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The first Boeing 787 Dreamliner flying Japan Airlines colors takes off today from Seattle for Tokyo. Two advanced American-made GEnx-1B engines will lift the jet across the Pacific. The flight is a smooth landing at the end of a challenging development journey, one that delivered a string of records and the bestselling jet engine in GE history.
The GEnx engine is unique for many reasons. But the most striking is the lightweight composite material used to build the fan case and fan blades. The tough, carbon-fiber epoxy resin is corrosion resistant, lighter than titanium alloys, and shaves some 400 pounds off each engine. The benefits are obvious. Aircraft like the Dreamliner can be more fuel efficient, fly further, and spend less time in the maintenance hangar. A Dreamliner fitted out with two GEnx engines already set a round-the-world distance and speed records in its class last fall.
But the journey to the record books was not easy. It took teams of researcher and engineers from GE Aviation and GE Global Research two decades to develop the composite. The material was first used to manufacture fan blades for GEnx’s older cousin, the GE90. That engine is the largest and most powerful jet engine ever built.
Glug, glug: GEnx engine is powering through a water ingestion test.
Today, the GEnx is the bestselling engine in GE’s history. There are two types of the GEnx engine; the GEnx-1B for Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and the GEnx-2B for the redesigned Boeing 747-8 aircraft. They are both assembled by workers at GE’s plant in Durham, North Carolina, who build as many as four per week. This year GE will build 165 engines for customers. GE has 800 GEnx-1B engines on order for 400 Dreamliners, and 464 GEnx-2B engines for Boeing 747-8 aircraft.
Americans can take a ride on the new Dreamliner delivered today soon. Starting on April 22, the plane will operate on a new non-stop route between Boston and Tokyo. Japan Airlines will also add a second flight between Tokyo and San Diego.