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Is the Aviation Industry on the Edge of Collapse?

Ayşe Akalın


Issue 14 - 2022

Ayşe Akalın, Editor in Chief of Aviation Turkey magazine interviewed with Sami Ozdemir, Regional General Manager of GE Aerospace, about GE Aerospace’s capabilities and global presence in the aviation industry and also how GE Aerospace is addressing the future of flight in commercial aviation.

Ayşe Akalın: GE Aerospace is a world-leading provider of jet and turboprop engines, as well as integrated systems for commercial, military, business and general aviation aircraft. Could you please briefly introduce GE Aerospace to our readers? Where do you think GE Aerospace is today in regards of capabilities and global presence?

Sami Özdemir: GE Aerospace is more than 100 years old. In 1919, the business developed the turbosupercharger which allowed piston-powered airplanes to soar at record heights. By 1943, more than 100,000 GE turbosuperchargers were flying on aircraft.

We pride ourselves as an industry leader. GE Aerospace developed and flew our first jet engine, the I-A, in 1942. Some of our other milestones include: the first engine to fly Mach 2 (J79); the first engine with composite fan blades in airline service (GE90); the most powerful commercial engine (GE9X); and the first additive jet engine parts approved by U.S. FAA (T25 sensor for GE90).

We have around 40,000 employees worldwide, including our technology center in Turkey, and around 150 global sites focused on production assembly, repair and overhaul, research, and engineering.

We see an industry that matters to the world. Through our history in aviation, purpose-driven people and dedication  to help develop new technologies to enable net zero, we are positioned to continue to lead this industry.

Ayşe Akalın: How would you best describe GE Aerospace in the fields of Commercial Aerospace and jet and turboprop engine segments? Could you please provide some key facts (such as market share in jet and turboprop engines for commercial, business and general aviation aircraft, number of engines delivered so far and jet and turboprop engine backlog) about the company for our readers? 

Sami Özdemir: GE Aerospace is a global leader in aircraft engines, systems and avionics.

We have more than 39,000 commercial aircraft engines installed globally. This number includes engines from CFM, our 50/50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines and Engine Alliance, our 50/50 joint company between GE and Pratt & Whitney. Every two seconds, an aircraft with GE and our joint venture technology is taking off somewhere in the world. Around 400,000 people are in the air right now depending on these engines. Our newest aircraft engines are designed to offer better fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions.

For example, The CFM LEAP engine is 15% more fuel efficient than CFM56 engines introduced in the 1990s. GEnx engines offer up to 15% better fuel efficiency compared to GE’s CF6 engine. GE9X engines are designed to offer up to 10% better fuel efficiency compared to GE90 engines.

We have a global, open services network that continues to grow to meet the demand of our customers. Of the more than 39,000 commercial aircraft engines installed globally, over 60 percent haven't seen their second shop visit.

Our systems business for civil and military aircraft includes more than 5,000 employees producing a suite of products from electrical power, avionics, aircraft and engine components, and propellers.

 Ayşe Akalın: Can we please get an analysis of first half of 2022 from GE Aerospace’s point of view? Could you provide a capsule summary of your major activities carried out during this period and could you elaborate on your targets for 2023?

Sami Özdemir: The industry is experiencing an unprecedented ramp as the pandemic eases coupled with labor and material shortages. In the second quarter alone, GE Aerospace orders grew 26% with both commercial engines and services up substantially, reflecting continued robust customer demand. Revenue was up, driven by significant growth in commercial services. We’re optimistic about the future. We think the COVID recovery will be fully realized in 2024; we’re focused on our customers and driving a better result for the customer through lean, and we are excited about GE’s transformation and the launch of GE Aerospace as a stand-alone company in early 2024.

Some of the major activities over the last year plus include:


• Launched the CFM RISE program with Safran (June 2021)

• GE selected for NASA’s HyTEC compact core development program (Oct. 2021)

• GE selected by NASA for hybrid electric demonstrator (Oct. 2021)

• CFM’s LEAP engines powered the first experimental flight with passengers using 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) in one of the two engines. The flight was operated using a United Airlines 737 MAX 8 (Dec. 21)

• CFM selected by Airbus for hydrogen flight testing with modified Passport engine (Feb. 22)

• Completed 100% SAF ground testing with GE’s Passport engine (May ‘22)

• GE first in the world to test high power, high voltage hybrid electric components in simulated altitude conditions (July ‘22)

 Commercial Engines

• Launch of GE9X-powered 777-8F freighter with Qatar Airways order (Jan. 22)

• First flight of Airbus A321XLR powered by LEAP-1A (June ‘22)

