Recently in Zurich, the testing of a pair of GE90 engines on a SWISS Boeing 777 took a dramatic turn when the thrust of the powerplants caused damage to parts of a noise protection hangar. The visually spectacular incident left acoustic protection material strewn all over the surrounding area, giving the impression that a tornado had touched down in the middle of the hangar. Using this example, let’s look at just how powerful the Boeing 777’s GE90 engines are.
The GE90 is one of three engine types for the Boeing 777. Often dependent on the aircraft variant, other options include offerings from Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce. Photo: GE Aviation
According to GE Aviation, the -115B variant of the GE90 set a world record for thrust during its certification testing in 2002. During the 60 hours at “triple red-line conditions,” a maximum of 127,900 lbf was achieved. This testing of operational limits saw the engine run at maximum fan speed, core speed, and exhaust gas temperature.
Precise numbers are all well and good, but they might not mean much to most people who never come into contact with these types of units and measurements. Put into perspective, a contributor on the website Quora notes that the force of a GE90 would be able to “blow the heaviest tank in the world like the wind blows a leaf. Maybe throw it 50 meters away.” That would be quite a sight to see!
Of course, the most obvious and visible ‘application’ of the engines’ thrust is the fact that just two of these powerplants can take a behemoth machine like the Boeing 777-300 into the sky and up some 30,000+ feet. More impressive is the fact that just one running (as per ETOPS certification) would be able to keep the aircraft airborne for quite some time. It’s something most of us see regularly (at least in planespotting videos) but maybe don’t reflect on too often.
GE90 engines- and essentially every commercial aircraft engine, is a marvel of engineering. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple FlyingStay informed:Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
Destroying a hangar
It was on December 4th, 2021, that the Twitter account “Breaking Aviation News and Videos” posted a video showing a Boeing 777 test going wrong (at least with the structure around it).
A SWISS 777-300ER parked at Zurich Airport was undergoing some engine tests at an unspecified date and time. Portuguese media outlet Aeroin reports that engaging the aircraft’s powerful GE90 engines had an unfortunate effect on the bespoke noise protection hangar that it was situated in.
The video and photos embedded below show that one of the hangar’s deflection panels was destroyed while acoustic protection material was blown up and away, strewn about the tarmac around the hangar. Indeed, the video captured of the incident shows the pieces of material floating and falling, as if a small storm had somehow parked itself over the hangar.
— Breaking Aviation News & Videos (@aviationbrk) December 4, 2021
Made by WTM Engineers for Zurich Airport, the noise protection hangar is meant to contain engine noise during aircraft engine testing (as is somewhat obvious in the name). In containing noise, residents and the surrounding community are shielded from the incredible roar of massive powerplants like the GE90 during testing.
Aeroin notes that the hangar was designed to accommodate aircraft as large as a Boeing 747-8 and can suppress noise emissions as high as 156 dB (measured near the engine) down to less than 60 dB in areas outside the hangar.
What’s next (for aircraft engines)
The GE90 and its carbon fiber fan blades made their debut in 1995 on a British Airways 777. While engines from other manufacturers power some variants of the 777, the GE90 is the exclusive powerplant on the -300ER, -200LR, and Freighter.
“It took GE another 15 years to break the record, which they did at 134,300 lbs. of thrust with the new GE9X engine,” GE Aviation’s website notes. The GE9X is the exclusive powerplant of the Boeing 777X, an aircraft that will hopefully see its entry into commercial service sometime in late 2023 or early 2024.
Did you miss our previous article…