GE Aviation’s CF6, its first commercially successful jet engine, celebrated 40 years in service on August 5. The CF6 ushered in decades of engine leadership that continues: at this summer’s Paris Air Show, CFM International, the joint venture between GE and Snecma, and GE announced a record-setting $27 billion in orders for its new LEAP engine.
Like many great successes, the CF6′s arose after initial setbacks with GE’s first commercial engine, the CJ805. But the company learned from its early mistakes. “Do it right the first time… you’re going to have it around for a long time to come,” said Gerhard Neumann, the former chief executive of GE Aviation. In April 1968, American Airlines and United Airlines chose the CF6-6, GE’s new 40,000 pound thrust engine, for their new fleets of Douglas DC-10 Series 10 aircraft. On August 5, 1971, American’s DC-10, powered by the CF6-6, made its first passenger flight, from Los Angeles to Chicago.
Check out those on-board lounges, even in Economy! American Airline’s 1971 TV ad for the new DC-10 with GE’s CF-6 engine.
By then, the CF-6 had already evolved into a version with 49,000 to 54,000 pounds of thrust, the CF6-50 engine, to power the new, longer-range DC-10 Series 30 aircraft. Carriers KLM, Swissair, SAS and French carrier UTA became the launch customers for the new iteration, announced at the 1969 Paris Air Show.
From there, the CF-6 has continued to improve and its latest versions are expected to still be flying in the 2040s, 80 years after it first debuted. Since 1971, 7000 CF6 engines have been delivered, with 250 operators in 87 countries.