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Boeing is pinning its future on the super-efficient, long-range 7E7 Dreamliner.
Boeing began pursuing the composite-bodied 7E7 in late 2002, after it cancelled plans to build the super-fast “”Sonic Cruiser”” which would have travelled near the speed of sound.
Two engine types have been selected for the 7E7, the General Electric GENX and Rolls-Royce Trent 1000. Boeing’s decision follows months of collaboration with the leading manufacturers of large commercial airplane engines.
“”The General Electric and Rolls-Royce engines will enable the 7E7 to fly higher, faster, farther, cleaner, quieter and more efficiently than comparable airplanes,”” said 7E7 Senior Vice President Mike Bair. “”Having an engine choice is a key consideration for our customers. We’re now offering two excellent options for the 7E7.””
Both engine types will be capable of providing between 55,000 and 70,000 lbs. of thrust, which will allow the three planned 7E7 models to use the same basic engines. The 7E7 standard and stretch versions will carry 200 to 250 passengers respectively in three classes (first, business and economy) on routes between 7800 and 8300 nautical miles (14,500km to 15,400km).
According to Boeing, the 7E7 will reduce fuel use — and associated emissions — by 20 percent over today’s comparably sized airplanes. The engines are key contributors to the airplane’s dramatic efficiency improvements. The engines will also help the 7E7 be quieter than today’s airplanes and meet new industry requirements.
“”All three engine manufacturers presented exceptional proposals,”” Bair said. “”We reached this major milestone well ahead of our original schedule due to the close collaboration on requirements, capabilities and technologies. While it was a challenging decision, the speed with which we made it is representative of the customer interest and the overall momentum on the 7E7 program.””
For the first time in commercial jet history, both engine types will use the same standard interface with the airplane, allowing any 7E7 twinjet to be fitted with either engine at any point in time. Engine interchangeability makes the 7E7 a flexible asset that can easily be moved among carriers, an attractive feature for financiers, leasing companies and airlines. Other 7E7 innovations include the elimination of traditional bleed air systems in favour of an efficient, more-electric architecture.
General Electric’s new engine, called the GENX (GE Next Generation), is derived from the ultra-high-thrust GE90 engine, which has a proven track record on twin-engine aircraft. The GENX technologies include composite fan blades, one of the highest pressure-ratio compressor in aviation, and a unique single-annular combustor (where compressed air and fuel are mixed) to achieve dramatically lower emissions. The GENX will have its first full-engine test in 2006. The engine is being designed and tested at GE Transportation’s world headquarters in Evendale, Ohio. Final assembly will occur in Durham, N.C.
“”Our engine for the 7E7 represents the culmination of new technologies for which GE has made considerable investments over many years,”” said David Calhoun, president and CEO of GE Transportation. “”Needless to say, this is one of the biggest days in the history of our jet engine business.””
Rolls-Royce will produce a new variant of its successful, high-thrust Trent engine series to power the 7E7, the Trent 1000. Designed to deliver optimum performance with minimum development risk, it will be the fifth member of the Trent family to enter service, once again featuring the three-shaft design layout unique to Rolls-Royce. The engine will be the most efficient and environmentally advanced Trent ever built.
Mike Terrett, president of Civil Aerospace for Rolls-Royce, said, “”This is a special day in the long and rewarding relationship between our companies. Now, once again, our focus is on bringing a new generation of Trent successfully to market.””
Much of the aircraft – including fuselage and wings – will be made of composite materials. The plane’s main structure will be graphite combined with a toughened epoxy resin. The wings will also include a titanium and graphite composite.
Production of the 7E7 is due to start in 2006, with the first plane flying in 2007 and the first airlines taking delivery in 2008.
Boeing is hoping that owners of its 777 aircraft – which could soon include Air New Zealand – will be natural customers for the next generation of planes to roll off its Everett production line.
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