Flying Blue: Air France-KLM Place $1.7 Billion GE Jet Engine Order for New Dreamliner Fleet

March 24, 2014

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The GEnx jet engine is so powerful that five of them together can produce the same thrust at sea level as one Space Shuttle rocket engine.

It takes just two to lift a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and Air France-KLM will use these engines on a fleet of 37 new Dreamliner jets. The airline will own 25 of the planes and lease the rest. The value of the engine order tops $1.7 billion.

GE makes two versions of the engine: the GEnx-1B for the Dreamliner and the GEnx-2B for Boeing’s 747-8 aircraft. The GEnx is the fastest-selling engine family in GE Aviation history, with more than 1,300 engines ordered.

The GEnx is GE’s most advanced jet engine in service. Tom Brisken, the GE Aviation manager who led the engine development, said that when Boeing started building a new generation of advanced passenger planes more than a decade ago, it wanted engines to match them. “Boeing was pushing hard on weight, so we really pushed hard on engineering,” Brisken told GE Reports.

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A GEnx-1B jet engine at the 2013 Dubai Air Show. Photo Credit: Adam Senatori

His team used carbon fiber composites for the fan case and fan blades, redesigned the combustion system, and shed hundreds of pounds from the engine.

Today, 10 years after the launch of the GEnx program, the engine has beaten expectations and set new records.

In 2011, a GEnx-1B-powered Dreamliner flew halfway around the world on a tank of gas, and then finished the job on the next tank. The journey set a weight-class distance record for the 10,337-nautical-mile first leg, and a record for quickest around the world flight: 42 hours and 27 minutes.

Compared to GE’s older 747 workhorse, the CF6 engine, the GEnx engine can improve fuel consumption by as much as 15 percent and cut carbon dioxide emissions by the same amount.

The engines are also whisper quiet. A few years ago, concerned Californians called the San Bernardino Port Authority to complain that Boeing was flying a new 747-8 freighter over their homes with the engines off.

They could be forgiven. Pilots have been known to glance at their fuel gauges to make sure the engines are still running.

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