• Qatar Airways chooses LEAP-1B for the airline’s new fleet of 25 firm 737-10 aircraft (July 22)

• EasyJet chooses LEAP-1A engines to power the 56 Airbus A320neo family aircraft (July 22)

•  Delta announces order for 200 LEAP-1B engines to power Boeing 737-10 aircraft (July 22)

Avio Aero (A GE Aerospace business)

• Catalyst turboprop completes first flight (Sept. ‘21); two Beechcraft Denalis testing (June ‘22)

• Catalyst selected for Airbus Eurodrone program (March ‘22)

Ayşe Akalın: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused huge global disruption on both commercial and defense operations and programs. The aviation industry has been slowly recovering from coronavirus pandemic-induced downturn starting from 2021. How and to what extent has the COVID-19 pandemic affected GE Aerospace? When do you expect to return to pre-pandemic levels?

Sami Özdemir: The pandemic was a catalyst for supply chain and labor challenges. We are working diligently with suppliers to mitigate supply chain constraints and are closely coordinating with airframers to accelerate deliveries and meet customer demand.

It’s important that everybody understand that the supply chain challenges in the aerospace industry are far broader than any one commodity at the moment. We see that not only in our own supply chains, but from airframers and others, this is something that we're grappling with broadly.

We are still very optimistic about the industry’s recovery. We expect narrowbody to lead and recover in early 2023, followed by widebody in early 2024. Overall departures with GE or CFM equipment are approaching 85% compared to 2019 levels.

Ayşe Akalın: What could you tell us about the international presence of GE Aerospace in Commercial Aviation and the major international programs that you have been involved in recently? What key geographical markets are your next targets?

Sami Özdemir: We have around 40,000 employees worldwide, including our technology center in Turkey, and around 150 global sites focused on production assembly, repair and overhaul, research, and engineering.

GE has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in its global research centers abroad, including Bengaluru, India, and the Turkey Technology Centre (TTC), located to the southeast of Istanbul, on the outskirts of Gebze.

The EU Technology Development Cluster is a continental collaboration model made up of Avio Aero, Polonia Aero Laboratories, GE Aerospace Poland-EDC, GE Aerospace Czech, and a slew of R&D centers, universities and experts cooperating on innovation projects. Today the network includes highly respected universities and polytechnic schools in Italy, Poland and the Czech Republic.

We have a global presence and continuously evaluate market demand as it evolves to determine locations for future business.

Ayşe Akalın: How is GE Aerospace addressing the future of flight in commercial aviation? What kind of new engines and technologies do you see a demand for in the coming years? What can the industry expect to see on the horizon as new engines and innovative technologies from GE Aerospace to further strengthen its market-leading product lineup and meet the evolving needs of global customers? Which technology or trend do you think will have the biggest impact on the commercial aviation industry in coming years?

Sami Özdemir: At GE Aerospace, we are taking bold action to define and develop technologies for the next generation of engines, including launching three key efforts to explore new engine architectures, to develop hybrid-electric capability and to enable the use of alternative fuels.

These efforts include a partnership between Airbus and CFM International, our 50-50 joint company with Safran Aircraft Engines, to conduct flight tests of a hydrogen-powered jet engine; a partnership with NASA and Boeing to develop and fly a megawatt- class hybrid electric propulsion system; and a joint CFM effort to develop and fly an advanced, open fan demonstrator as part of CFM’s RISE program, short for Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines. The goal of CFM’s RISE Program is to achieve at least 20% lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions compared to today’s most efficient engines.  

Climate change will continue to drive and increase the urgency to introduce propulsion systems that get the world to more sustainable flight. And these kinds of disruptive technologies that revolutionize aircraft engines are needed to truly reach our net-zero ambitions. 

Ayşe Akalın: Decarbonizing commercial flight is the greatest challenge the modern aviation industry has ever faced. Not because of the technical advancements needed to achieve it, but because there is no other option but to make it happen. Can you elaborate on GE Aerospace’s sustainability goals and the ongoing sustainability projects? 

Sami Özdemir: GE Aerospace is already at work today to develop breakthrough technologies for the benefit of us all tomorrow, such as advanced new engine architectures like open fan, hybrid electric propulsion and hydrogen fuel combustion. The aviation industry’s ambition, which GE supports, is to reach net-zero CO2 emissions from commercial flight by 2050. 

GE projects include:

• The CFM RISE Program, or Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines. CFM is a 50-50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines. Through the RISE program, we’re maturing multiple technologies to achieve at least 20% better fuel efficiency compared to our most efficient engines today. This includes the development of new advanced engine architectures, such as the open fan, and compact engine core designs.

