GE Aviation began running its third and final eCore demonstrator last month in preparation for application on the Passport business jet engine and the new CFM Leap family, as well as a potential basis for the still orphaned NG34 turbofan development. The third eCore has now progressed roughly halfway through its planned test run, while, together all three demonstrators have run some 300 hours, a GE spokesperson told AIN at the RAA Convention in Montreal today. Schedules call for first commercial application—on the CFM Leap—by the middle of next year.
Speaking during a convention press conference, GE Aviation CF34 program general Allen Paxson maintained that the NG34—the engine GE pitched to Embraer for the Pratt & Whitney GTF-powered second generation E-Jets—will, if nothing else, ensure that the company stands “ready” for any eventual opportunity in the sector, one that Paxson insists will remain viable into the foreseeable future.
“I think as we look at the [airliner market] space from 130 seats and down I think the turbofan business is going to be healthy for decades,” said Paxson. “Guessing on which airframer is going to move next as far as a new offering is very difficult…but we at GE think that segment is going to be around for a good long time and we want to be sure we’re ready with the technologies when the airframers need it….With Embraer we’re still in discussions on other product offerings, and they’re a big partner of ours today and will be for a long time.”
Meanwhile, some 2,600 aircraft remain in operation with CF34s, engendering a huge aftermarket for overhauls and maintenance. Paxson explained that as 50-seat CRJs enter the second-hand market, customers require “tailored” work scoping in which it offers engines whose life limited parts (LLPs) might have reached the midpoint of their life cycles, for example.
“The engine’s designed to go three, four, five, six, seven years with very little expense,” said Paxson. “Then they go in for a maintenance interval and generally the work scope is done to maximize its time on wing. The issue becomes when customers have different horizons for ownership and residual value of the engines. So they don’t want us to put everything into the engine to allow it to run for another 25,000 cycles, for instance.
“So we have to start planning with the customer before the first heavy maintenance to execute on that. So that means retrieving some of the components of the engines like the LLPs before they’re worn out. We then put that in an engine that has run its full life and give it essentially a half cycle of capability.”
GE has logged more than 200 CF34 engine orders since December 2012. Paxson said that he expects 2013 sales to continue at pace, with several North American regional airlines expected to make fleet renewal choices this year.