GE Joins Boeing to Stop Ice in 747 Engines With Software

General Electric Co. and Boeing Co. are working on software to help prevent ice buildup in engines on the newest 747 jumbo jet after four planes lost thrust at cruising altitude in a three-month span this year.

The update to the GEnx engines’ control systems would help detect ice and remove it before any damage occurs, said Rick Kennedy, a GE spokesman. Fairfield, Connecticut-based GE and Boeing want to receive Federal Aviation Administration approval for the solution early next year, Kennedy said.

Engine ice adds to the struggles of Boeing’s 747-8, which entered service in 2011 more than two years late and found few new sales as airlines move away from four-engine aircraft. The latest update of the iconic, humpbacked plane -- Boeing’s most-expensive at list prices of as much as $357.5 million -- has won only 107 orders in its passenger and cargo versions.

Of the four ice incidents, only one resulted in engine damage, Kennedy said in an e-mail. An AirBridgeCargo Airlines 747-8 lost thrust in one engine and had power surges in two others while flying at 41,000 feet (12,500 meters) over China on July 31, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday.

A Boeing spokeswoman, Carrie Ann Berry, said the Chicago-based company is teaming up with GE to develop a software fix and said additional comment had to come from GE. Laura Brown, an FAA spokeswoman, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Planes flying at high altitudes in tropical zones are susceptible to ice formation when passing through weather formations in which rising moist air and descending cold air mix, Kennedy said.

Work on the computer programs that control the engines on Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, identical in many ways to the 747’s, is already under way, he said.

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