Business jet aircraft engines are flying this year at 110 percent of what were record 2019, pre-pandemic levels, according to Melvin Heard, GE Aviation's general manager for business aviation. “It’s been a great recovery for the business aviation side of the business as we come out of the Covid environment,” he said.
Heard noted that two relatively new GE engines—Passport and HF120, the latter jointly developed with Honda—were performing well as more business aircraft took to the skies more frequently. More than 140 of GE’s Passport engines have been installed on Bombardier’s Global 7500 long-range business jets and those are performing “beyond expectations” in terms of specific fuel consumption and reliability, he said.
In more than 36,000 hours of operation, not one Passport had been shut down in flight due to an operational issue or been the cause of a rejected takeoff, Heard added. Approximately 70 percent of those engines are enrolled in GE’s OnPoint service program. Production of the Passport moved from GE’s Strother, Kansas location to Lafayette, Indiana, last October. More than 100 production engines have been completed at Lafayette since the move.
Similarly, Heard said the 400 GE Honda Aero Engines HF120s installed on HondaJets are performing well. The company is also working with the FAA to extend that engine’s approved time between overhaul (TBO) from the current 2,750 hours to 3,500 hours by early next year.
Heard said both Passport and the HF120 could be scaled—the Passport downward to accommodate smaller aircraft and the HF120 upward to accommodate aircraft that require 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of engine thrust. He also said that future GE Aviation business aircraft engines would continue to reflect the company’s philosophy, which involves using ceramic and other composite materials, fewer parts, and more additive manufacturing to create shapes that reduce fuel consumption and maximize efficiency.
To that end, Heard said, GE is ground testing a Passport engine that is burning 100 percent sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) at its test center in Peebles, Ohio, and plans to fly it on pure SAF soon. (The engine has already flown using a jet-A/SAF blend.) Although SAF burns hotter than conventional jet-A, Heard said the company had no concerns about the impact the higher temperature would have on engine components, including seals, gaskets, and turbomachinery.
He also said GE continues to work on hybrid engine designs in concert with its airframe partners on its journey to become carbon-neutral. “GE is committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2030 and to having all the products it manufactures be carbon-neutral by 2050,” Heard said.