Committed to a more sustainable future for air transport

Our commitment to innovation is our North Star in approaching sustainability. Explore more.

IMPACT

  • Commercial engine products burn 40% less fuel since the 1970s
  • Carbon neutral operations by 2030

The Future of Flight

The future of flight will be defined by how the aviation industry innovates to lower emissions and improves fuel efficiency.

Advances in engine architecture, aerodynamics, and materials developed by GE and Safran Aircraft Engines through CFM International1 have resulted in today’s aircraft engines consuming 40 percent less fuel — and emitting 40 percent less CO2 — than engines manufactured in the 1970s2 and 1980s. However, we cannot be satisfied with the pace of progress from the past.

We are currently developing the next suite of engine technologies — including open fan architectures, hybrid-electric and electric propulsion concepts, and advanced thermal management concepts — that offer the potential to achieve at least a 20 percent additional improvement in fuel efficiency compared to today’s state of the art single-aisle aircraft engines. GE Aviation is also supporting industry initiatives to approve and adopt 100% Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) and investigating hydrogen as the zero-carbon fuel of the future.

Explore more about our collective sustainability & innovation progress:

logo for CFM International logo for Aero Avio

PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: The world’s largest and the most powerful aircraft engine, the GE9X, is also the most efficient engine we have ever built on a per-pounds-of-thrust basis. The GE9X engine is designed to deliver up to 10 percent greater fuel efficiency than its predecessor, with emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) 55 percent below current regulatory requirements.

Sustainability Spotlight

The CFM RISE Program

In June 2021, GE Aviation and Safran launched a bold technology development program. The CFM RISE (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) Program3 will demonstrate and mature a range of new, disruptive technologies for future engines that could enter service in by the mid-2030s.

The program goals include reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by more than 20 percent compared to today’s most efficient engines, as well as ensuring 100 percent compatibility with alternative energy sources such as Sustainable Aviation Fuels and hydrogen.

Central to the program is achieving state-of-the-art propulsive efficiency for the engine, including developing an open fan architecture that is a key enabler to achieving significantly improved fuel efficiency while delivering the same speed and cabin experience as current single-aisle aircraft. The program will also use hybrid electric capability to optimize engine efficiency while enabling electrification of many aircraft systems.

Learn more Watch the announcement

CFM RISE Program - Open Fan

Our Collaborations

GE has a long history of working collaboratively across the aviation industry to address the sustainability challenge. GE Aviation works closely on aviation and environmental issues with the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations assembly. GE Aviation is active in ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP), which assists the ICAO Council in formulating new standards related to aircraft noise and emissions and other aviation environmental impacts. ICAO established a certification standard for aircraft CO2 emissions and established a mechanism to achieve carbon neutral growth through the framework known as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation (CORSIA). ICAO discussions continue to further develop long-term goals for more sustainable aviation.

In addition, aviation industry associations, including International Air Transport Association (IATA), Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), and other industry partners, recognize the need to address the global challenge of climate change and adopted the following targets to reduce CO2 emissions from air transport:

  • An average improvement in fuel efficiency of 1.5 percent per year from 2009 to 2020 (achieved)
  • Stabilizing CO2 emissions from 2020 with carbon neutral growth
  • A reduction in net aviation CO2 emissions of 50 percent by 2050, relative to 2005 levels

The European Commission is on a more ambitious trajectory for emission reductions. While governments are working on legislative proposals, the European aviation industry issued Destination 2050, a report announcing a pathway to net zero emissions by 2050 and a 55 percent reduction by 2030.

GE Aviation participates in these efforts and fully supports a globally-harmonized approach to environmental standards and policies for aviation. We are collaborating with airline customers to achieve their goals to reduce emissions.

Enabling Technologies

Architecture

A higher bypass ratio (BPR) reduces fuel consumption and emissions by creating more thrust with air that bypasses the core of the engine — improving engine propulsive efficiency. As an example, CFM essentially doubled BPR from the CFM56-5B (5.5 BPR) to the LEAP-1A engine (11 BPR).

Aerodynamics

Advancements in fan blade aerodynamics have reduced the number of fan blades from 22 on the GE90 engine to 16 on the GE9X, providing improved efficiency and weight reduction.

