There are several things about the GE9X, GE’s latest jet engine for Boeing’s next-generation 777X plane, that grab attention. Exactly 11 feet in fan diameter, the GE9X will be the largest jet engine ever built. Although the engine is still in development and will not enter service until 2020, it has already scored the single largest customer commitment in the GE Aviation’s history. As of now, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, and Qatar Airways have committed to 550 GE9X engines valued at $21 billion (U.S. list price). Finally, the fact that none of the customers are from the U.S. underlines the changing economic reality and the increasingly global nature of GE’s business. “We’ve gone from a company a decade ago that was 70 percent inside the United States to a company today that’s 65 percent outside the United States,” Jeff Immelt, GE Chairman and CEO said last year at the Wharton Economic Summit. “We’re a high-tech company and we’re a global leader. You can’t inherit these things, you have to build them.”
The GE9X engine is a perfect example of both. Under Immelt, GE has invested heavily in organic growth. The company used to spend 2 percent of revenues on research and development a decade ago. It now spends 5 to 6 percent. As a result, the GE9X will include technologies like 3D printed parts, components manufactured from futuristic materials called ceramic matrix composites (CMCs), which can operate at temperatures higher that most advanced alloys, and fourth-generation carbon composite fan blades. By the time the GE9X enters service, GE’s light-weight composite fan blades, which are already inside the GE90 and the GEnx engines, will have accumulated 100 million flight hours. No other jet engine manufacturer even has composite fan blades in service today.
Over the last decade, GE has tripled its revenues from global growth markets and the trend is speeding up. In 2012, GE reached more than $1 billion in revenues in 18 countries. Last year that number jumped to 24, including expanding markets like Algeria, Turkey and Indonesia. Says Immelt: “If I took just one thing to focus on in terms of being proud, it would probably be the global footprint.” Explore our infographic for a closer look.