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GE and P&W prep GP7200 for inaugural flight on Airbus A380

 - December 6, 2006, 11:04 AM

The General Electric/Pratt & Whitney Engine Alliance partnership was last month awarded certification of the GP7200 by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and is now preparing for its first flight powering the giant Airbus A380 airliner. The GP7200 is one of the two powerplant options for the four-engine A380 (the other is the Rolls-Royce Trent 900), and is the first airliner turbofan to have been jointly developed by the two, whose rivalry dates back to the dawn of jet propulsion.

Development of the GP7200 has been relatively straightforward, according to Engine Alliance president Bruce Hughes. “This has been a really clean program,” he told Aviation International News. “We haven’t encountered any serious issues. The only modification we had to do was in the area of the turbine exhaust case, where we discovered some cracking. That’s being re-designed and will be fitted to production engines.”

The 21-month period of testing to certification has been conducted as if the GP7200 were powering a twin, with its more stringent ETOPS reliability requirements. “We put the GP7200 through a test regime as tough as any engine has faced,” said Hughes.

During testing, eight engines completed 7,000 equivalent flight cycles, and the FAA carried out 25 full-scale certification tests and more than 50 component tests. The GP7200 has been run to 94,000 pounds thrust “with no problems at all,” explained Hughes.

The first flight of a GP7200-powered A380 was originally planned for October 2005, and is now expected sometime in the second quarter of this year. “Airbus hasn’t given us a date yet. They’re working hard to get us into the air as soon as possible,” Hughes added.

“This has been an outstanding team effort by the Engine Alliance and its partners MTU, Snecma and TechSpace Aero,” commented Hughes. GE is responsible for the core of the GP7200, which is largely developed from that of the GE90 powering the Boeing 777, while the cold section is led by Pratt & Whitney. MTU is responsible for the low-pressure (LP) turbine, Snecma the high-pressure (HP) compressor and Techspace Aerothe low-pressure compressor. The GP7200 features a hollow-titanium, swept wide-chord fan, a five-stage LP compressor; a nine-stage HP compressor and two-stage HP turbine scaled from the GE90-115B, a low-emissions single-annular combustor and six-stage LP turbine.

The Alliance claims to have taken 55 percent of total engine orders for the A380, its biggest success to date being the deal with Emirates Airline to power its 45 aircraft on order. Air France, FedEx, ILFC and Korean Air have also signed for the Alliance engine. Taking into account the six-month slippage in the A380 program, the target for entry into service of the Emirates aircraft is now April 2007. “Our advanced production support and EIS teams are already there [Dubai],” said Hughes.