GE Set to Redo World’s Largest Jet Engine for Boeing 777 Upgrade

General Electric Co. will begin trials next year on an upgraded version of its GE90 engine, the world’s largest, as it competes to power Boeing Co.’s next-generation 777 wide-body airliner.

Tests on the compressor section of the GE9X engine will begin in 2013’s first quarter, GE executives said today at the Farnborough air show outside London. Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE plans to test the engine’s core in 2015 and the entire engine in 2016, they said.

Boeing’s 777 is the biggest twin-engine jetliner, seating as many as 368 people, and the planemaker is studying upgrades to extend its dominance in that market segment. GE, United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney unit and Rolls-Royce Plc face deadlines from Boeing to submit engine proposals.

“This is a very, very critical decision for them and it’s a critical decision for us,” David Joyce, the GE Aviation chief, told reporters at the show. “We feel really confident that the calling card for GE in this next-generation of 777s will be the technology we’re developing.”

The new engine will be made with ceramic matrix composites, the same advanced materials GE is developing to reduce weight and improve efficiency for the Leap power plants being created for Boeing’s 737 MAX narrow-body plane.

It will provide 100,000 pounds of thrust, Joyce said. That compares with 115,000 pounds of thrust for the current GE90 power plant. The new 777 will use composite materials Boeing developed for its 787 Dreamliner, making it lighter and reducing thrust requirements.

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