Latest acquisitions boost GE’s presence in GA sector

NBAA Convention News » 2008
September 30, 2008, 7:34 AM

Brad Mottier, general manager of GE Aviation’s newly formed business and general aviation division (B&GA), outlined the genesis, philosophy and goals of the unit, saying its mission is to integrate recent acquisitions Smiths Aerospace and Walter Engines into the bizav mix of GE’s product lines.

“From now on we will be proposing integrated powerplant systems, not just engines,” Mottier said. “A year ago GE was just an engine company. We didn’t have access to the domain expertise on how to put together all the discrete components.
We have that now.” Mottier explained that there is more opportunity today within business and general aviation to introduce new concepts than GE can bring to the air transport market. “We have more shots on goal in the GA marketplace,” he said, borrowing a hockey metaphor. “GE invests a billion dollars a year in research and development. If we can realize a quicker return on that investment in general aviation, everyone benefits–both the company and our customers.”

GE’s technologies for the business and general aviation sector have grown considerably, said Mottier. “Our goal is to create integrated product offerings that are meaningful to B&GA customers. GE now has the opportunity to be a wider provider of power on business and general aviation aircraft, from propulsion to electric power to thermal management.” GE Aviation has teamed with General Electric’s Global Research Center in New York to explore integrated propulsion and aircraft systems for the B&GA division. GE and Honda are also studying how to develop a broader propulsion package for their future joint products, including the HondaJet.

GE already had some business in this sector with the CF34 engines for the Challenger 600 and 800 series, and the legacy CJ610 and CF700 engines for Learjets and Falcons. More recently it has added the CF34 on the Embraer Lineage 1000, the CFM56 on the Boeing BBJ and Airbus A319CJ; and the Walter M601F for the turboprop market.

GE Aviation, at Booth No. 5159, supplies engines, aircraft systems and services to the air transport and business aviation segments. Systems applications include avionics, electrical power, bleed air and anti-ice systems, actuation systems and structures on aircraft including the Gulfstream G650/G550/500 series, Cessna Citation X and CJ3, the Embraer Phenom 100 and 300, Legacy 600 and Lineage; and Bombardier’s Global Express, Challenger 605 and Learjet 45.

GA Growth Planned

The emergence of GE Aviation’s new bizav division follows four years of technology investments, strategic agreements and acquisitions. B&GA, with approximately $500 million in annual revenue, is targeting revenue growth up to $2 billion within 10 years. Last year GE acquired Smiths Aerospace of the UK, a supplier of integrated avionics systems and engine components. That acquisition allows GE Aviation to provide its business and general aviation division with avionics, electrical power, actuation and environmental control systems. This July GE acquired assets of Walter Engines in the Czech Republic to establish GE Aviation Czech. That entity produces Walter aircraft engines and has announced plans to field a future Walter turboprop derivative, the M601H-80, for utility, agriculture and retrofit applications.  

Another of GE’s recent strategic moves also involves the business and general aviation sector, stemming from the 2004 formation of GE Honda Aero Engines, a joint venture between GE and Honda Motor Co. The company was created to develop a new turbofan for light business jets. In 2006 GE Honda Aero Engines launched its HF120 turbofan to power the HondaJet and the Spectrum Aeronautical Freedom.

GE Aviation made the company’s entry into the small turboprop sector through the Walter Engines acquisition. “We’ve identified and acted upon opportunities to improve the Walter engine, which previous to the acquisition was the 601F,” Mottier said. “We’ve been able to substitute some GE materials for the original Russian ones and upgrade the internal aerodynamics toward certifying a new model of the Walter called the 601H-80. It has 7 percent less fuel burn, and much higher temperature limits so that we can flat-rate it to a higher power at higher altitude. Maximum shaft horsepower is up from 770 to 800, and we are already planning some derivatives to go to an H-90 of 900 shaft horsepower.” M601H-80 component testing is under way, with certification targeted for next year.

Mottier said GE has no plans to derive a Walter helicopter turboshaft engine from the existing core. “It’s a turboprop, not a turboshaft, and it’s going to stay that way.”

Product Support Changes

Also, GE is creating a better support network for operators of the more than 1,500 Walter M601 engines in service through its Business Jet Operations Center, a 24/7 facility with product support technicians available to ensure rapid response to parts availability, troubleshooting and field issues. A year ago, GE Aviation established the Business Jet Operations Center at its headquarters in Evendale, Ohio, to provide rapid contact and support to operators of business jets powered by thousands of CF34, CF700, and CJ610 engines, as well as CFM International CFM56 turbofans.

“Right now, we are identifying and contacting M601 operators,” said Mottier. “By year’s end, we plan to provide these operators with the same single point of contact at our Bizjet Ops Center, which has clearly enhanced our relationships with business jet customers.” M610 engines are overhauled at GE’s recently established Walter Aircraft Engines facility in Prague. GE is exploring partnerships with mobile repair parties for M610 support in the Western Hemisphere, as well as 610 engine lease pools.  

This year GE launched an engine core program, “eCore,” a cornerstone engine technology development program to be applied to a new generation of jet engines for narrowbody, regional and business jets. Mottier said the goal is engine core commonality across each of those markets. “It’s a change in focus for GE Aviation, arriving at a common hot section to serve all three of [the business] segments. It’s the same process GE followed years before for the air transport market, but we’ve never before branded a common hot section across a line of engines.” With eCore technologies, GE is engaged in preliminary design of a new jet engine in the 11,000- to 16,000-pound-thrust range for future large business jets. 

GE launched eCore to achieve up to 16 percent better fuel efficiency over GE’s best engines operating today. The eCore effort features advanced materials such as ceramic matrix composites, cooling technologies, a next-generation combustor and new 3-D aerodynamic design airfoils. The first eCore will run next year for GE’s joint technology efforts with Snecma on the next-generation CFM International engine for narrowbody aircraft.

Mottier likened the components of the B&GA division to pieces of a puzzle. “One of the interesting aspects of this new division is that we’re developing some real domain expertise in this market place. For instance, taking the integrated systems from our Smiths acquisition and combining them with GE aviation engines to get an integrated powerplant system including thrust reversers, electric power generation, pressurization and bleed air anti-ice. In other words, a thrust system and all the other accessory systems. The idea is to integrate all the discrete components inside the nacelle. If you step back and look at the nacelle as an overall system at the higher level and integrate those previously discrete components into an overall package you’ll see some pretty innovative solutions.”    

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