The world’s largest jet engine has taken flight for the first time in the skies over the Mojave Desert in California. On Tuesday, GE Aviation’s GE9X powered into the air on the wing of the company’s “Flying Test Bed” based at an airstrip in Victorville, California, on a four-hour test flight to check essential engine functions as the start trials for official certification for service.
Developed for Boeing’s 777X next-generation wide-body passenger jet. The GE9X is a monster compared to its predecessors. Due to the extensive use of composites in building the fan blades and the fan case, 3D-printed nozzles, new light- and heat-resistant ceramics, and reducing the number of fan blades from 22 to 16, GE was able to lighten the engine and expand its size so that its fan is now 134-inches (341 cm) across and the entire engine is as wide as a Boeing 737 fuselage. In addition, it can push 100,000 lb of thrust and is 10 percent more efficient than the GE90 engine used on the current generation of 777s.
GE Aviation says it has over 700 orders on the books for the GE9X from customers that include Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Lufthansa, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways. Currently, the company is working on the backup electrical system for the 777X while the GE9X continues with several more months of flight tests to determine altitude performance as well as during other flight phases. So far it has undergone ground-based icing tests at GE Aviation’s facility in Winnipeg, Canada, and is conducting crosswind testing at the Peebles Test Operation in Ohio.
The company expects the GE9X to be certified sometime next year.