GE begins testing GE9X composite fan blades

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General Electric (GE) has completed first test to validate the composite material comprising the GE9X fan blades that will power the Boeing 777X.

GE completed the tests of the next-generation GE90 engine at ITP Engines' UK testing facility in June. The validation produced "promising" results, says the engine manufacturer.

A second round of validation tests are scheduled to be carried out in the coming weeks, which will focus on further validating both the new carbonfibre material in the engine's fan blades as well as new steel alloy for the blades' leading edges.

Next week, the manufacturer is also planning to test a high-pressure compressor rig at GE's oil and gas facility in Massa, Italy. The test has been delayed by a few weeks since the July timeframe that Bill Millhaem, general manager of the GE90 programme, disclosed to Flightglobal in a June interview. Other than the time needed to prepare the instrumentation and install valves on the test stand, there have been no other issues holding up the project, says the manufacturer.

GE has also detailed that construction is underway on a new facility and accompanying fan rig in Seattle to support performance tests of its universal propulsion simulator (UPS).

Each GE9X engine has been designed to include 16 blades - fewer than the GEnx and GE90-1115B engines have. The reduction in blades enables the low-pressure turbine to run more efficiently and provide fuel savings because of increased fan tip speed.

These engineering changes to the GE9X will allow for the more than 1.5% fuel efficiency improvement and 10% fuel burn improvement over the GE90-115B engine that has been in service since 2004, says GE.

GE plans to perform the first GE9X engine test in 2016 ahead of flight testing in 2017. Certification of the engine is expected in 2018.