May 30, 2019
Air New Zealand, the Pacific nation’s flag carrier, announced this week that it’s buying eight Boeing 787-10 passenger jets — aka the Dreamliner, powered by GE’s GEnx engines — to add to its fleet. Primarily this is great news for “Lord of the Rings” fans, who’ll now be able to travel in style to the filming locations of their favorite cinematic trilogy. (Hint: Scenes from the Shire were filmed in the village of Matamata. They even left hobbit homes behind!) But it’s also good news for GE — the engine order is valued at more than $480 million, with the total plane order adding up to $2.7 billion at today’s list prices — and for Air New Zealand. “This is a hugely important decision for our airline,” said Christopher Luxon, Air New Zealand’s CEO. The 787-10 offers customers almost 15% more space than the planes it’s replacing and increases fuel efficiency in the fleet. Luxon said, “This investment creates the platform for our future strategic direction and opens up new opportunities to grow.” The deal also includes an option to boost the order to 20 jets.
Just plane facts: GE-powered Dreamliners are no strangers to the skies down under. In 2018, the Australian national airline Qantas started flying Boeing 787s nonstop for the first time between Perth and London, on what’s called the kangaroo route. The trip has been so popular, reports the analytics firm Deloitte, that in their first year the planes were 94% full — 14 points higher than the industry average. GE Aviation, meanwhile, said that it’s sold more than 2,500 GEnx engines since launching the machine 15 years ago, making the GEnx the fastest-selling high-thrust GE engine in history.
Read more here about what the GEnx engine can do for New Zealand’s national airline.
The Alqueva Dam, which impounds the mighty Guadiana River two hours east of Lisbon, is a key player in Portugal’s hydropower sector, generating about a third of the country’s electricity. But that’s not all it generates. The dam also churns out a flood of data that engineers can plug into sophisticated software and use to make sure the hydro plant is working at its smartest. “You can transform that data into value by getting the customer’s plant to do more,” said Danielle Merfeld, chief technology officer of GE Renewable Energy. Merfeld was in Paris recently speaking at the World Hydropower Congress, where she explained how digital technology is helping squeeze every last drop of insight out of the world’s biggest power plants — and generating gains in efficiency in the process.
Dammed if you do: Throughout the plant at Alqueva, engineers have installed sensors that gather millions of data points on things like the velocity and turbulence of the water rushing through the dam’s turbine blades. With a little help from artificial intelligence — courtesy of GE’s Asset Performance Management software — they can use this information to discover, for instance, that it’s possible to increase the speed of water hitting the blades, generating more electricity while staying within the operating envelope of the machine. “You are producing more power than the plant is rated for — without changing the design of the turbines at all,” Merfeld said.
GE is also giving Alqueva another weapon in its arsenal: a digital twin, which will allow operators to identify opportunities in the plant, suss out weaknesses, and test different operating scenarios in a risk-free virtual environment before putting them into place in the real thing. Learn more about that here.
When Navy pilots — some flying GE-powered F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets — come across other aircraft traveling at hypersonic speeds, say, at 30,000 feet and observe that those craft expel no exhaust fumes and don’t seem to be powered by a visible engine at all, that piques their curiosity. In the last few years, a rash of similar sightings has spurred the Navy to create new channels for its pilots to report such strange incidents, according to the New York Times. These are, literally, flying objects that can’t be identified, and the paper describes a series of eyebrow-raising events in the skies off the East Coast, including near collisions and one video showing “an object zooming over the ocean waves as pilots question what they are watching. ‘Wow, what is that, man?’ one exclaims. ’Look at it fly!’”
Unscramble the data: But these objects are “almost certainly” not of alien origin, argues Iain Boyd, a University of Michigan professor of aerospace engineering and a former Air Force science adviser. Writing in The Conversation, Boyd says that “humans’ misinterpretation of observations of natural phenomena are as old as time.” That’s not to say that there isn’t some value to be derived from the sightings, Boyd continues, it’s just that the incidents highlight the need for the Navy and other military organizations to improve their “situational awareness” and develop the technology to identify and explain otherwise mysterious sightings — be they weather events, radar malfunctions or private rocket launches. In other words, to take the “U” out of “UFO.”
Read more here about how the Navy could use artificial intelligence to demystify UFO sightings, and more here about the unexplained phenomena witnessed by pilots.
— QUOTE OF THE DAY —
“Imagine having a car with a speedometer that only goes to 100 km/h. Digitalization might tell you that car is actually capable of 120 km/h.”
— Danielle Merfeld, chief technology officer at GE Renewable Energy
Quote: GE Reports. Image: Boeing.
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