Advanced Aviation Plants Taking Shape

Production inside a GE Aviation ceramix matrix composites plant similar to the ones now under construction in Huntsville. 


GE Aviation’s $200 million investment in Huntsville is starting to take shape after a groundbreaking last June, with company officials recently estimating that the first factory will begin getting its process equipment by October and be operational by the summer of 2018. Its sister factory should be online by spring 2019.

The plants will produce ceramic fiber capable of withstanding temperatures of 2, 400 degrees Fahrenheit — like that of a jet engine. As one factory mass produces silicon carbide (SiC) ceramic fiber, the other plant will use that raw material to make ceramic matrix composite (CMC) prepreg, used to make the actual jet engine nozzle parts. When operational, the Alabama plant complex will produce up to 20 metric tons of CMC material a year.

Industry experts say that ultra-lightweight CMC parts will revolutionize aerospace manufacturing. GE Aviation expects to have more than 750 employees in the U.S. working on advanced ceramic matrix composites by the year 2020, with many of those employees based in Alabama. One fuel-efficient LEAP aircraft engine uses about 2.2 pounds of ceramic matrix composite material, according to the website Made In Alabama.

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Text by Dave Helms

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