Last week, as part of its four-day summit in Washington, DC, focused on U.S. manufacturing, jobs and trade, GE announced it will invest $580 million in aviation manufacturing and research and development in the U.S. Three new aviation plants are under construction right now and slated to open in 2013, in Ellisville, Mississippi, Auburn, Alabama and Dayton Ohio, and GE Aviation will add more than 400 new manufacturing jobs.
That expansion has been driven in part by an unprecedented boom in orders and commitments for jet engines, especially the new emissions-reducing LEAP engine. In 2011, orders of the LEAP totaled more than 3,000 units at CFM International, the 50/50 joint company of France’s Snecma and GE Aviation. Together with orders for their popular CFM56 engines, orders and commitments at CFM totaled a record 4,556 in 2011, a figure three times their current yearly output. Orders and commitments came in from companies around the globe, including AirAsia, Garuda, Air China, SAS, Virgin America, American Airlines, Southwest Airlines and Lion Air.
The GE-built portion of the LEAP and the CFM56 engines are fully assembled in the US, with participation from facilities across the country, including Asheville, NC; Peebles, OH; Hooksett, NH; and Victorville, CA. The LEAP engines are on schedule to enter service in 2016, and as production comes online and expands, GE expects to hire hundreds more in the US.
LEAP engines bring the efficiency found in larger, wide-body long-haul engines to the single-aisle short-haul market where durability is paramount. With today’s flight schedules, a 150 – 200 passenger plane might see eight to ten takeoffs and landings in a single day, which puts roughly an order of magnitude more wear and tear on the engines than in the case of long-haul wide-body equipment that makes one or two takeoffs and landings per day.
The LEAP is a high-bypass turbofan engine with an innovative composite fan blade design that increases strength while reducing weight, along with advanced aerodynamic designs and state-of-the-art combustor technology. That combination is part of what gives the ecomagination-qualified LEAP as much as 15% higher fuel efficiency and a corresponding drop in emissions, while keeping maintenance costs down.