GE Aviation has completed its 1,000th 360 Foam Wash of commercial turbine engines since 2017, when Qatar Airways participated in the engine cleaning system’s first trials.
The milestone total includes foam washes performed in technology trials by airlines in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific regions, along with GE Aviation’s on-wing support team. The total also includes washes performed by customers as part of their routine aircraft maintenance processes.
GE’s 360 Foam Wash system uses a specially formulated solution to remove dust and dirt particles from engine gas paths. Because the system is self-contained, crews can use it within the confines of maintenance hangars—unlike traditional water washes, according to GE.
After Qatar Airways became the launch customer for GE’s 360 Foam Wash system in 2019 following some three years of trials, the manufacturer announced in the first half of 2021 that Etihad Airways and Royal Jordanian Airways had also signed for it. GE confirmed to AIN that Emirates Airline also has become a Foam Wash customer.
The fact that all four initial customers for the 360 Foam Wash system hail from the Middle East is not a coincidence. According to a GE spokeswoman, the 360 Foam Wash system works better than water washes in restoring design-performance levels in GE and GE-joint venture engines that operate frequently in hot and harsh environments—such as the desert environments predominant throughout the Middle East. GE confirmed it has demonstrated the 360 Foam Wash system to other Middle East-based airlines and has held discussions with some of those carriers over potentially becoming customers.
The engine manufacturer regards its 360 Foam Wash system not only as a product that helps reduce engine maintenance but as an increasingly relevant tool in helping the air transport industry realize its ambitious carbon-neutrality targets. Using the 360 Foam Wash system to clean an engine lowers the engine’s exhaust temperature, improves its compressor efficiency, restores the engine’s performance, and increases its time on wing, according to GE. As a result, the engine burns less fuel and emits lower levels of greenhouse and noxious gases.
GE awards each 360 Foam Wash customer technical licenses to perform the patented foam wash process. The process involves driving a special detergent into the engine in a controlled cleaning process. The foam fills target areas within the engine and during the cleaning process the cart-borne motor drives the engine core stages to rotate 360 degrees, ensuring the foam uniformly reaches every part of each core rotating stage.
Customers can use the 360 Foam Wash system to clean and restore performance in various models of four GE-made engine families: the CF6, the CF34, the GE90, and the GEnx. The system also won approval for use in the GP7200 engine, which GE and Pratt & Whitney manufacture under their Engine Alliance joint venture and which powers most of the world’s Airbus A380s—including many of those operated by Emirates. All four initial 360 Foam Wash customers operate either GE90-powered Boeing 777s or GEnx-powered Boeing 787s or both, and Royal Jordanian operates CF34-powered Embraer 170s and Embraer 190s. The system has not yet gained certification for engines GE makes with Safran under their CFM joint venture.