A higher overall pressure ratio (OPR) reduces fuel consumption and emissions by raising the pressure into the combustor — thereby improving engine thermal efficiency. In 1995, the GE90 engine powering the Boeing 777 had an unprecedented 40:1 OPR. Today, the GE9X powering the Boeing 777X has a 60:1 OPR.

Lean-burn combustion technologies accommodate the higher temperatures associated with these pressure ratios while reducing emissions of nitrous oxide (NOx) by using a twin-annular pre-mixing swirler to optimize the air and fuel mixture.

Materials

Carbon fiber composite fan blades replaced conventional titanium fan blades starting with the GE90 in 1995, reducing engine weight by 180 kg (400 lb.).

A carbon fiber fan case was also introduced for the GEnx engine and used for the CFM LEAP engine. When coupled with composite fan blades, the weight of each engine is reduced by 400 kgs (880 lbs.).

Titanium Aluminide (TiAl) low pressure turbine blades replaced nickel-based superalloy blades in the GEnx-powered Boeing 787, reducing the weight of each engine by 180 kgs (400 lbs.). TiAl blades save 45.4 kgs (100 lbs.) in CFM LEAP engines.

Ceramic Matrix Composites (CMCs) have one-third the weight and 500°F) additional temperature capability versus the most advanced metal alloys. CMCs enable engines to operate at higher temperatures, helping to improve fuel efficiency.

Additive Manufacturing (AM), or 3D printing, has revolutionized how GE designs and manufactures engine components. AM parts reduce weight and enable efficient designs that cannot be generated with traditional manufacturing techniques.

These, and other technology advancements, have enabled GE and its partners to

Single-aisle aircraft

GE Aviation's CM56-7B engine

15%
DECREASE
in fuel burn from the CFM56-7B to LEAP engine

CFM's LEAP engine

Twin-aisle aircraft

GE Aviation's CF6-80C2 engine

15%
DECREASE
in fuel burn from the CF6-80C2 to GEnx engine

GE Aviation's GEnx engine

Twin-aisle aircraft

GE Aviation's GE90-115B engine

10%
DECREASE
in fuel burn from the GE90-115B to GE9X engine

GE Aviation's GE9X engine
Cameri Advanced Additive Technology Center. Novara, Italy

Cameri Advanced Additive Technology Center. Novara, Italy

Developing the next generation of breakthrough technologies

IMPACT

  • All commercial engines can be operated with approved Sustainable Aviation Fuels
  • GE invests $1.8 billion annually to accelerate technology innovations

Driving technological advancements

GE and Safran Aircraft Engines through CFM are already developing the next suite of engine technologies — including open fan architectures, hybrid-electric capability, and advanced thermal management concepts — that offer the potential to achieve at least a 20 percent additional improvement in fuel efficiency compared to today’s state of the art single-aisle aircraft engines. The CFM RISE (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) Program will demonstrate and mature a range of new, disruptive technologies for future engines that could enter service by the mid-2030s.

Silicon Carbide-based hybrid-electric inverter in partnership with NASA

Hybrid Electric

Electric technologies will play a role in future propulsion architectures. GE is accelerating technologies to advance the state of the art for hybrid electric and electric propulsion concepts, including power generation, power distribution, energy storage, electric motors, and propulsor technology. GE has successfully demonstrated major advances in key elements of hybrid propulsion systems, including:

  • Power Generation – Generation of one megawatt of electric power while operating a modified F110 military engine in altitude conditions up to at 15,545 meters (51,000 feet).
  • High Power Devices – Demonstration of a megawatt class high power density, high efficiency electrical motor/generator used to convert electrical energy to mechanical power to drive a 3.35 meter (11 foot) diameter propeller on a test stand.
  • High Voltage/High Switching Frequency Devices – Demonstration of power conversion peak efficiency and power density in equipment that enables high performance and excellent power quality under variable loads.

Open Rotor engine partnership of Avio Aero & Safran

Advanced Open Fan

GE has continually advanced state-of-the-art open fan systems, and the environmental benefits they can provide by increasing propulsive efficiency. In the 1980s, GE successfully flight tested the GE36 engine, an open fan jet engine demonstrating significant fuel savings of more than 30 percent compared with conventional ducted front fan engines in the same size class. Since then,

  • GE collaborated with the FAA and NASA on sub-scale wind tunnel test campaigns through the CLEEN Program demonstrating better fuel efficiency compared to the CFM56-7B engine and significant margin to noise requirements.
  • GE’s Italian entity, Avio Aero, contributed to the development and testing of counter rotating open fan architectures under Europe’s Clean Sky research program.
  • Under the Clean Sky 2 program, Avio Aero supported optimization of open fan architectures through design and integration studies conducted with airframers.

