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GE And US Navy To Recycle Old Aircraft Engines

By Daniel Baxter
 
 

March 10, 2010 - The U.S. Navy and GE Aviation are collaborating on an environmentally beneficial program to recover rhenium-bearing aircraft engine components from out-of-service F404 and F414 engines, and then incorporate this precious metal back into the manufacture of new engine parts.

Dubbed the GE/Navy Reclamation Program, this effort is aimed at reducing raw-material requirements, lowering dependency on foreign sources of rhenium and providing financial "credits" the Navy can apply to future engines and hardware. After validation of its viability and value, this initiative was formalized last June and incorporated into the existing GE-Navy F414 multi-year contract.

This program is part of a comprehensive Department of Defense effort to promote key material reclamation throughout the system. U.S. Navy Captain Ted Fink has helped drive this program and has reinforced the opportunity to maximize natural resources in the Navy domain. "Our focus is, and always will be, to provide our sailors and Marines the best products and weapon systems to defend our country and cause. But we also realize the role we have in helping to preserve and protect the environment. This reclamation effort proves that the two don't have to be mutually exclusive."

As one of the key materials that make up engine "hot sections," rhenium is a prime component in turbine blades and stators. Rhenium is both expensive and available only from limited sources. The concept is to track and reclaim rhenium-rich parts that have reached the end of their contracted life-cycle. GE has an arrangement with a Navy-approved vendor who receives and subsequently processes these parts for material reuse. Other metals are recycled from these parts as well. A first-of-its-kind for GE Aviation Military Systems Operation, the idea spawned from a similar and successful commercial engine reclamation program that exists between GE and some of its airline customers.

Thousands of pounds of rhenium-based components have been shipped thus far from the Fleet Readiness Center South East Jacksonville, Naval Air Engineering Station Lakehurst and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. Also, three F414 development engines were shipped from Naval Air Station Patuxent River (MD) and two additional development program F414s will soon be sent from GE-Lynn.

"We feel good about the results of this program thus far," said David Beck, who is overseeing this for GE's MSO team, "and we are committed to establishing a more predictable, consistent flow of material and also trying to institutionalize the process to benefit both GE and the Navy."

GE and the U.S. Air Force are engaged in rhenium reclamation as well and the plan is to progress this in 2010. Among the next steps are to leverage this concept and expand the reclamation effort to the U.S. Army and its T700 line, and also potentially to involve other key materials used in the manufacture of GE aircraft engines.

GE Aviation, an operating unit of General Electric Company (NYSE: GE), is a world-leading provider of commercial and military jet engines and components as well as avionics, electric power, and mechanical systems for aircraft. GE Aviation also has a global service network to support these offerings.

 
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