GE recalls 777X turbofans to address compressor issue amid scramble to minimise 777X delays

GE Aviation is recalling four GE9X powerplants from Boeing to address a previously disclosed engine compressor issue that already forced Boeing to delay the 777X’s first flight.

News of the recall surfaced in a 19 August regulatory filing with the US Department of Transportation (DOT) by Russia’s Volga-Dnepr Airlines, which has applied for rights to fly the engines from Washington state to Ohio.

Ohio-based GE Aviation confirms it is shipping four “compliance engines” to its Ohio facilities. Compliance engines are those that will power 777Xs during Boeing’s flight tests.

“The GE9X engines are the compliance engines that will be returned for the high-pressure compressor hardware enhancements that GE revealed at the Paris air show,” the company tells FlightGlobal. “GE Aviation remains aligned with Boeing on this effort as we work toward first flight” of the 777X.

Boeing did not immediately provide comment.

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GE Aviation’s GE9X test programme involved a series flights with the engine hung from the wing of its 747-400

GE Aviation

At the Paris air show, GE Aviation chief executive David Joyce disclosed that his team was redesigning a stator in the GE9X’s high-pressure compressor. The issue, detected in May, resulted in exhaust gas temperatures outside an expected range and premature component deterioration, he said.

Joyce said GE Aviation would address the problem by designing a “more-robust” component, which it would install on the eight engines involved in the GE9X test programme.

In July, Boeing publicly delayed the 777X’s first flight from 2019 to 2020, citing the engine issue as the cause. The company still aims to achieve 777X certification and to deliver the first aircraft before the end of 2020, but has conceded the timeline could slip.

Volga-Dnepr intends to transport the “GE9X engines, as well as ancillary parts and equipment”, back to GE Aviation within the next month on Antonov An-124 freighters, according to its regulatory request with the DOT. Non-US airlines wishing to operate intra-US flights generally need exemptions from US regulators.

US-based airlines are unable to transport the massive GE9Xs, which ship on a stand measuring roughly 8 x 4 x 4m (26 x 14 x 13ft) and weighing 36,000lb (16,300kg), Volga-Dnepr’s application says.

“Approval of the requested exemption is necessary to enable Volga-Dnepr to respond to an emergency created by unusual circumstances not arising in the normal course of business,” it says. “Failure to deliver the engines by air could delay testing, production and subsequent delivery of Boeing airplanes, which would cause financial harm to GE Aviation, Boeing and their customers.”

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GE Aviation Q2 profit slips as 737 Max grounding hits earnings

GE Aviation Q2 profit slips as 737 Max grounding hits earnings

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GE partners LHT for electrical component MRO

Lufthansa Technik has been selected by GE Aviation as an authorised service centre for some of the US manufacturer’s electrical equipment on the under-development Boeing 777X.

GE says LHT will provide MRO and logistics services for backup generators and converters, as well as certain electrical load management systems, under a long-term co-operation agreement.

LHT vice-president aircraft component services Georg Fanta says: “We will generate additional customer value by combining GE’s vast experience in design and product engineering with Lufthansa Technik’s comprehensive strengths in repair development, MRO, and the management and handling of valuable assets.”

In April, LHT and GE started operations at XEOS – a newly-built, jointly-owned engine overhaul shop in Poland, which specialises in the GE9X and GEnx-2B.

The engines power the 777X and 747-8 respectively.

Cirium’s Fleets Analyzer shows that Lufthansa has 19 747-8s, and orders for 20 777-9s.

Read all the latest news and information from the 2019 Paris air show on our dedicated page

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GE redesigns GE9X compressor part for 777X engine

GE Aviation is redesigning a static compressor part for the in-development GE9X engine, to power the Boeing 777X, after the component showed premature deterioration during the test programme.

The engine maker’s chief executive David Joyce said during a briefing today that extended block cycle tests showed that the part “near the [compressor’s] front end” proved to be less durable than expected and that this issue would, if unaddressed, lead to premature shop visits.

The problem was detected in late May when exhaust gas temperature readings were outside an expected range.

