LONDON – The penultimate section of this mini-series with GE Aviation is looking at the GEnx engine, which currently serves the Boeing 747-8 and 787 Dreamliner, and how such innovative successes has kept a pattern of success, not just now, but going into the future.
The GEnx engine was first run in 2006, having been developed from the famous GE90, with GE Aviation being selected by Boeing alongside Rolls-Royce with its Trent 1000s to power the Dreamliner.
At this point, the engine market for the 787 was valued at around $40 billion, and here in 2021, you can begin to see why.
The GEnx was the fastest selling widebody engine in the future of the company, and since its entry into service, it has had a few considerable feats. We sat down with GE Aviation once again to discuss this workhorse of an engine.
Some Considerable Successes
By August, the engine will have been in commercial service for a decade. Since then, around 18 of the 20 longest 787 flights are operated by GEnx-1b engines, with the longest flight being Tahiti to Paris Charles de Gaulle at 9,765 miles, taking 18 hours and 45 minutes.
The engine is also responsible for carrying over 10 million passengers per month, and that is just with the 787 variation, the GEnx-1B. This means that a GEnx-powered 787 takes off every 90 seconds.
The GEnx-2b, the 747-8-powered engine, can also provide long distances for airline operators, especially for cargo carrier UPS, with the longest flight being 5X79 between Dubai and its base in Louisville at 16 hours and 49 minutes, covering 7,330 nautical miles.
GEnx-2bs are also responsible for carrying over 6.6 million metric tons of freight every year, with one GEnx-powered 747 taking off every seven minutes.
Going into the future, the 2b will power two brand new Boeing VC-25Bs, which will be used for Air Force One, the U.S President’s own aircraft.
A technology innovator, the GEnx engine first ran in 2006, having been developed from the famous GE90, with GE Aviation being selected by Boeing alongside Rolls-Royce with its Trent 1000s to power the Dreamliner. At this point, the engine market for the 787 was valued at around $40 billion, and here in 2021, you can begin to understand why.
In August, the engine will celebrate a decade since its entry into service. Customers have ordered more than 2,700 GEnx engines, making it the fastest-selling high-thrust engine in GE’s history.
Dave Kircher, General Manager for the GEnx program, notes that from a customer perspective, the engine carries more than 8 million passengers per month with the GEnx-1B 787 variation and more than 6.5 million metric tons of freight every year with -2B 747-8 aircraft.
For those who are counting at home, that means the GEnx engine has delivered over 46 million metric tons of cargo in its 10-year history, in addition to moving over 370 million passengers, all while providing up to 15% improved fuel efficiency.
Over the last few years, the engine has amassed some headline-grabbing accolades, including powering several recording-breaking longest flights: The recent Comlux 20 hour and 19-minute flight on March 29th from Seoul Incheon to Buenos Aires, as well as the Qantas 787-9 flight from New York to Sydney as part of Qantas’ Project Sunrise research flight, covering 10,200 miles in 19 hours and 16 minutes in November 2019.
“We’re honored that two of every three 787 Dreamliners are GEnx-powered. And we’re thrilled our customers were able to accomplish these record breaking fights with the GEnx engine,” Kircher said. “It really goes back to how we built the GEnx. We engineered it with outstanding fuel efficiency to allow customers to be entirely flexible on whatever route they want to fly, from just 30-minute flights to long, record breaking flights.”
With the most advanced technologies and materials, the GEnx has the highest reliability and utilization, lowest fuel burn, and longest-range capability of any engine in its thrust class.
Those in the aviation industry can easily spot the difference between the CF6 on older versions of the 747 and the GEnx on the -8. It’s the world’s first commercial engine with both a carbon fiber composite front fan case and fan blades. But it’s also what you can’t see that helps make the GEnx special.
“The engine began as a blank sheet design incorporating the advanced technologies and materials developed and tested after the GE90 engine entered service,” Kircher said. “We were able to reduce the number of fan blades from 36 on the CF6 to 18 on the GEnx, helping make the engine lighter weight and more fuel efficient. It also offers 15 percent less CO2 emissions compared to its CF6 predecessor. A lot of people don’t think about it anymore because it’s been 10 years since it entered into service, but what is commonplace now was not commonplace a short time ago.”
Though 747-8 is ceasing production, GE Aviation notes that the 787 family is well-positioned in both size and range. The Dreamliner has changed how mid-size widebodies are used by the industry and expectations are that the GEnx and Dreamliner will continue to deliver for customers and be in demand for many years.
The GEnx engine is overall a successful engine in two different ways.
First, it contributed to the preservation of the production of the jumbo jet, irrespective of whether it is ceasing or not. This is because the aircraft that are last to be delivered will have a long life to lead still, and could even take it to the halfway point of this century.
Secondly, because the 787 program is not that old in retrospect and deliveries will still be ongoing into the middle of this decade and beyond, the GEnx engine will be here to stay for a matter of decades.
Going into the future, as we will discover in the last segment of this mini-series, the GEnx engines has set up the foundation for GE Aviation’s next workhorse engine. The GE9X.