Twenty years ago, on September 18th, 2002, General Electric’s GE90-115B (the higher-thrust variant of the GE90 engine) completed its first test flight in Mojave, CA. The engine was to be an option on Boeing’s 777 series, including the -200, -200ER and -300. It was also the only engine option for the Boeing 777-200LR, -300ER and -F variants.
During the historic flight, which lasted around 3 hours, the GE90-115B, designed specifically for the -200LR and -300ER variants for its long-range, completed several engine performance assessments. Following the successful completion of this first test, General Electric then scheduled many other test flights before finally certifying the engine and installing them on aircraft. It has since gone on to set a number of aviation records.
The GE90-115B is one of the most powerful engines ever made. It, therefore, also has had many incredible achievements, including the highest recorded thrust, ETOPS with just one engine, and flying from Hong Kong to London via the Pacific and the Atlantic.
Highest recorded thrust
The Guinness Book of Records has noted that the GE90-115B has had the highest ever thrust at 127,900 lbf, or 569 kN. This record was achieved during an engine stress test at the General Electric Aviation’s Peebles Test Operation near Peebles, OH. Nevertheless, the GE90-115B, is certified with a maximum thrust of 115,300 lbf, or 513 kN. Meanwhile, this record was broken in November 2017, when the GE90’s successor, the GE9X, broke it with an even higher thrust of 134,300 lbf, or 597 kN.
ETOPS with just one engine
In order to test the limits of the GE90-115B engine, General Electric and Boeing collaborated and ran numerous tests to extend its ETOPS certification. ETOPS (Extended-range Twin-engine Operation Performance Standards) is the ICAO’s standard for how far the aircraft or engine can fly from a diversion airport.
During its test flight in October 2003, a Boeing 777-300ER was tested on the Seattle to Taipei route by being able to fly 330 minutes (5.5 hours) from a diversion airport with just one engine. This demonstrates the capacity of the aircraft, as this flight symbolizes the GE90’s ability to be more than 5 hours away from a suitable diversion airport, thereby allowing the aircraft to fly on almost every conceivable route.
The Boeing 777-200LR and its GE engines traveled between LHR and Hong Kong the wrong way around. Photo: Grippenn via Wikimedia Commons
Flying from Hong Kong to London via the Pacific and the Atlantic
Flying from Hong Kong (HKG) to London (LHR) may not seem like an impressive world record. However, the GE90-115B was used on a test flight between the two financial hubs via the world’s two largest oceans. On November 10th, 2005, a Boeing 777-200LR flew for 22 hours and 22 minutes across the Pacific, and then the Atlantic, before arriving into London-Heathrow (LHR). This was the longest-ever flight on a commercial airliner, and represented an extraordinary achievement in civil aviation. However, the aircraft was not fully loaded with passengers or cargo, which decreased the aircraft’s fuel burn.