GE will install a re-engineered, “more robust” part in all eight engines involved in the GE9X test programme, Joyce says.

The part in question is being produced by GE rather than an external supplier, he notes.

Ground tests with the re-engineered part are being conducted, but the findings suggest a delay in the 9X programme.

Vice-president of commercial engines Bill Fitzgerald says that the manufacturer is still in the process of determining a flight test schedule for the modified engine.

He expresses confidence that the GE9X will be certificated “later in the fall” and that Boeing will still conduct the 777X’s first flight this year.

The durability issue was determined during the last module of ground tests. That module – comprising around 250-300h of testing – will need to be completed prior to certification.

Fitzgerald foresees that the repeat test will “probably” begin in August.

Thus far, the GE9X programme accumulated around 2,700h of ground tests and an additional 450h across two flight-test campaigns on the manufacturer’s 747 test bed, across a total of 71 sorties.

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GE Aviation addresses GE9X issue after lengthy flight test phase

GE Aviation still anticipates completing GE9X certification testing this year after a lengthier-than-planned round of flight tests and recently discovered “anomaly” in an engine’s high-pressure compressor.

GE Aviation completed a second round of certification flight testing for the 777X’s engine in May, during which it completed 53 test flights and logged more than 300 flight hours.

The engine maker had told FlightGlobal late last year that it anticipated “making about 18 flights or so” during the second round of testing.

That was about the same number as in the first testing round, which concluded in May 2018.

The company says additional flight tests in the second phase reflect changes to the massive, 105,000lb-thrust (467kN) GE9X’s “variable stator vane lever arm”.

The arms set the pitch of stator vanes, which are inside the compressor and slow airflow, increasing its pressure. GE Aviation redesigned the arm prior to the second phase of test flights after determining the initial design wore out faster than expected.

“Since the engine for phase two had the new variable stator vane lever arm in the high-pressure compressor, we wanted to get the engine performance data on this configuration at altitude,” GE Aviation says.

It also repeated some tests conducted in the first phase of flight testing. “The engine performed extremely well on the flight tests,” GE Aviation says.

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GE Aviation tests the GE9X on its 747-400 flying test bed

GE Aviation

The company is making other changes to improve the GE9X’s durability.

“During a recent test, GE detected an anomaly in the engine data from the high-pressure compressor,” GE Aviation says. “After data analysis and additional testing, our engineers saw an opportunity for a durability improvement in the front of the compressor.”

“GE anticipates completing its certification testing this year,” it adds.

The company does not provide specifics, but says the anomaly is “mechanical in nature — and is not related to the design or performance of the high-pressure compressor”.

“GE is taking a proactive approach and working the improvement so it can be incorporated into the flight test engines at Boeing as well as incorporated into our engines that will take part in our remaining ground tests,” the company says.

GE Aviation has completed about 85% of the GE9X’s certification testing, including aerodynamic, bird-ingestion, loss-of-blade, hailstorm and icing tests.

“The engine’s performance at altitude was great,” GE Aviation says. “Just a handful of tests remain, including emissions and block test.”

The block test involves running the engine for 25, six-hour cycles, accumulating 150h of run time during which the engine is at “redline” – its max core speed, fan speed and exhaust gas temperature, GE Aviation says.

The company conducts GE9X flight testing on its 747-400 test bed.

Last week Boeing chief financial officer Gregory Smith said Boeing was waiting on the GE9X to advance the 777X programme.

“Long-pole in the tent right now is [the] GE engine. There are some challenges. They’re working through their own testing,” Smith said of GE Aviation during an investor conference hosted by investment bank UBS. “We’re having to do some retesting. And they’re working their way through that.”

“We still expect to fly this year and entry into service in 2020,” Smith added.

Boeing installed GE9Xs on its first flight-test 777X in January. The engine’s 3.4m-diameter (134in) fan, composed of 16 carbonfibre blades, makes the GE9X the world’s largest jet engine, GE Aviation says.

