GE Avation Plant

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 10, 2009

GE gets green light to ship engine parts

By Billy Davis

Batesville’s GE Aviation plant has been cleared to ship jet engine parts to an engine assembly plant in the Midwest after it won certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The FAA awarded the Batesville plant with a production certificate in late March, said plant leader Jeanne Edwards.

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The plant’s initial workforce of 20 hourly employees is producing composite components for GE engines, including the company’s GE90 – the world’s largest jet engine – and the new GEnx jet engine.

The plant workers are manufacturing the “fan platform,” which is installed between the engine’s fan blades, which are also made of composite materials. The state-of-the-art components are made of carbon fiber and epoxy resin, making the jet engine more lightweight.

The GEnx is the world’s only jet engine with composite fan blades, composite fan platforms, and a composite fan case.

GE Aviation collaborated with the College of Engineering at Mississippi State University on the new composite materials, resulting in the product line at the Batesville plant.

GE Aviation is now working with the University of Southern Mississippi, at its School of Polymers and High Performance Materials, to develop more advanced materials and the process to manufacture them, the company stated in a press release.

The new products from GE’s collaboration with USM will be launched at the Batesville plant in 2010.

The Batesville plant is also assembling the fan stator, a circular structure that encases the front fan, for the GEnx engine.

Batesville’s production line adheres to so-called lean manufacturing, a waste-cutting method first introduced by Japanese automaker Toyota to reduce space, time, inventory and human effort.

The FAA certificate amounts to “our second major hurdle,” the first being the plant’s opening in October 2008, said human resources leader Justin Whitman.

The Batesville plant is known in GE vernacular as the Batesville Composite’s Operation.

The 300,000-square-foot facility, the largest in Batesville, was built by Duke Realty Corporation which owns the building and 90-acre site.

“Of the 300,000 square feet, 290,000 square feet is for manufacturing space,” Whitman said.

The Batesville plant continues to follow its stated plans to add 20 workers by mid-summer, he said.