GE celebrates 3,000th GE90 delivery

Avatar photo

GE celebrated the 3,000th delivery of the GE90 turbojet to FedEx earlier this month of September 2023. A look back at an engine that participated in the transition from quadjet to twinjet and then became the exclusive engine of the “Triple-Sept” 200LR and 300ER.

3,000 GE90

This month, 3,000 GE90s were delivered to FedEx. Among all commercial engines, the GE90 holds a somewhat special place. Firstly because of its dimensions – at 3.43 meters, it is literally extraordinary and is only surpassed by the GE GE9X – then also because of its technical characteristics: it is the first engine to be entered in service with carbon fiber composite fan blades. It was also the first engine certified at more than 100,000 pounds of thrust (its thrust ranges from 329 to 512 kN depending on the model) and the first engine certified with an additive part composing it.

From quadjet to twinjet

However, when it was introduced in 1990, the GE90 was not necessarily destined to become a success, given that its launch was based on a daring bet for the time, we explain at GE. “Looking back to the early 1990s and considering the risks taken to launch the original GE90, it was an incredible gamble on the future of air travel that airlines aircraft would move from a four-engine widebody to a twin-engine widebody,” said Nate Hoening, GE90 program manager. At the time, GE Chief Executive Brian Rowe believed in Boeing’s idea that large airliners on long international flights could be powered by two engines – instead of four, as was the case. was then usually the case – which reduced fuel and maintenance costs. But to achieve this, it was necessary to oversize the engines and develop parts from materials never before used in civil aviation.

Laborious beginnings

But the beginnings of the GE90 are laborious. If the engine was certified by the FAA on February 2, 1995 three years later, in 1998, GE competed with Rolls-Royce and Pratt & Whitney to equip the Boeing 777. Some major airlines believed that the GE90 was too expensive and that its technology was too risky to equip airliners designed to fly great distances with only two engines. Low market demand has led GE to delay certification of the next variant of the engine while its future becomes increasingly uncertain.

The -115B exclusive engine for the Boeing 777-300ER and 777-200LR

But in 1999, engineers designed a more efficient compressor for the GE90. Then, with positive feedback from operators in the field regarding improved fuel efficiency, a new variant that would achieve a thrust of 115,000 pounds attracted interest from airlines. After months of intense negotiations, Boeing finally agreed to make the GE90-115B the exclusive engine for its longer-range 777-300ER and 777-200LR jets. The architecture and mechanical design of the GE90 – from its carbon fiber composite fan blades to its use of 3D printed additive parts – has influenced all of GE and CFM’s turbojets over the past two decades, including the GEnx, the CFM Leap, the Passport and the GE9X engine for the Boeing 777X.

John Walker Avatar