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Leonardo picks GE CT7 engines for next-gen tiltrotor

Leonardo Helicopters has selected twin GE Aviation CT7 engines to power the Next-Gen Civil Tiltrotor (NGCTR) technology demonstrator it is producing under the EU’s Clean Sky 2 initiative.

Talks with GE on the latest application for the powerplant began in October 2018, says NGCTR programme manager Andrea Artioli.

He says the engines will each be in the 2,000shp (1,490kW) class and identifies the CT7’s “scaleability” as a key reason for its selection.

Leonardo Helicopters already uses the 2,000shp-rated -2E1 variant of the engine on its AW189 super-medium-twin.

Although the manufacturer had not confirmed it, previous indications had suggested that it would opt to use the Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A on the platform. Leonardo’s developmental AW609 tiltrotor is fitted with twin PT6C-67As.

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Leonardo Helicopters

Due to fly in 2023, the NGCTR technology demonstrator is designed to prove a number of innovations that Leonardo or its partners are developing for the application.

These include a new semi-tilting nacelle, V-tail, composite wings and advanced cockpit and control system.

Although there are a number of set goals under Clean Sky 2’s high-speed rotorcraft workstream, Leonardo sees the work as a means to eventually offering a “family” of tiltrotors, including the AW609. If launched, a production version of the NGCTR would debut in around 2030-2035.

Selection of the CT7 for the technology demonstration phase does not mean that it will be used in any eventual commercial programme, however.

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GE wins $517m ITEP contract for US Army helicopters

General Electric Aviation was selected by the US Army for a $517 million contract to complete engineering and manufacturing development work on its T901-GE-900 turbine engine for the service’s Improved Turbine Engine Programme (ITEP).

The company’s T901 turbine engine has a single-spool core architecture, compared to the T900’s dual-spool design put forward by competitor Advanced Turbine Engine Company (ATEC), a joint venture of Honeywell and Pratt & Whitney. The contract is cost-plus-incentive-fee and firm-fixed-price. It has an estimated completion date of August 2024, with low-rate production anticipated soon after.

ITEP is the US Army’s engine replacement programme for the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk and Boeing AH-64 Apache helicopters. The Army plans to drop the turboshaft into 1,300 UH-60s and more than 600 AH-64s after 2025. The ITEP engine is also to power the Future Attack Reconnaissance Aircraft, a scout and light attack helicopter for which the service began soliciting bids in October 2018.

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General Electric T901 turbine engine

GE Aviation

The US Army wants its new ITEP engine to be 50% more powerful – 3,000shp (2,240kW) – 25% more fuel efficient and provide a 20% longer design life over the current engine. It will also have to maintain high levels of performance at 6,000ft and 35°C (95°F); conditions common in Afghanistan where the UH-60 and UH-64 have struggled to fly, especially when weighed down by troops and equipment.

GE Aviation stuck to what it believed was a simpler and more maintenance-friendly approach to those requirements: a single-spool turboshaft engine, which places rotating components on one shaft, spinning at the same speed.

“The full modularity of the T901’s single-spool core provides the Army with superior fix-forward maintainability,” said the company. “Combat units can swap out modular parts of the engine in the field and travel with fewer full-sized spare engines, simplifying logistical footprints and supply lines.”

Black Hawk and Apache helicopters for the past 40 years have been powered by GE’s T700 engine, also a single-spool design, which the company says has amassed more than 100 million flight hours.

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GE Aviation’s 2018 profit jumps 20% as Leap production lifts

Profits of General Electric’s aviation unit shot up 20% year-over-year in 2018 to $6.5 billion amid increasing deliveries of aircraft engines.

“Aviation had another outstanding quarter,” GE chief financial officer Jamie Miller said during the company’s earnings call on 31 January.

In 2018, GE Aviation generated $30.6 billion in revenue, up 13% from the previous year and resulting in a 21% profit margin.

GE Aviation logged $35.5 billion in new orders last year, up 22% from 2017, “driven by continued strong momentum of the Leap engine programme,” says Miller.

