BEST LOCAL COVERAGE
The 27-county Southwestern Ohio Aerospace Region is nationally-recognized for its manufacturing expertise. In 2014, the region was one of 12 recipients of a “manufacturing communities” designation that puts local organizations front-of-the-line for federal funding to support the aerospace parts and products manufacturing industry.
Even before GE Aviation business leaders arrived in Paris for this week’s International Air Show to meet with airline customers, the jet engine maker had already reached historically high production rates that have led to new jobs and investment in Southwest Ohio.
Currently the backlog of jet engine orders for GE and its joint ventures exceeds 15,000 engines, according to the company. Annual jet engine deliveries for commercial and military products have grown from 3,000 in 2010 to about 3,700 in 2014. This year, jet engine deliveries are expected again to reach the 3,700-engine range, according to GE.
Backlogs include existing engines on the market and those yet to enter service under the wing of an aircraft.
“This backlog of engine orders and related long-term service agreements represents more than $140 billion for GE Aviation,” Colleen Athans, vice president of supply chain for the manufacturer, said in a video posted on the company’s website.
“These figures have grown 25 percent over the last two years alone,” Athans said.
The sales growth is driven by higher passenger traffic in emerging countries, an improving global economy and low gas prices that have brought some aircraft out of storage, according to GE presentations prepared for the air show, which is held in France every other year.
Aircraft maker Boeing upped its projections in a new report released last week, and is now forecasting demand for 38,050 new airplanes over the next 20 years, an increase of 3.5 percent from last year’s forecast. Boeing, for which GE is a supplier, cited airline growth as well as increasing numbers of aging airplanes that will need replaced for the estimates.
“The commercial airplane market continues to be strong and resilient,” said Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in a written statement. “As we look forward, we expect the market to continue to grow and the demand for new aircraft to be robust.”
Ohio-based GE Aviation expects to log more engine orders this week, but some orders placed in Paris won’t be filled and delivered for years down the road.
For example, GE’s next jet engine product set to make its commercial debut next year, the LEAP, is already sold out for deliveries in 2016 and 2017, Jamie Jewell, a spokeswoman for GE joint venture CFM International, previously told this reporter. LEAP is a product of West Chester Twp.-based CFM, which is a 50-50 venture between GE and Snecma.
Previously in the testing phases, LEAP will enter production this year before it’s delivered to the first customer next year. In anticipation of production of LEAP and another major GE jet engine in development, GE has announced the opening of seven new manufacturing plants and research centers in the U.S. in seven years. Among them are the Electrical Power Integrated Systems Research and Development Center opened at University of Dayton; as well as a new assembly plant still to open in West Lafayette, Ind.; and a plant to produce additively manufactured parts in Auburn, Ala.
The jet engine manufacturer pledged to spend $300 million on its Ohio buildings and equipment from 2013 until the end of this year, according to GE. Those investments include a new test engine facility to handle higher production volumes in Peebles, the new University of Dayton center, a consolidated Additive Development Center opening in West Chester Twp. to study new materials, and a ceramic matrix composites laboratory at the Evendale headquarters campus in suburban Cincinnati.
“In order to support this unprecedented growth, we’re expanding our supply chain in major ways,” Athans said.
CFM’s LEAP will be the first commercial jet engine to contain an additively manufactured part in a critical area as well as materials made from ceramic matrix composites, CFM spokeswoman Jamie Jewell has said. The new technologies mean the engine will be lighter than traditional materials and able to withstand hotter temperatures, which will improve fuel efficiency.
The LEAP took its first test flight in May with an Airbus A320neo. According to the company, CFM is on track for joint U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and European Aviation Safety Agency certification to support the aircraft entry into service.
“With the development of the LEAP engine(s) for the A320neo and also 737MAX families, there’s almost a certainty that customers and leasing firms will be ordering more jets and likely go with CFM,” said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst for StrategicAero Research.com, which has offices in London and Dubai.
“CFM has a massive reputation and excellence for delivering robust and flawless engines and this facet stands them in good stead to further solidify their already huge backlog for LEAP engines,” Ahmad said via email.
Meanwhile, the GE9X, scheduled to make its debut in 2020, will spread additively produced, also known as 3-D manufactured, parts and ceramic matrix composite materials to more parts of the engine, company officials have previously said.
“Both CFM and GE will be keen to show off their industry-leading and ground-breaking composite technology suite,” Ahmad said.
“Coupled with its 3D additive printed components that will feature more prominently in future engines (like the GE9X), GE and CFM want to demonstrate that their years of investments are now delivering high benefits for airlines as parts have longer durability, high reliability and lower cost of incorporation into existing production.”
Altogether, GE Aviation and joint ventures employ more than 9,000 people in Southwest Ohio.