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Special Delivery: The World’s Most Powerful Engine One Step Closer to Liftoff In Boeing’s 777X Jet

Liz Wishaw
Tomas Kellner
November 21, 2019

The GE9X engine, the largest and most powerful commercial jet engine ever built, is a step closer to full liftoff. GE Aviation recently delivered the first four fully compliant GE9X engines to Boeing’s wide-body plant in Everett, Washington. A pair will take the aircraft maker’s new wide-body passenger jet, the Boeing 777X, to the sky for the first time.
Ted Ingling, general manager for the GE9X engine program, told AINonline that the Guinness-World-Record-setting powerhouse passed recent in-house testing. GE halted production earlier this summer after detecting a durability issue causing premature deterioration on a static component in the high-pressure compressor. GE engineers ruggedized the component without changing any of the aerodynamics of the design. This improved durability while also allowing GE to retain the engine’s performance and operational characteristics.

GE has built 10 compliant engines, eight of which will go on flying test airplanes, along with two spares, for Boeing. The remaining compliance engines and spares with the incorporated fix are on schedule to be delivered to Boeing by the end of this year, GE Aviation said.

The first 777X now awaits final installation work and on-wing testing before making its first flight, scheduled now for the first quarter of next year, with Boeing planning for the airplane’s certification in early 2021.

Already the world’s largest commercial jet engine, the GE9X also is now the most powerful one, according to a recent acknowledgment by Guinness World Records, clocking in at 134,300 pounds of thrust during a test run in 2017. And GE has received orders for more than 700 GE9X engines.

That engine, whose front fan is a full 11 feet in diameter and is as wide as the body of an entire Boeing 737, uses the fourth generation of carbon-fiber composite fan blades originally developed for the GE90. It holds parts made from the latest materials like light and heat-resistant ceramic matrix composites, and components made by advanced manufacturing technologies like 3D printing. “The ceramics allowed us to go to 60:1 [pressure ratio] inside the GE9X,” Ingling said earlier this year at the Paris Air Show, where the behemoth was unveiled. “That’s huge. As result, the GE9X engine is not dramatically larger than engines in the GE90 family, even though it’s much more efficient.”

Ingling said the new technologies and materials help make the engine 10% more fuel-efficient that its predecessor. This is a big deal, given that fuel costs amount to as much as 20% of an airline’s operating expenses on average. “The technologies I’ve worked on are out of this world,” he said. “I never have a dull moment.”