GE Aviation Announces Investment in North Carolina
In a press release GE Aviation said it finalized plans to break ground this year on an advanced composite component factory near Asheville in western North Carolina. The new 125,000-ft2 facility, near an existing GE Aviation machining plant, will produce engine components made of advanced ceramic matrix composite (CMC) materials.
GE could begin hiring at the new plant as early as 2014. Within five years, the workforce at the plant is expected to grow to more than 340 people.
The new facility will be part of a larger commitment by GE Aviation to invest $195 million across its North Carolina operations through 2017. GE Aviation has more than 1300 employees in North Carolina at sites in Durham, West Jefferson, Wilmington, and Asheville. Overall, the CMC facility combined with plant and equipment upgrades at existing sites across the state will create 242 additional GE jobs by 2017.
GE’s plan is for the 290 employee workforce at GE Aviation's current machining operation in Asheville to gradually transition to the CMC components plant.
CMCs are made of silicon carbide ceramic fibers and ceramic resin, enhanced with proprietary coatings. GE Aviation views CMCs as a differentiator for its next-generation aircraft engines. The ultralightweight CMC material supports extremely high temperatures in the high-pressure turbine. CMC benefits include: reduced weight, enhanced performance and improved durability that provides longer time on wing, translating into lower fuel and maintenance costs for customers.
"GE has been investing in CMC technology for decades, and we are mastering the manufacturing of CMCs at our laboratory in Delaware. Asheville will be our first factory involved in the mass production of CMC components," said David Joyce, president and CEO of GE Aviation, in the press release. "We believe the future Asheville plant will be on the ground floor of a new technology that will change aviation."
The specific CMC component to be built in the new Asheville facility is a high-pressure turbine shroud, a stationery component that directs exhaust gases through the high-pressure turbine. This CMC component will be on the LEAP jet engine, being developed by CFM International, a joint company of GE and Snecma (SAFRAN) of France. The LEAP engine, which will enter airline service in 2016, powering the new Airbus A320neo, Boeing 737 MAX and COMAC (China) C919 aircraft.
GE worked closely with the North Carolina Department of Commerce to secure the proposed Asheville location and investments in existing facilities. The commerce department, along with several local agencies (the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, Buncombe County, City of Asheville, Ashe County, the Golden Leaf Foundation, the Greater Durham Chamber of Commerce and Wilmington Business Development) have provided technical support and incentives to ensure a smooth and successful startup.
In related news, the Charlotte Observer noted that “GE Aviation could receive up to $9.9 million in state incentives for following through on its previously announced plans to create 242 new jobs at four North Carolina locations—including its plant in Durham…. the average annual wage for the new jobs is expected to be $47,942, which exceeds the average wage in each of the four counties where GE is expanding.”