When David Joyce, GE Aviation president and CEO, unveiled his company’s latest jet engine at the Paris Air Show last month, he called it “the biggest, most advanced wide-body engine in the world”. He wasn’t kidding. Looming over him was the engine’s massive front fan spanning 11 feet in diameter.
GE engineers designed the engine, called the GE9X, to power Boeing’s latest 777X jets. And while the machine is brand-new, it is also a giant standing on the shoulders of, well, giants — specifically engines like the GE90, the world’s most powerful jet engine, and the GEnx, developed for Boeing’s popular 787 Dreamliner jets and the latest 747-8 aircraft.
Now these engines will have a family reunion. The Gulf airline Qatar Airways announced Tuesday that it had picked the GEnx engine to power 30 new twin-engine 787-9 Dreamliner jets and signed a long-term service agreement covering the maintenance, repair and overhaul of the engines. Qatar Airways also agreed to a long-term service agreement for the GE9X engines it has on order to power 60 777X jets. “Qatar Airways is one of the fastest-growing airlines in the world, and GE Aviation is proud to collaborate with Qatar Airways and play a significant role in their growth,” Joyce said. “Today’s signing will increase Qatar’s GEnx-powered B787 fleet to 60 aircraft and ensure the airline’s GEnx and GE9X engines receive the highest level of maintenance and support”.
Commenting on the deal, Ohio Senator Rob Portman said “GE’s selection is a testament to its commitment to excellence, investment in the best technology and most importantly the high quality of its workforce. This program is critical to maintaining America’s technological edge, and I am pleased that this contract will benefit GE and my home town of Cincinnati”. Portman said that “this project will lead to increased investment in the region, which will help spur further economic growth, job creation and innovation, while enhancing Ohio’s reputation as a national leader in the aerospace industry”.
GE Aviation has sold more than 2,500 GEnx engines since its launched 15 years ago, making it the fastest-selling high-thrust GE engine in history. Just last month in Paris, Korean Air and Air Lease Corporation ordered a combined total of 30 GEnx-powered Dreamliners. And in May, Air New Zealand said it would power its new fleet of eight Boeing 787-10s, the longest version of the Dreamliner, with GEnx engines. That deal includes an option to boost the order to 20 jets. “This is a hugely important decision for our airline,” said Christopher Luxon, Air New Zealand CEO, in a press release. “With the 787-10 offering almost 15% more space for customers and cargo than the 787-9, this investment creates the platform for our future strategic direction and opens up new opportunities to grow”.
GE Aviation has received orders for more than 700 GE9X engines. That engine 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.