• As part of the Electrified Powertrain Flight Demonstration (EPFD) project, we’re collaborating with NASA and Boeing to develop a megawatt-class hybrid electric powertrain for commercial aviation.

• We’ve also announced plans to develop a hydrogen combustion engine and flight test it with Airbus. This will lead to the development of new cryogenic fuel storage and delivery systems and a combustor capable of burning hydrogen.

We’ll see open fan, hybrid electric and hydrogen technologies go through ground and flight tests this decade. What we learn could lead to the development of new engine products for entry-into-service in the mid-2030s. 

Growing adoption and availability of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) is also significant to reaching net-zero. All GE and CFM International engines can operate on approved SAF today.

Ayşe Akalın: How much time, effort and money does GE Aerospace set aside on R&D annually to assist sustainability efforts and projects? 

Sami Özdemir: GE Aerospace spent $1.6 billion on aviation research and development in 2021, including emissions-reducing technologies.

 Ayşe Akalın: The use of biofuels in commercial airplanes has gained critical ground during last two decades. Does GE Aerospace engines for commercial airplanes can operate on approved Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) today? When do you plan to start deliveries of commercial airplane engines capable of operating on 100% biofuel?

Sami Özdemir: All GE and CFM International engines in service today—and in the future—can operate with approved SAF. That’s because all approved SAF available today is considered drop-in. Drop-in SAF means the fuel meets current petroleum-based jet fuel requirements. It can be substituted for fossil-based jet fuel without any modifications to engines and airframes, and is therefore compatible with the existing commercial fleet, as well as with other parts of the fuel distribution and storage infrastructure.

Currently, SAF approved for use is a blend of petroleum-based Jet A or Jet A-1 fuel and a SAF component with a maximum blend limit of 50%. One of GE’s fuel experts chairs an international task force to develop standardized industry specifications supporting adoption of 100% drop-in SAF, which does not require blending with conventional jet fuel. Drop-in 100% SAF is not yet qualified by ASTM International, an organization that develops technical standards.

 Ayşe Akalın: On June 28, 2021 GE released its 2021 Sustainability Report highlighting how GE Aerospace is rising to the challenge through technologies available now, such as advanced Ceramic Matrix Composite materials and GE’s 360 Foam Wash. Can you please briefly introduce these two innovative technologies to our readers?

Sami Özdemir:  Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMCs) are a type of advanced material containing silicon carbide fibers. CMCs are one-third the weight of traditional metal alloys with two times the temperature capability, helping improve engine thermal efficiency, thus reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. CFM’s LEAP engine, which entered commercial service in 2016, was the industry’s first to contain CMCs in the hot section of the engine.

GE’s 360 Foam Wash is an alternative to the water wash method for cleaning aircraft engines. It restores engine performance leading to reductions in fuel consumption. The process involves injecting a specially-formulated, proprietary solution that removes dust and dirt particles in the engine. The system is self-contained, allowing it to be used inside maintenance hangars or outdoors. GE’s 360 Foam Wash is approved for use on multiple GE engine programs, including models of GE90, GEnx, and CF34. GE first began testing foam wash in the field with customers in 2017. Since then, more than 1,000 foam washes have been completed.

 Ayşe Akalın: When it established a light bulb factory in cooperation with the Koç Group in 1948 GE became one of the first foreign industrial ventures in Türkiye, and supporting both airline operators with commercial airplane jet engines and the Government with fighter jet engines GE Aerospace has been present in the country since 1985 through TEI. How would you summarize GE Aerospace’s involvement in Türkiye over the last decades? Can you elaborate on the footprint of GE Aerospace in Turkish commercial aviation sector?

Sami Özdemir: Operating in Turkey almost 75 years, GE has been growing through strong partnerships, investing in technology and local capabilities in energy, healthcare, and aviation sectors. We are supporting Turkey’s more sustainable development, with advanced infrastructure technologies and services, as well as with its over 2,500 employees and expanding local supplier ecosystem. GE has three production facilities involving renewables, energy transmission & distribution and aviation. 

The installed base of GE wind turbines in Turkey is over 2 GW, across more than 60 wind farms. GE-owned LM Wind Power’s Bergama facility in Izmir, with its more than 700 employees, produce blades locally for domestic use and exports. GE Hydro’s installed base is more than 10 GW. GE's power transformer production facility exports 90% of its total output. GE Healthcare has a proud history in Turkey, too. More than 50,000 of our medical systems are installed in over 3,000 health institutions, and our equipment touches more than 200,000 lives every day in Turkey alone.