Innovations beyond the engine

GE’s technology development efforts extend beyond the engine itself.

Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF)

GE has been actively involved in assessing and qualifying SAF since 2007 and works closely with SAF producers, regulators, and operators to ensure that SAF can be widely adopted for use in aviation. More than 300,000 commercial flights have been operated using SAF since 2011, according to Air Transport Action Group. We believe widespread use of SAF will be critical to dramatically reducing aviation carbon emissions.

Increasing the use of SAF has the potential to dramatically reduce fuel lifecycle carbon emissions up to 80 percent independent of other actions. GE Aviation has performed extensive testing, including the industry’s first commercial biofuel demonstration flight in 2008, and the first 100 percent SAF commercial airliner flight in 2018. All GE and GE partnership engines in service today — and in the future — can operate with approved SAF.

Liquid Hydrogen (LH2) as an Aviation Fuel

Hydrogen fuel presents a unique opportunity for the aviation industry to achieve zero carbon emissions flight. The absence of carbon in hydrogen results in combustion byproducts limited to water vapor and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Elimination of CO2 offers significant potential to reduce greenhouse emissions beyond the reductions offered by SAF.

For aviation use, hydrogen will be stored in liquid form (LH2) which requires storage in cryogenic fuel tanks at or below -253°C (-487°F). GE believes that hydrogen-powered flight is technically feasible and is working to develop technical solutions to address product design and certification hurdles associated with the combustion of a cryogenic fuel.

GE is actively working in close cross-business collaboration with GE Research, GE Renewables, and GE Power to advance research and development supporting the use of LH2.

Digital flight-efficiency tools

Software solutions that can help deliver immediate carbon reductions are available today and already in use. Developed in collaboration with long-time customer Qantas, FlightPulse® is a flight analytics tool that helps airline pilots improve safety and operational decision-making. In the first year of use, Qantas avoided 5.71 million kilograms of carbon emissions plus achieved a 15 percent increase in pilot adoption of fuel-saving procedures.

GE’s 360 Foam Wash

GE’s proprietary 360 Foam Wash is an advanced on-wing cleaning technology to help ensure that engines continue to operate efficiently. In the Middle East, GE’s 360 Foam Wash has been found to improve engine performance by reducing build-up of deposits in the engine, lowering engine exhaust temperatures, and improving engine compressor efficiency. These improvements led to reduced fuel consumption, lower CO2 emissions, and increased engine time on wing.

GE's proprietary 360 Foam Wash

Operational Sustainability

Carbon Neutral Operations

GE plans to make our operations carbon neutral by 2030, compared to emissions levels across the company’s operations in 2019. Our actions to meet the 2030 goal include:

  • Energy efficient infrastructure investments
  • Reviewing purchasing strategies for their sustainability impact
  • Evaluating facility energy contracts for smarter power and greener energy sources

Learn more

Sustainable operations work is progressing across our more than 100 global sites, including this solar installed power technology at our Lynn, MA site.

Footnotes

  1. CFM International is a 50-50 joint company between GE and Safran Aircraft Engines and produces LEAP and CFM56 engines. CFM introduced the LEAP-1A engine into revenue service in August 2016. This engine has 15 percent lower fuel consumption than CFM56 engines introduced in the 1990s and 22 percent lower fuel consumption than the CFM56-3 engine introduced in 1984.
  2. GE Aviation introduced the CF6 engine into revenue service in 1971, which improved fuel efficiency compared to existing commercial engines in the market at the time. The introduction of the GE90 in 1995 and the GEnx in 2011 offered additional fuel burn improvements. GEnx engines offer up to 15% improved fuel burn compared to CF6 engines. GE90 engines helped pioneer twin-engine long range flights, compared to four-engine aircraft variants. From 1971 until today, the CF6, GEnx and GE90 engine technologies have led to a 40% decrease in fuel consumption for commercial widebody aircraft.
  3. RISE (Revolutionary Innovation for Sustainable Engines) is a registered trademark of CFM International.