GE Aviation is opening two new advanced manufacturing plants this week, a composite factory in Ellisville, Miss., and a “super-alloy” plant in Auburn, Ala. GE has invested $130 million in the plants and plans to hire 550 workers by 2017.
David Joyce, president and CEO of GE Aviation, says plane manufacturers estimate that the world aircraft fleet will double in size over the next 20 years to 40,000 planes.
Much of the aircraft growth will come from single-aisle planes built by Boeing, Airbus, COMAC and other aircraft makers. This market needs next-generation jet engines like the LEAP, which GE Aviation makes in a joint-venture with France’s Snecma.
The new plants will make parts for the LEAP, the GEnx -- which powers Boeing's Dreamliner -- and other advanced engines. The Ellisville plant will manufacture “composite fan platforms” that lock in the engine fan blades, and other composite structures. The platforms are made from carbon fiber composites, an advanced durable material much lighter than conventional metals. The material shaves pounds off the engine and helps customers save expensive jet fuel.
The new Auburn plant will manufacture super-alloy blades for high-pressure turbines. The blades squeeze air to titanic pressures prior to ignition. They must be crafted to perfect aerodynamic shapes and sport tiny, laser-drilled cooling holes that “bleed in” air so they can withstand the temperatures in which they operate.