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Feature Story

Boeing's 5th 787 Dreamliner

BOEING PHOTO By Bernard Choi

Boeing just tested the General Electric GEnx engines on the 5th 787 Dreamliner

Starting up a new generation of engines

By Bernard Choi

An important milestone on the road to an airplane's first flight involves running the engines.

GEnx-1b engine

BOEING PHOTO BY Bernard Choi

The GEnx-1B engine designed for the 787-8 can churn out 64,000 pounds of thrust.

"It's usually one of the last tests that we run to make sure all of the airplane systems are working," said Ron Stephens who is on the propulsion team for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. "We verify that the propulsion system starts, motors, provides all of the cockpit displays and shuts down properly."

On May 10, Boeing conducted test runs on the first General Electric GEnx-1B engines for the 787.

"Everything is done step by step according to the test procedures," said Boeing flight line manager Melvin Prince. "We start slowly and then gradually pick up speed."

This test comes after years of research and development by Boeing and GE. Like the 787, the GEnx takes the use of composites to a new level. Both the fan blades and fan casing are made with the strong and durable but light weight material

The reduction in weight is a major reason why GE says the GEnx-1B will burn 15% less fuel. The power plant will also be significantly quieter and cleaner and easier to maintain than its predecessor. But the engine is not giving up anything in terms of performance. The engines for the 787-8 model will churn out 64,000 pounds of thrust.

cockpit display

BOEING PHOTO BY Bernard Choi

The test crew monitors the engine's performance and makes sure the cockpit is displaying the proper information.

Throughout the test, engineers onboard ZA005, the fifth 787 test airplane, monitored the performance data as the engine operated at different power settings. After running for more than an hour, Boeing and GE engineers said initial results showed the GEnx performed just as expected.

"There is a lot of good, hard work happening to keep this program moving forward," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 Program. "The team is following disciplined processes that have resulted in success with the first four airplanes."

The first four airplanes are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines. Dreamliner customers can choose between the Rolls-Royce and the GE offerings.

Following engine testing, ZA005 will undergo a series of ground tests similar to those conducted on the first 787s to ensure that it is ready for first flight later this quarter.