GE Aviation has started building components and is “on track” with its GE9X engine development to meet Boeing’s objective of improving fuel burn by 10 percent on the new 777X widebody.
On Monday at the Paris Air Show, GE Aviation (Chalet B107, Hall 2A C52) announced that it will build a factory in Asheville, North Carolina, to mass produce ceramic matrix composite (CMC) materials, one of the technologies it will introduce in the inner and outer combustion liner and turbine airfoil components of the new engine to help it reach Boeing’s goal. “We’re going to make a significant investment in bringing these (materials) along,” said Bill Millhaem, GE general manager of GE90 and GE9X programs.
GE has built the first compressor for the GE9X at its Evendale, Ohio, facility and will ship the part to a GE Oil & Gas facility in Massa, Italy, for testing in July. Plans call for finalizing the engine design in 2015 and developing the first test engine the following year. GE will flight-test the engine on a Boeing 747 testbed and aims to certify it in 2018.
Millhaem described various technology efforts the company is making to improve upon the fuel consumption of the GE90-115B engine that powers the 777-300ER. He said 500 engineers are working on a technology program that is expected to be a $2 billion overall investment.
“When Boeing came to us, they challenged us to get 10 percent better fuel burn than the -300ER has today,” Millhaem said. “So we reached deep into the GE toolkit to find technologies that would allow us to go 5 percent better on fuel burn beyond the GEnx (powering the Boeing 787) and any other widebody engines currently being developed.”
According to GE Aviation president and CEO David Joyce, the new ceramic matrix composite liners will account for one-fourth of this 10-percent efficiency gain. This is because the liners do not need any “parasitic” bleed air for cooling, he told AIN. The material, which is also about one-third lighter than current metals used for liners, also allows for tighter blade clearances, resulting in a lower pressure loss.
The GE9X will have fourth-generation composite fan blades, Millhaem said. “This fan blade will incorporate a new, lighter weight, higher strength material that will allow us to make the blade thinner, wider-chord, more swept and incorporate new advanced 3-D aerodynamics, which will allow us to go from 22 fan blades on today’s engine down to 16 fan blades on the GE9X, taking out weight and improving the performance of the engine.”
The GE9X will also use the composite front fan case from the GEnx engine, saving more than 700 pound per aircraft compared to using an aluminum fan case he said. o