We have a robust aviation history in Turkey. GE has a large installed base of military engines operated by Turkish Armed Forces. GE and its joint ventures also power more than half of commercial aircraft in Turkey.

GE Aerospace made its first investment in Turkey in 1985 through a joint venture with Tusaş Engine Industries (TEI) in Eskisehir. Today TEI is a hallmark of our aviation relationship and is a leader of GE’s global supply chain for engine parts. Today, more than 1,500 different types of high-tech engine parts are produced at TEI for more than 50 engine groups, including CFM LEAP and GEnx engines. TEI has more than 3,000 employees. This partnership has strengthened Turkey’s export capability in aviation globally. Export volume has reached more than 200M USD by the end of 2021. I am also proudly serving as Vice Chairman of the Board of TEI since Jun 2021.

GE Aerospace’s Turkey Technology Center in Gebze employs 450 Turkish engineers working on R&D, new technology design and development and aircraft engine software solutions. Turkey Technology Center, which is one of the global centers for GE Aerospace’s Engineering Division, develops manufacturing and repair technologies, materials, design and software for the aviation business, celebrating 21 years. These 450 engineers generated over 3.5 million engineering hours up to now. The Repair Development Center at TTC, established in 2012, was inaugurated to help better serve the aviation and energy industries. In 2014, a GE Coating Primary Laboratory at TTC has established. We inaugurated a TTC Additive Lab in 2018.  

Ayşe Akalın: Some years ago GE/CFM technologies were power more than 60% of aircraft in Turkey. Can you elaborate on the current status of your cooperation with Turkish airline operators? How many jet engine orders have you secured so far for the commercial airplanes from Turkish airline operators and how many of them have been delivered during the first half of 2022 to end users?  

Sami Özdemir: GE and CFM have more than 1,000 engines in service and backlog in Turkey. We are proud to power THY’s 787 Dreamliner and MAX fleet with our most recent technology on GEnx and CFM LEAP-1B engines. We are also proud to power Pegasus A320/321neo and Sun Express’ MAX fleet with CFM’s LEAP engines. 

We have been working very close to all airlines that operate our CFM and GE engines. We have our Customer and Product Support team located in Istanbul and also Customer Program Manager in our MRO shops around the globe who are working with Turkish operators on a daily basis to support their operations.  

 Ayşe Akalın: What are your predictions for commercial aviation in Türkiye in terms of growth, challenges and opportunities? How do you see the commercial airplanes market developing in Türkiye and how does GE Aerospace provide support services in country? 

Sami Özdemir: Commercial aviation in Turkey has been growing since 2004 despite several challenges such as geopolitical issues, economic downturns, etc. It is not only highly skilled people, management and resilience of Turkey against such issues, but also Istanbul serves as a great hub for the airlines who can reach more than 60 countries within a four-hour flight. 

As mentioned above, our Customer and Product Support teams located in Istanbul have long supported our local customers. We also have an On Wing Support Supplier agreement with Turkish Technic where the Turkish Technic team provides technical services on behalf of GE Aerospace. 

 Ayşe Akalın: Can you elaborate on the importance of the GE Aerospace Türkiye Technology Center (TTC), established in İstanbul Gebze Free Zone, for both GE Aerospace and Türkiye? How many engineers are currently working at the TTC and how many millions of hours of engineers has been generated so far since its inception at the TTC?

Sami Özdemir: GE Aerospace is a global company looking for passionate people worldwide to help define the future of more efficient flight. At our Turkey Technology Center, 450 engineers collaborate with customers on engineering and software solutions. They are currently working on R&D, new technology design and development and aircraft engine software solutions. 

 Ayşe Akalın: Can you elaborate on your short and long-term objectives, your vision for Türkiye? 

Sami Özdemir: Turkey has a lot of advantages for commercial aviation, such as a young population, geographical location, resilient and dynamic economy, and last but not least, a popular tourist destination. Commercial aviation is growing following the COVID-19 pandemic. We have always had a major presence in Turkey since early 1980s not only with our investments, but also with our commercial engine fleets. We are very fortunate and humble for being selected a major aviation company in Turkey.   

Ayşe Akalın: Would you like to add anything as a message to our readers?

Sami Özdemir: Our purpose at GE Aerospace is “Invent the Future of Flight, Lift the People Up, and Bring them Home Safely.” We work with this purpose every day to serve the flying public. It gives us a big responsibility and also excitement for the future of the flight. I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to share about GE Aerospace to your readers.   

Ayşe Akalın: Thank you for sparing your valuable time to our readers 

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