How Does General Electric Test Its Engines?


With a history that dates back over a century and a product range that spans across all sectors of transport, GE Aviation has plenty of expertise in its field. As a result, it has well-rounded and complex testing processes to ensure that its engines are up to scratch before entering service.

Numerous factors go into the quality and reliability of an engine. From speed to temperature, and everything in between, manufacturers have to be all the ball at every single point.

Thus, GE has a series of steps that must be performed during the testing process.

Icing and ice cloud

GE conducts open-loop icing and ice cloud testing, backed by a host of experienced employees at three North American sites. These locations are usually deployed for engineering and certification icing tests.

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Rotor spin

Spin testing includes cyclic, ingestion, endurance, and blade-out/blade-off testing. If also and also offers “explosives development, high-speed video, and static impact.” GE has the largest vacuum chamber for spin testing across the globe.

Vibration and structural

Large-scale structural testing involves torque test to failure up to 650,000 lb-ft and tensile/compressive loads up to around 500,000 lbf. It also includes bearing and load calibrations, and automated cyclic testing.

GE states the following about these tests:

“For vibration, closed-loop HCF testing is available with shakers up to 24,000 lbf (sinusoidal and random, with shock capabilities), as well as 1D and 3D Laser Doppler Velocimetry with derotator, modal capabilities (on-site or remote), and travelling wave. Large, hooded 5’x5’ shake tables allow for environmental testing from -95 Deg F to 525 Deg F and 10% to 98% humidity control, with full operation of fuel, hydraulic, mechanical, electrical, and digital systems while under vibration test.”

Combustion

GE oversees fuel nozzle characterization and combustor testing up to 1000 pounds per square inch absolute (psia). It notes that methods and tools have been refined with experience to offer efficiency

Turbine

Low pressure, high pressure, dual spool, single-stage, and multi-stage data is looked at for optimum performance. GE conducts a variety of tests involving temperature ratio, pressure ratio, density ratio, and Reynolds numbers (Re), which help predict flow patterns in various fluid flow situations.

Thermal management

GE highlights that optimizing heat transfer out of the engine is crucial to peak performance and reliability. It shares the following about its Vehicle Energy System Integration Lab (VESIL):

“(VESIL) enables heat transfer testing in a fully integrated environment. The facility includes test enabling systems such as fuel and oil temperature control systems, air supply, heat sources, heat exchangers, air cycle machines and vapor cycle systems. Aero and Combustion Testing. In this real-world test environment, engine and component makers can measure the effect of different components and interactions between sub-systems, optimizing engine performance and thermal management systems.”

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Inflight action

GE’s flying testbed is a Boeing 747-400, which has carried test engines ranging in thrust from 20K to 115K. Quadjets are excellent testbeds as they provide greater contingency if there is a failure. With being the first to deploy new engines, the Queen of the Skies is a natural suitor.


Registration N747GF is the unit that GE holds. The 28-year-old entered service with Japan Airlines in March 1993 and joined GE in 2010. Famous test projects include the GE9X, which is I’ll arrive to airlines following the introduction if the highly-anticipated Boeing 777X. GE’s 747-400 aircraft has been on testing missions in Victorville and San Antonio as of late.

Altogether, there is a wide range of variables to be considered when testing. From controls and fuel systems to aero and combustion, the company uses modern technology and its expertise to bring engines safely to the market.

What are your thoughts about how General Electric tests its aircraft engines? What do you make of the overall processes? Let us know what you think of the company and its operations in the comment section.



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