GE’s TechX: more than the sum of its parts

posted on 12th June 2018

Bombardier’s new Global 7000 and 8000 aircraft will feature next-generation GE Aviation’s TechX 16,500lb thrust engines. With entry into service scheduled for 2016 and 2017 respectively, what are the technologies and milestones that will enable these new Globals to deliver the promised efficiency and emissions advantages? Jo Murray speaks to Brad Mottier, Vice President and General Manager, Business and General Aviation at GE Aviation 

What really captures market attention is a new airframe proposal to accommodate real market demand, coupled with a step change in engine technology, based on tried and tested engineering. That is what Bombardier and GE Aviation have presented us with in the announcement that the Global 7000 and 8000 programmes have been launched and the 7000 platform even has a launch customer. This news has demonstrated that there is a future-facing application for GE Aviation’s TechX engine and now it is a question of pulling together all the inherent technologies, testing them and certifying the complete structure in time for entry into service.

As leader of the Business & General Aviation Division at GE Aviation, Mottier is keen to set out the different development phases of the technologies that comprise the TechX engine. With a new engine it is never a case of talking in terms of the “whole”; an aero-engine is an encasement of components and assemblies, developed for various applications. The technologies that Mottier speaks of in relation to the Global 7000 and 8000 engines are derived from select military applications (like the F414) and commercial programmes which are scaled down for business aircraft applications.

Starting with LEAP-X, Mottier explains that this is a technology development programme specifically for an engine for a commercial narrow body aircraft – such as an engine that would replace a CFM56 for the 737, for example. “When we talk about LEAP-X, we are talking about a suite of technologies – compressors, combustors, high pressure turbine, low pressure turbine – which advance the art of the components that make up an engine of that size,” he says. The LEAP-X technology programme is being developed by CFM International, a 50/50 JV between GE and Snecma of France.

“Then we have the NG34. This is GE’s name for the technology development programme for the next-generation regional jet engine,” he points out.

“We also have a programme called eCore. This is the technology development programme for the actual core of the engine.  It is in effect the “heart” of the engine which includes the compressor, the combustor and the high pressure turbine – it does not include the fan or the low pressure turbine,” Mottier says. Intrinsic to GE’s eCore technology is a high pressure ratio, 10-stage compressor with advanced materials for enhanced reliability and durability and improved fuel consumption. Commenting further on eCore, Mottier explains that eCore 1 completed its first phase of testing in November 2009, and eCore 2 is on schedule to begin testing in mid-2011. All of the data collected from these first tests will feed into eCore 2.

Then – in the list of GE Aviation technology development programmes – comes TechX. “TechX was a technology development programme for engines in the 10-20,000lb thrust range for business aviation – not for regionals or narrow bodies. We spend about $1 billion a year at GE Aviation inventing and perfecting technologies and system architecture. We have spent some of that money on TechX, some of it goes on NG34, etc. A lot of the technologies are scalable between those different technology programmes,” says Mottier.

“The TechX core will include eCore technology. It also pulls in some of the technology that we have already certified for the GEnx engine on the Boeing 787 and 747-8” he says. Part of the TechX package includes the latest generation Twin Annular Pre-mixed Swirler II (TAPS II) combustor that will produce fewer NOx emissions throughout the flight envelope – this is an enhancement over the TAPS that is in the GEnx.

The actual TechX engines for the Global 7000 and 8000 will be a coming together of all these technology suites in one engine. It will run for the first time in 2013 to support the entry into service of the new business aircraft in 2016 and 2017.

According to GE Aviation, the TechX engine will deliver several benefits, including: 8 to 20% lower specific fuel consumption than business jet engines in the large cabin aircraft class, more than 50% margin to CAEP/6 regulations on all emissions (NOx, smoke, hydrocarbons and CO) and high levels of performance and reliability. The TechX engine will produce around 16,500lb of thrust.

The period between 2013 and 2016 will comprise a typical engine testing programme. “We lay out milestones for the testing of different parts and their qualification. Then engine certification takes place at the tail end of that period,” he says.

In terms of aircraft – and therefore TechX engines populations – Mottier says that GE Aviation calculates market demand and therefore production rates before the engine builder makes a proposal to the airframer. “Quantity and production capacity justify the high level of investment to develop the product,” Mottier points out realistically.

As for coming up with the goods, Mottier points out that airframers scrutinise in detail an engine builder’s track record of being able to deliver what it says it is going to deliver. “GE has a very enviable record in meeting their requirements,” he concludes.