GE Aviation and NASA will run a wind tunnel test program over the northern summer to evaluate and test counter-rotating fan-blade systems for open-rotor jet engine designs. The newly improved rig for testing was originally used by GE and NASA in the 1980s on scale models of counter-rotating fan systems, which led to the development of the GE36 engine. The test program also demonstrated that an open-rotor jet engine consumed 30 percent less fuel compared to similar-sized conventional jet engines. Just think what a 30 percent drop in fuel consumption would deliver today, not only to an airline industry struggling to keep ticket prices down, but also the positive benefits to the environment.
GE is confident that the significant improvements to its computational aero-acoustic analysis tools, over the past 25-odd years, will make running the program a little easier this time around. Both GE snd NASA expect to gain a better analysis and understanding of open-rotor systems by testing a number of new and more sophisticated fan systems in the wind tunnel. Rather than running full engine tests, a number of configurations will be tested in simulated flight conditions. Factors such as aeronautical design and acoustic levels will be considered in terms of the actual operating environment.
“The tests mark a new journey for GE and NASA in the world of open rotor technology,” says David Joyce, president of GE Aviation. “These tests will help to tell us how confident we are in meeting the technical challenges of an open-rotor architecture. It’s a journey driven by a need to sharply reduce fuel consumption in future aircraft.”