GE affiliate CFM International manufacturers Leap engines, which power Boeing 737 Max, Airbus A320neo-family aircraft and Comac C919s. GE co-owns CFM with Safran Aircraft Engines.

CFM delivered 1,118 Leap engines last year, up from 459 in 2017. CFM’s total 2018 deliveries increased 14% year-over-year to 2,162, CFM says.

GE Aviation’s results outshined GE’s other divisions and marked an area of particular strength in a year during which GE posted a net loss of $22.4 billion.

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Europe approves GE Passport 20 engine

GE Aviation has secured European certification for the Passport 20 engine that powers Bombardier’s Global 7500 business jet.

The 18 December approval comes more than two and a half years after the 16,500lb-thurst (73kN) Passport powerplant secured US validation and just two days before the ultra-long-range flagship enters service.

The milestone will be marked at a dedicated ceremony at Bombardier’s Global completion facility in Montreal.

Launched in 2010, the Passport is GE’s first integrated propulsion system created specifically for large-cabin business jets.

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It has been selected for only for two platforms to date, with Bombardier’s in-development Global 8000 – a shorter, but slightly longer-range variant of the 7500 – the other application.

The Passport features innovations including a 1.32m (52in)-diameter titanium fan blisk – the first application of the technology on an engine of this size – and a core scaled down from the Leap airliner engines produced by its CFM International 50/50 joint venture with Snecma.

The Global 7500 secured US type certification in November following a two-year flight-test campaign in which five aircraft logged over 2,700h.

European validation is expected in 2019, although Bombardier has not disclosed a precise timeframe.

The company has an order backlog of over 100 of the 7,900nm (14,600km)-range aircraft, and plans to deliver between 15 and 20 examples next year.

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GE begins second round of GE9X flight testing

GE Aviation’s GE9X turbofan returned to the skies on 10 December, kicking off a second round of airborne testing during which the engine maker will evaluate the powerplant’s software and performance in hot-and-high conditions.

The latest round of testing will involve roughly 18 flights on GE’s flying Boeing 747-400 testbed, which will carry the massive GE9X turbofan under its wing, GE says.

The 105,000lb-thrust (467kN) GE9X will power Boeing’s 777X.

GE9X flight tests will stretch into the first quarter of next year, bringing GE closer to achieving its goal of receiving in 2019 certification of the engine by the Federal Aviation Administration, according to the Ohio-based engine maker.

“During the second round of testing, GE will continue software development testing that began in the first round, perform hot-and-high starts and fill in remaining gaps from the first round of testing,” says GE.

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GE’s GE9X turbofan goes to work on the wing of the company’s 747-400 flying testbed.

GE Aviation.

The company’s first round of GE9X airborne testing was delayed more than two months earlier this year after engineers discovered unexpected wear on “lever arms” that alter the pitch of vanes inside the engine’s compressor.

The engine finally got airborne in March when GE began an initial round of airborne tests that lasted until early May. That round involved 18 flights and 105h of flight time, allowing GE to study high-altitude performance and to compare performance during cruise to ground-test data, GE has told FlightGlobal.

With the initial round complete, the company transported the test engine to Ohio, where it was modified into the final configuration expected for production, GE says.

“The engine is more than halfway through the certification testing programme and [has] completed various tests during the last few months,” GE says.

Those tests have included evaluation of performance during water ingestion, overheating and crosswinds, it says.

“Tests that remain include blade out, hailstone, bird ingestion and block or endurance testing,” GE says.

The GE9X-105B variant of the engine will power the 777-9, which Boeing expects will achieve first flight in 2019 and enter service in 2020.

GE also plans to develop versions of the turbofan with 102,000lb-thrust and 93,000lb-thrust, according to regulatory filings with the FAA. Those engines could power other 777X variants.

GE operates a flight test center in Victorville, California, but also performs airborne testing from Colorado Springs in Colorado, Seattle, Fairbanks in Alaska and Yuma in Arizona, it says.

The company acquired its 747-400 flying testbed from Japan Air Lines, then modified and strengthened the aircraft’s wing and strut to accommodate test engines, it says.

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