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Boeing’s 777X is powered by two General Electric GE9X engines. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

FAA Certifies the GE9X Powerplant

On Monday, GE Aviation announced the Federal Aviation Administration has certified its new GE9X engine, built specifically for Boeing’s new 777X aircraft. Although the company hit some snags along the way, the certification is a huge step forward in developing the massive jet, which is expected to enter service in 2022. As of now, the first 777X is to be delivered to Lufthansa, with Emirates second in line.

Federal Aviation Regulations Part 33 governs the certification process of aircraft powerplants. The process required GE to provide eight test engines to the Federal Aviation Administration to be put through rigorous evaluation, which resulted in about 5,000 hours of testing and 8,000 total cycles. Each cycle is meant to simulate a nominal series of events that would take place during a routine flight, from engine start to shut down, including exposure to ice, dust and debris. The thorough testing ensures the engine can withstand the mechanical and thermal stresses of operation throughout its entire operating range and that no component fatigues to the point of causing engine failure.

In addition to airworthiness certification, the engine is also going through 3,000 hours of ground-based testing to get its Extended Range Twin Engine Operation (ETOPS) authorization. ETOPS certification determines how far a plane can fly on one engine. For example, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is approved for ETOPS-330, meaning it can fly routes that put it within a maximum of 330 minutes of flight time to the nearest suitable airport for landing. For the 777X, Boeing is hoping for a high approval close to the A350’s ETOPS-370 standard, allowing it to take on long-haul routes.

GE9X program general manager Karl Sheldon expressed excitement for the accomplishment, stating, “The GE9X engine has been through a rigorous and thorough certification and testing process. We are pleased with the performance of the engine, which has been validated through extensive ground and flight testing. We are excited to deliver a mature, state-of-the-art product to operators around the world.”

Through its development, the GE9X has become the world’s largest commercial jet engine and named the world’s most powerful engine by Guinness World Records. The GE9X broke the thrust record after producing 134,300 pounds of thrust during a test run in 2019, beating out a previous GE engine, the GE90-115B, which formerly held the record with 127,900 pounds of thrust.

The GE9X has been engineered with efficiency and carbon footprint in mind. The powerplant has an 11-foot diameter, will produce lower NOx than any other GE engine, is 10% more fuel-efficient than the GE90 and is the quietest engine ever built by the company. Furthermore, the GE9X has been constructed with lightweight, heat resistant ceramic matrix composites that can withstand up to 2,400 degrees Fahrenheit. According to GE, the composites will improve the engine’s fuel burn, durability and performance.

“It takes the world’s best talent in jet propulsion to create a game-changing product like the GE9X engine. There is no substitute that can achieve the combination of size, power and fuel efficiency of the GE9X. This engine will deliver unsurpassed value and reliability to our airline customers. I want to congratulate the entire GE9X team and thank Boeing, our partners and suppliers for the collaboration on this incredible achievement,” said GE Aviation CEO John Slattery.

Taylor Rains
Taylor Rains
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