GE Aviation breaks ground on new CMC engine component facility

The new manufacturing plant in Asheville, N.C. will mass produce jet engine components of ceramic matrix composite (CMC) materials, for the hot section.

GE Aviation (Cincinnati, Ohio), a global leader in jet engine and aircraft system production,  hosted on November 14 a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of its new advanced composites factory near Asheville, in Western North Carolina.

GE Aviation's Sanjay Correa, vice president, Ceramic Matrix Composite (CMC) Program and Mike Kauffman, senior executive, Composites Manufacturing were joined by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and officials from the Asheville Area Chamber, Buncombe County, City of Asheville and NC Department of Commerce to commemorate the groundbreaking.

The new 170,000-square-foot facility will be the first in the world to mass produce engine components made of advanced ceramic matrix composite (CMC) materials. GE will begin hiring at the new CMC components plant in 2014. Within five years, the workforce at the plant is expected to grow to more than 340 people. The existing workforce at GE Aviation's current machining operation in Asheville will gradually transition to the CMC components plant.

The introduction of CMC components into the hot section of GE jet engines represents a significant technology breakthrough for GE and the jet propulsion industry. CMCs are made of silicon carbide ceramic fibers and ceramic resin, manufactured through a highly sophisticated process and further enhanced with proprietary coatings. As part of its continued leadership and commitment to advanced manufacturing, GE plans to introduce more CMC components into future engine development programs.

The specific CMC component to be built in the new Asheville facility is a high-pressure turbine shroud. More importantly, this CMC component will be on the best-selling LEAP jet engine, being developed by CFM International, a joint company of GE and Snecma (SAFRAN) of France and will mark the first time CMCs are used for a commercial application. The LEAP engine, which will enter airline service in 2016, will power the new Airbus A320neo, Boeing 737 MAX and COMAC (China) C919 aircraft.

Remarkably, CFM to date has logged total orders and commitments for more than 5,200 LEAP engines. There will be 18 CMC turbine shrouds in every LEAP engine produced, thus setting the stage for high, long-term production volume at the Asheville plant.

"We are excited for GE Aviation and its new CMC facility in Asheville," said Governor McCrory. "The aviation sector is an important industry for our state, and GE excels in it. We're proud that these advanced engine components will be manufactured right here in North Carolina."

"Thanks to our state's first-class workforce, it's no surprise that a global company like GE Aviation continues to expand and modernize their facilities in North Carolina," said US Senator Kay Hagan. "Creating jobs is my number one priority in the Senate, and I am working every day to find commonsense, bipartisan solutions that will allow companies like GE to continue putting North Carolinians back to work."

US Congressmen Patrick McHenry and Mark Meadows also applauded GE's growth in North Carolina. "Today's groundbreaking is a great day for Asheville and Western North Carolina. GE Aviation's commitment to manufacture CMC components in Asheville is a tremendous boon for our area. I look forward to visiting the plant when it is completed next year," said McHenry.

"GE Aviation's new Asheville facility will bring jobs to our region while manufacturing revolutionary products that serve people worldwide," Meadows said. "A staple of our nation's economy for more than a century, GE's growing investment in Western North Carolina demonstrates the company's commitment to American innovation and opportunity."