HOOKSETT– The newly developed LEAP engines that will power Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 aircrafts will be taking to the air with parts milled in the Granite State.
The engine requires the use of “blisks,” a bladed disc made from one piece of metal, and as the primary milling source for GE Aviation, the Hooksett facility will produce those blisks.
The use of blisks in aircraft engines has made for improved fuel efficiency and a lighter aircraft. Doug Folsom, the plant manager at the Hooksett location, said because blisks are made from one piece of metal, rather than using an assembled bladed compressor disk, there are significant technological advantages.
“It is such a complex piece of equipment,” Folsom said. “As the milling technology has advanced, it makes the aircraft much lighter.”
As the site that will be producing the blisks for the new engines, Folsom said there will be an increase in work opportunities at the Hooksett plant. He said the facility will be purchasing additional milling machines, with each costing about a million dollars.
With each machine purchased, Folsom said the company will seek to hire between one and three highly-skilled machinists.
When developing an engine, Folsom said the first one made is the development engine. That engine will be made from all the necessary parts and tested accordingly. Folsom said that the blisks needed for that engine are expected to be completed by fall.
With production engines expected to be completed in 2013, Folsom said the facility could be at its full production rate by 2016. At the full production rate, Folsom said the plant could be producing 20 to 30 engines worth of blisks per week.
“Because they are so fuel efficient, we plan on selling a lot of them,” Folsom said. “We'll be growing.”
Folsom said that blisks have been milled in Hooksett since the 1970s and were originally used for military aircraft. He said that although the technologically advanced products do provide for an increase in fuel efficiency, they were used in the military because they improved the craft's power-to-weight ratio.
For the LEAP engines, Folsom said the fuel efficiency is expected to increase by 12 percent.
And as the new engines will provide for improvements and opportunities for commercial aircraft, the need for parts made in New Hampshire will provide opportunity for growth and employment in Hooksett.
“Hooksett is (the) primary source of milling for GE,” Folsom said. “There will be a significant amount of additional blisk work.”