Chuck Nugent, GE Aviation's general manager of the GEnx programme, plans to be travelling a bit more than usual for the second half of this year. That's because his GEnx-1B engines will debut under the wings of new aircraft belonging to several first-time Boeing 787 carriers - Qatar Airways, Air India, Ethiopian, United, China Southern and Hainan airlines. Qatar Airways has its first 787 here, marking the first appearance of a 787 at the Farnborough air show.
Along with the 787, Nugent is also busy bringing a new line of GEnx engines to the factory and customers for the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental and Freighter, 20 of which have been delivered, as of mid-June. The GEnx-2B is the sole engine choice for the 747-8 while 787 buyers can select either the GEnx-1B or Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine. To date, 60% of the purchasers of 787s who have selected engines have gone with GE.
In total, the two engine types have accumulated more than 115,000h on 24 aircraft (20 747-8s and four 787s) as of mid-June, with most of the hours on the -2B. Nugent says dispatch reliability has been more than 99.9%. GE built 120 GEnx engines for both airframes last year and will build more than 140 this year, ramping this up to more than 200 engines next year and eventually to a steady state level of 300 engines per year. That rate will support Boeing's plans for a steady state production of two 747-8s per month and as many as 14 787s per month, four higher than the announced peak of 10 aircraft per month by the end of 2013.
The company in June certified a 75,000lb-thrust (334kN) version of the GEnx-1B, boosting maximum take-off thrust for the engine by 7% from the 70,000lb-thrust rating for existing variants of GEnx or R-R Trent 1000 engines. GE has not identified the first customer who will select the higher thrust, but says benefits include additional payload capabilities for take-offs from high-altitude runways, short runways and on hot temperature days.
The thrust enhancement applies only to the performance improvement package (PIP 1) variant of the engines. GE initially certified the GEnx-1B as a "Block 4" version, which provided a maximum thrust range of 54,000-70,000lb-thrust but exceeded specific fuel consumption (SFC) specifications by more than 2%. The PIP 1 variant, certified in late 2011 and now in production, decreased SFC to within 1% of original specification levels. PIP 2, slated for certification by the end of the year and entry into service in 2012, will decrease SFC to originally-specified levels and further boost allowable maximum thrust to 78,000lb-thrust.
The engine will be used for both the 787-8 and the larger, longer range 787-9, slated for entry into service in 2014.
Initial impressions of the GEnx on both the 747 and 787 are positive. "The feedback has been great," says Nugent. "There are many great comments from customers seeing the fuel burn difference [compared with other engines], particularly on the 747. There are also a number of comments, predominately from the flight crew, about how quiet the engine is."
Along with its enhanced health monitoring functions, the engine has the collective eyes of GE trained on it since the company's reputation is on the line with not one, but two new platforms.
"We are watching the engine extremely closely as we are entering service," says Nugent. "To support the programme, we have significantly ramped up field service engineering activities."
Part of that support includes a little extra attention at the beginning of the relationship. "As we launch new service, we meet each initial flight for a number of weeks," says Nugent. "We've met 2,100 flights at over 48 airports [as of mid-June]."
Most of the greeters are field support representatives on location, but GE often has to fly someone in to remote locations. "It has been extremely well received," says Nugent. "Fortunately, we haven't had any difficult issues to solve."