An inside look at GE Aviation's Peebles Operation

Dec 8, 2014

GE Aviation has come a long way since its rocket testing days sixty years ago.

Once so slow employees sold Christmas trees on the Adams County site, the Peebles Test Operation now does round-the-clock work testing more than 1600 engines a year at the 7,000-acre site.

Three hundred and forty people work at GE's Peebles operation doing everything from propelling ice balls and euthanized birds into experimental engines to testing and churning out orders of the GE 90 115B, (powers the Boeing 777) the GEnx 1B and 2B (for Boeing's Dreamliner, the 787) and testing the LEAP engine, with lighter composite parts.

Site Leader Brian DeBruin shows off the new $40 million indoor engine test facility. All engines are required to be tested and broken in for hours before the customer gets them. Nobody is allowed in the bay with the engines. Workers sit in a control room where it is so quiet you can't even hear the thousands of pounds of thrust being generated nearby.

In a different part of the property GE is testing development engines. Environmental Health and Safety Leader Carl Trotter says none of these engines will ever be put into a plane. They undergo headwind tests in a building that looks more like it belongs at Disney's Epcot Center.

The achieve certification for these development engines the FAA requires GE to do:

  • bird tests (the birds are raised for this purpose and euthanized before the test)
  • wind tests
  • dust tests
  • ice ball tests
  • ice sheet tests

The LEAP engine is tested here. It's a joint venture between GE and Snecma and just took its maiden flight at the edge of the Mojave Desert. The engine, with ceramic components and 3D printed parts, is expected to save an airline $1.6 million in fuel costs a year because it's lighter.

Don't look for work to slow down anytime soon at Peebles. A new Boeing study projects plane manufacturers will deliver 23,000 single-aisle planes over the next 20 years. That's 70% of all commercial plane deliveries over that period.