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GE Aviation Huntsville facility making great progress

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February 22, 2017

Team is currently at 24 but will grow up to 300 employees
“We had people that wanted to sign up to work at the high-volume facility before we even knew where it was going to be located. That speaks volumes of the excitement building here.” - CMC senior production manager Brian Dix

EVENDALE, OH | February 22, 2017

GE Aviation is on the final phase to create its most vertically integrated, new material system ever introduced in the U.S.
The company is investing more than $200 million to construct two factories on 100 acres in Huntsville, Ala. One plant will mass produce silicon carbide (SiC) ceramic fiber, the first high volume production operation in the U.S. Supported by $21.9 million funding from the U.S. Air Force Research Lab Title III Office, this plant will increase U.S. capability to produce SiC ceramic fiber capable of withstanding temperatures of 2400F.
The adjacent GE factory on the same campus will use the SiC ceramic fiber to make unidirectional ceramic matrix composite (CMC) prepreg necessary to fabricate the CMC components.
“We continue to make great progress,” Huntsville site leader Jon Lyford said. “The engineering and construction teams are on track to start placing process equipment by October. The CMC prepreg facility commissioning will be complete in the summer of 2018. The CMC fiber facility commissioning remains targeted for the spring of 2019.”
Once fully operational, Huntsville will produce up to 20 metric tons (20,000 KG) of CMC material a year. One CFM LEAP engine uses approximately 1 KG of CMC material.
The GE Aviation Huntsville team is 24 employees but is growing. Once fully operational, the Huntsville facilities will employ up to 300 people.
“There is a lot of excitement surrounding the Huntsville facility,” said CMC senior production manager Brian Dix. “We had people that wanted to sign up to work at the high-volume facility before we even knew where it was going to be located. That speaks volumes of the excitement building here.”
The only other large-scale SiC ceramic fiber factory is operated by NGS Advanced Fibers Co. in Toyama, Japan. Formed in 2012, NGS is a joint company of Nippon Carbon, GE and Safran of France. The US SiC fiber plant will license fiber-producing technology from NGS Advanced Fibers Co.
NGS is in the final qualification phase of their expanded factory to increase capacity to meet growing worldwide demand. The SiC fiber plant in Huntsville will complement the growing capacity at NGS.
Advanced Silicon Carbide Fiber, a GE Aviation JV, will sell fiber manufactured in Huntsville to the Department of Defense, GE businesses, Safran and other external customers.  The NGS partners will have the opportunity to become equity partners in the Huntsville plant.
CMCs in the engine can translate into millions of dollars of annual savings for airline fleets.
A 1 percent reduction in fuel consumption can save more than $1 million a year for commercial air carriers. This next generation CMC material technology being produced by GE Aviation will improve fuel efficiency at 1 to 2 percent.
For more than 20 years, scientists at GE’s Global Research Centers and GE’s industrial businesses have worked to develop CMCs for commercial applications.
The LEAP engine, developed by CFM International, the 50/50 joint company of GE and Safran Aircraft Engines of France, is the first commercial jet engine to use CMCs in the high-pressure turbine section. With more than 12,200 orders and commitments, it is already the best-selling engine in GE history. Valued at $170 billion at list price, LEAP took flight commercially in the Airbus A320neo last August and is scheduled to enter service later this year, powering the Boeing 737 MAX.
Presales for the GE9X are listed at 700 engines and counting. GE9X will power Boeing’s 777MAX beginning in 2019 and contain five CMC parts.
GE is also incorporating CMC components in advanced military engines including the GE3000 for the U.S. Army’s ITEP program, as well as GE’s advanced turboshaft demonstrator FATE (Future Affordable Turbine Engine). CMCs are currently being evaluated for upgrades to existing engines like the highly popular T700 helicopter and GEnx engines.
The amount of CMC raw material used for GE Aviation will be approximately 20 times greater this year than it was in 2007. By 2020, GE Aviation is projected to have more than 750 U.S. employees dedicated to its CMC industry.
GE Aviation, an operating unit of GE (NYSE: GE), is a world-leading provider of jet and turboprop engines, components and integrated systems for commercial, military, business and general aviation aircraft. GE Aviation has a global service network to support these offerings. For more information, visit us at www.ge.com/aviation. Follow GE Aviation on Twitter at http://twitter.com/GEAviation and YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/user/GEAviation.

Nick Hurm