GE Purchased B-747 For Testing Next Generation Of Jet Engines


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GE Purchased B-747 For Testing Next Generation Of Jet Engines

By Bill Goldston

March 2, 2011 - GE Aviation is announcing a $60 million investment to purchase and refurbish a Boeing 747-400 aircraft and turn it into a new flying test bed that will test the next generation of jet engines-starting with the LEAP-X engine. 

The CFM International LEAP-X is a high-bypass turbofan engine currently under development by CFM International. CFM International is a 50-50 joint venture company between GE Aviation of the United States and Snecma of France. 

The LEAP-X incorporates technologies that CFM matured as part of the LEAP56 technology acquisition program, which CFM launched in 2005. The LEAP-X engine was officially launched on 13 July 2008. It is intended to be a successor to the CFM56-5B and CFM56-7B.

Currently proposed for the LEAP-X is a greater use of composite materials, a second-generation Twin Annular Pre Swirl (TAPS II) combustor, a bypass ratio around 10-11:1, and 16% lower fuel consumption. The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (Comac) has chosen the LEAP-X engine to provide the engines for its new Comac C919 aircraft. 

The company plans to certificate in 2014 the first engine in the new line, the LEAP-X1C for China's 150-seat Comac C919 twinjet. The aircraft is due to enter service in 2016. The engine will also be deployed in the same year on the new Airbus A320neo variant. 

The recently purchased 747 aircraft features GE's CF6-80C2 engines and will be home-based at GE's Victorville, California facility. It will replace the current 747 flying testbed, which is the oldest version of the 747 still flying in the U.S. and the fifth oldest in the world. GE has been operating the current 747 flying testbed since 1992 and has operated a flying testbed since 1945. 

"This investment in an updated 747 flying testbed is exciting news for the Victorville site and shows our commitment to the Southern California Logistics Airport and the Southern California region," said Dom Pitocco, plant leader for GE's Victorville Flight Test Operations. "Refurbishment of the new flying testbed will take about two years with the aircraft making its inaugural test flight with the new LEAP-X engine." 

"This Boeing 747 aircraft was a former Japan Airlines passenger aircraft, and GE selected this aircraft for purchase since it was well maintained by Japan Airlines' engineering team," said Colleen Athans, vice president and general manager of Assembly, Test and Overhaul at GE Aviation.


"GE Aviation's $60 million investment to the purchasing and refurbishing a Boeing 747 aircraft to use as a testbed for future generation jet engines is the type of investment in innovation that will guarantee America has a competitive edge in aviation technology on a global scale," said Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon. 

To prepare the aircraft for flight-testing, its wing and strut will be redesigned and strengthened to accommodate experimental engines of varying size and weight. The plane's interior will also be modified, and GE will install data systems for testing and systems integration equipment to transform the aircraft into a flying testbed. 

GE's Flight Test Operation moved to its Victorville facility in 2003 and was the first tenant at the Southern California Logistics Airport. Most test missions are flown within the Edwards Air Force Base Restricted Test Area, which is restricted airspace for test flights located around the Lancaster, California base.


Test missions are also flown to Colorado Springs, Colorado; Yuma, Arizona; Seattle, Washington; and Fairbanks, Alaska based on test requirements. To take a video tour of GE's current 747 flying testbed, click here. 

GE Aviation, an operating unit of GE is a world-leading provider of jet and turboprop engines, components and integrated systems for commercial, military, business and general aviation aircraft. GE Aviation has a global service network to support these offerings.

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