant, now Aviation HQ.

1948

High demand: the J47 under
production at Evendale.

1941

Enter the Jet Age: GE’s first jet
engine, the I-A.

1952

The GE flight test centre at
Edwards Air Force Base.

1954

The start of 17,000 of the type
to come: the J79.

1957

Gerhard Neumann, architect of
the J79, talks engines.

1968

GE’s Neumann and Ed Hood
look to civil applications.

1966

The civilian GE4 turbojet, based
on the military J93.

1966

USAF’s B-1 bomber is powered
by GE’s F101 engines.

1979

The beginning of a huge success
story with the joint-venture CFM56
series of engines.

1981

The 737-300, the first 737 type to use the CFM56.

2011

The next CFM generation LEAP
engine under test.

2012

The future: fuel nozzles and
other parts by 3D print.

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