October 09, 2013
As aerospace suppliers around the world ramp up for the coming commercial airliner delivery boom, General Electric (GE), the industry’s biggest engine supplier, is midway through a key facility expansion to handle the surge.
The $70 million expansion of its 7,000-acre Peebles Test Operation in Ohio will enable the facility to cope with accelerating narrowbody and widebody engine delivery rates from next year onwards. “We’re readying ourselves for this big wave of new work that’s coming,” says Peebles site leader Brian De Bruin. “We can’t afford to have any supply chain issues—whether that’s nuts and washers or assembly and test.”
The Peebles site, in southeast Ohio about 60 mi. from Cincinnati, is primarily responsible for test and development of new and upgraded engines, but around 35% of its work is dedicated to assembly and test of production engines. The bulk of these are CFM56-7B engines for Boeing, with the balance predominantly GE90-115B and GEnx-1B/2Bs for Boeing’s 787 and 747-8 lines, respectively.
The site also supplies CF6-80C2s as well as CF34s, which are shipped to Bombardier for its CRJ regional jet production line. Engines from GE’s Evendale, Ohio and Durham, N.C. facilities are mated with fan stages from other GE sites, inspected, tested, prepared and shipped to aircraft production lines.
However with the advent of the CFM56 successor engine, the Leap-1, the Peebles site must be ready to transition to deliveries of the new engine at an unprecedented rate from 2016 onward. Although some Leap-1B engines for Boeing’s reengined 737 will be supplied from GE’s CFM partner Snecma, the Peebles-based ramp-up is expected to rise from around 30 engines in 2016 to some 200 in 2017, 640 in 2018 and more than 1,000 in 2019, with slightly higher rates for the years beyond that.
Overall deliveries of all engine models will rise to more than 1,600 in 2014 compared with over 1,200 in 2012 and 1,400 this year. Excluding spares, some 680 CFM56-7Bs were delivered for new-production Boeing 737s in 2012. This is scheduled to grow to 685 in 2013, 725 in 2014 and 740 in 2015.
This year also will see more than 500 widebody engines shipped, more than double the number in 2010. The Peebles site is therefore a focus for GE’s supply system to Boeing, and the upgrades to the infrastructure and test facilities will ensure it does not become a potential choke point explains De Bruin.
Concrete for the first wall of a key new engine test site to support the GEnx and GE90 production testing was poured on Oct 6. The site currently operates 10 test cells, three of which are undercover for production testing and seven for mainly development work. The new facility, Site 5D, opens the end of 2014 and “will free up another outside site for development tests,” says De Bruin. This also is expected to rise to new levels with work on three versions of the Leap, the first -1A version of which for the Airbus A320neo started for the first time on Sept. 4.
By 2014 the Leap program will include the -1B for Boeing’s 737 MAX and the -1C for Comac’s C919. Future work for the site will also include development of the GE9X for the forthcoming Boeing 777-8X and -9X.