Winning early customers for a new engine is always vital for an engine manufacturer, and customers in rapidly-growing regions are especially prized. So there’s a particular pride in recent announcements from US powerplant giant GE, naming the first Middle Eastern buyers of its new GEnx engine family. Mark Bursa reports

A combination of low operating costs, low noise and low emissions is making GE Aviation’s GEnx engine attractive to Middle Eastern airlines. Royal Jordanian has become the first airline in the region to select the GEnx-1B to power its Boeing 787 aircraft, due for delivery from 2010, while Emirates Airlines has chosen the GEnx-2B to power the 10 Boeing 747-8s it has on order.

And to complete a hat-trick of customers in the region, Aviation Lease and Finance Company (ALAFCO) has ordered 12 Boeing 787s, with a further six options, all of which will be powered by the GEnx-1B. Six of these aircraft will be operated by Oman Air.

Muhammad Al-Lamadani, GE Aviation pole general manager for the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States, is delighted with the growing success of the GEnx, of which more than 1,000 examples have been sold to date “The GEnx engine is the fastest-selling engine in GE’s history,” he says.

Emirates is a major GE customer, with a fleet of 47 GE90-powered Boeing 777-200LR/F, -300ER aircraft on order in addition to those already in service. It also operates eight CFM56-powered A340-300 aircraft and was the first airline to order the CFM56-5C/P upgrade. The CFM-56 is produced in a joint venture between GE and Snecma of France.

Royal Jordanian has chosen the engine ahead of its rivals for a number of reasons, said Samer Majali, the airline’s president and CEO. “The GEnx engine offers significantly improved fuel efficiency, lower noise levels, reduced emissions and an overall low cost of ownership, which we require. We look forward to continuing to build on our strong relationship with GE for many years to come.” Like Emirates, Royal Jordanian is an existing GE customer – its Airbus A310s are powered by the engine the GEnx will replace in production – the CF6.

That’s going to be a hard act to follow – the CF6 has been around since 1971, and has powered almost every widebody, including the DC-10, 747, A300, 767 and A330. Around 2,000 CF6-powered aircraft are still in service, and Middle East CF6 operators include Emirates, Kuwait Airways, Saudi Arabian Airlines, Etihad Airways and Gulf Air.

The GEnx is a break with the CF6 line – instead it’s based on the architecture of the larger GE90, which GE designed for the Boeing 777. Compared to the CF6, the GEnx will offer 15% better fuel efficiency, and is designed to stay on wing for 30% longer, and using 30% fewer parts, thus greatly reducing maintenance costs. And it’s designed to be future-proof in terms of noise and emissions. GEnx emissions will be as much as 95% below current regulatory limits, ensuring clean compliance for years to come. Meanwhile GE claims it will be the quietest engine that the company has produced based on a lb-thrust per decibel ratio.

The secret is in its use of advanced materials – GEnx is the world’s first, and so far only, jet engine with both a front fan case and fan blades made of composites. This will bring greater durability, reduced weight as well as lower operating costs than comparable engines in its class.

“We have invested more than $1 billion in research and development of advanced technologies that allow our engines to be more fuel efficient, quieter, and produce fewer emissions,” says Al-Lamadani. “You can see the dramatic technology improvements as you look from our first commercial engine, the CF6-6, to the GEnx.” And some of this new technology is being incorporated into upgrade offerings for installed engines. “Our R&D commitments help all of our product lines in the long run,” Al-Lamadani adds.

Now GE is preparing for entry into service on the 787 next year. Flight testing of the GEnx-1B version on GE’s Boeing 747 testbed has now been completed, just eight months after the engine made its first flight in February. The testing is being carried out at GE’s outdoor testing facility in Peebles, Ohio, and certification is anticipated by year-end. So far the engine has successfully completed its certification tests for fan blade containment, vibration, emissions and bird ingestions.

“The GEnx engine is performing well in development testing, and we look forward to a successful entry into service,” says Al-Lamadani. Flight testing of the -2B version for the 747-8 will start before the end of the year. “The GEnx-2B engine is very similar in design to the GEnx-1B engine for the 787 Dreamliner,” he says. “For our customers, this means commonality in parts, tooling, and training needs of their employees.” IHI of Japan, TechSpace Aero of Belgium, Avio SpA. of Italy, Volvo Aero of Sweden and Samsung Techwin of Korea are revenue-sharing participants in the programme.

Where next for the GEnx? GE Aviation’s president and CEO Scott Donnelly says a higher thrust GEnx derivative is being considered for the Airbus A350 programme. “GE is talking to Airbus about powering the A350-800 and A350-900 aircraft – but not A350-1000,” Donnelly said. We have a design team living at Airbus, so I sure hope we can reach the necessary financial terms to make this happen. Airbus definitely wants GE on the aircraft.”

These are good times for GE. The company has recently completed the $4.8 billion acquisition of UK-based Smiths Aerospace, a supplier of integrated systems for aircraft manufacturers and components for engine builders. This will help GE increase its engine production rates over the next three years more than 65% to meet to growing orders for the GEnx, GE90 and CFM56 engine families.

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Source: Flight Daily News