EVENDALE, Ohio - GE Aircraft Engines (GEAE) has signed a contract with CargoLifter Development GmbH in Brand, Germany, to power a fleet of new airships now under development in Germany. Under terms of the contract, GE will supply up to 400 CT7-8L installed engines and spares, as well as maintenance services for 10 years, at a potential value of $500 million. The CT7-8 engine was co-developed and will be co-produced by GE Aircraft Engines and Fiat Avio of Italy.

Following heated competition among engine suppliers, CargoLifter selected the CT7-8L turboshaft engine to power the CL160 Airships. The first deliveries of the CT7-8 engines to CargoLifter are expected to begin in 2003, followed by the first flight of the CL160 prototype in 2004. CargoLifter anticipates Airship production to continue beyond this decade.

The CL160 Airship is 260 meters in length and is designed to carry oversized cargo weighing up to 160 metric tons, at a maximum height of 2,000 meters, non-stop over a range of several thousand kilometers. Each airship is powered by eight CT7-8L turboshaft engines.

The CT7-8 engine, recently certified by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), is a derivative of GEAE's successful T700/CT7 family of turboprop and turboshaft engines, which power 25 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft in service with 133 customers in more than 57 countries.

The CT7-8 engine is expected to receive certification from the E.U. Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA) in 2002, and military qualification is on track for 2003. The same engine type is currently used on the S-92/H92 and NH90 helicopters.