Monday, July 9, 2018

Giant Freighter Carries Next Generation Power Unit as Cargo  

GE9X Engine Aims to Transform Air Travel

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Shipping News Feature US – WORLDWIDE – All industries have a Holy Grail, for many the target is efficiency, with computer technology it's often making things smaller, but in the world of transport, by land, sea and air, so often biggest is best. Whilst we have seen the immense growth in the size of container ships of late, the air freight industry has to rely on older equipment when something abnormally large needs carrying, the options are the single Antonov An-225 left in service and the handful of An-124-100 freighters.

Ironically, it is just such a massive plane operated by Volga-Dnepr Airlines that has just returned the world’s largest jet engine to the manufacturer, following the GE9X’s successful on-wing testing in Victorville, California. The GE9X project aims to deliver the mammoth engine which is to power Boeing’s brand new 777X, which the corporation promises will be the largest and most efficient twin-engine jet in the world.

This latest move saw Volga-Dnepr provide logistics support for the GE9X engine’s return to Ohio for additional testing at GE Aviation’s Test Operations facility in Peebles. This was Volga-Dnepr’s second flight in support of GE’s GE9X program having previously transported the engine from Columbus to Victorville late last November, and customised flight planning for manufacturer GE Aviation brought the return delivery to Ohio forward by two days. This advance saved GE valuable time and maximised testing hours in the Peebles facility.

The latest delivery was the culmination of two years of planning and development by GE engineers and Volga-Dnepr’s team of load planning specialists to create a loading platform and handling procedures for GE’s largest next generation jet engine. The GE9X, which has a diameter equal to that of the body of a Boeing 737, was loaded into one of the airline’s An-124-100 freighters using the aircraft’s ramp loading system.

The planning even involved the production of a life-size engine mock-up prior to the first engine delivery to Victorville in early November 2017, and a test loading to the carrying aircraft to ensure the ramp system was capable of undertaking the move. Axel Kaldschmidt, Global Director, Aerospace at Volga-Dnepr Group, commented:

“This most recent GE9X flight is the latest demonstration of our continuing relationship with GE which began in 1992 with the first airlift of GE90 engines to Boeing. Our partnership will continue to evolve into the future. This partnership has been further enhanced by the implementation of Volga-Dnepr’s strategy to establish an operating base in Houston.

“This gives the airline the ability to work within arm’s reach of our customers, thus ensuring the ongoing cooperation of our technical experts along with sharing a culture of continued innovation with our key partner GE. These efforts are part of our continued commitment to deliver as promised for our customers in the Aerospace industry.”

The development of the GE9X has meant some completely new concepts. Some parts of the engine are produced using 3D printing whilst new generation heat and light resistant ceramic materials are incorporated. Lightweight carbon fibre replaces formerly metal components and the unit produces over 100,000 pounds of thrust. Boeing’s faith in the concept has been supported by the industry with orders so far for more than 700 GE9X engines from airlines including Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Lufthansa, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways.

A short video of the first test flight using the new engine tagged onto a 747 successfully conducted in March 2018 can be seen here.

Photo: The GE9X being loaded aboard the An-124 with (inset) the test bed Boeing 747 showing the giant engine alongside the normal 747 power unit.

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